California’s Bella’s Act took effect this year, closing a loophole to stop puppy and kitten mills for good

Megan Edwards

In 2017, California was the first state to take legislative action to ban the practice of puppy and kitten mills. These operations are generally large-scale commercial breeding facilities designed to sell animals for profit.  The animals are kept in are wildly unsafe and unsanitary conditions.  To produce the maximum amount of puppies and kittens to sell, female animals are impregnated several times a year.  Kept in rusted metal crates, these animals often do not see the light of the day.  Once the breeding animals

cease to be “useful” to the mills, they are usually either abandoned or killed.  Puppy and kitten mills can also harbor dangerous diseases that spread at these facilities and infect the animals.  While disease can run rampant at puppy/kitten mills, the animals generally lack adequate—or any—veterinary care.  The breeders also proliferate unhealthy hereditary conditions in the animals they sell, often passing over to the new pet owners an animal that will cost thousands of dollars in veterinary care.  There are around 10,000 puppy mills in operation in the United States, and over two million puppies from these mills are sold each year. 

California’s AB 485 made it illegal for any pet store operators to sell any dog, cat, or rabbit unless the animal was obtained from a shelter or rescue organization.  Maryland enacted a similar law in 2018 and New York passed a bill to end the retail sale of pets on July 21 of 2020, which was, appropriately, National No Pet Store Puppies Day.  Other cities around the country have passed bans on the retail sale of pets, such as Boston, Philadelphia, and Cook County in Chicago.  While individual states and cities are taking action, the federal government has failed to take any meaningful action to end the suffering of animals in these puppy/kitten mills.  The Animal Welfare Act is the federal legislation designed to regulate animal breeders, but these protections are so minimal and so under-enforced, commercial breeders can continue their inhumane practices essentially unchecked.

In California, breeders and business owners opposed AB 485 on several grounds.  First, these groups argue that rescue and shelter dogs are unregulated—that these shelter dogs come from potentially inhumane and unregulated locations and can harbor zoonotic disease, unlike dogs from inspected and licensed breeders.  Second, these groups argue that this bill takes away consumer choice.  They claim that consumers may be looking for a particular breed and will be forced to look for dogs in unsafe and unregulated markets.  The law is “push[ing] rescue animals on customers who never asked for them.”  These complaints are baseless.  As previously mentioned, the conditions animals are kept in at puppy mills are horrifying, and laws designed to protect these animals are under-enforced.  Additionally, retail pet sale bans don’t impact small, “hobby” breeders, who generally work directly with potential pet owners to ensure their animals will be placed in safe and loving homes.  Pet owners who don’t want a shelter animal “forced” upon them can still seek out designer or pure-bred animals from these avenues. 

Unfortunately, California’s AB 485 was not as successful as its supporters had hoped, as pet store owners in California found a loophole in the law.  An undercover exposé revealed that several puppy mill operations in the Midwest organized 501(c)(3) non-profit “shelters” in order to sell their puppies to California pet stores as “shelter” puppies.  These stores tricked consumers into believing they adopted shelter dogs, while charging thousands of dollars per dog as “adoption fees,” all while keeping puppy mills operational. 

To address this loophole, California Assembly members Gloria (D), O’Donnell (D), Bloom (D), Chiu (D), Boerner Horvath (D), and Waldron (R) sponsored AB 2152.  This bill, known as Bella’s Act, proposed to prohibit the retail sale of all dogs, cats, and rabbits in California.  Instead, pet stores would be able to provide a space for a public animal control agency, rescue group, or shelter to “showcase” their adoptable animals.  This Act also requires that the animals displayed for adoption be sterilized and requires the adoption fees not exceed $500.  The Act was named for a corgi named Bella, who was bred in a puppy mill and sold for thousands of dollars as a “rescue” in San Diego.  Bella experienced several health issues that required thousands of dollars of treatment. 

This Act was a product of the collaboration between several animal welfare organizations, including the San Diego Humane Society, Best Friends, the ASPCA, and the Humane Society of the United States, among others.  Assembly member Todd Gloria, a known champion of animal issues, introduced the bill and advocated for it in the most trying of circumstances—during the COVID-19 pandemic, where most every non-essential bill was sidelined in order to address immediate, pandemic-related needs.  However, this bill proved relevant to the state’s health and welfare, as phony rescue groups were bringing potentially sick animals in from across state borders and exposing Californians to transmittable viruses.  Due to the incredible effort of these groups, this bill was signed into law by Governor Newsom on September 18, 2020, and became effective on January 1, 2021.  With this new piece of legislation on the books, the state hopes to make progress toward ending the support for the inhumane puppy mill industry in the state.

Silencing of dogs & cats – Medically

Michelle Mattei

The medical terms for silencing animals are called ventriculocordectomy or vocal cordectomy, and laryngotomy.  It is generally performed on dogs but has occurred on cats as well.  It is also called by such names as; devocalization, debarking, dog muting, demeowing, and bark softening.  This is a barbaric, inhumane procedure to benefit troubled humans.

            The medical procedure performed to achieve this act involves either the removal or cutting the animal’s vocal cords.  There are two surgical approaches to commit this horrible act.  One is cutting into the neck, down through the larynx, called a laryngotomy, where the veterinarian will either sever or remove the vocal cord tissue.  The second approach is called a ventriculocordectomy, where the veterinary goes down through the animal’s mouth to sever or remove the vocal cords.

There are several inherent risks related to these procedures, such as; general anesthesia, post-surgical infection, postoperative pain and discomfort, bleeding, acute airway swelling, respiratory distress, noisy breathing, collapse, increased coughing, webbing, and gagging, significant increase of heat intolerance and compromised airway access.  The lack of barking ability also increases the risk of the dog’s physical safety since it can no longer warn and alert.  This also crosses over to behavioral and psychological issues due to inflicting the inability to communicate verbally.  Overall, these factors lead to a lower quality of life for the victims of these procedures.

            Even when the vocal cord is served, there is the possibility for the animal to regain its ‘voice’ again, only to be put through another operation to remove the vocal cords entirely.  The ‘voice’ of the animal is, in most cases, not totally removed but is replaced with an unnatural sound that is presented as; muffled, wheezing, higher-pitched, rasping, harsher, and screeching.  The ‘voice’ of some of these dogs sound like they are crying out for help in the embedded link.

Who is requesting this procedure to be done?  There are a variety of answers, which are all incomprehensible.  Some breeders recommend this procedure if the potential new owner is concerned with the dog’s purchase due to barking concerns.  Trainers have been known to suggest this procedure with problem dogs that cannot be trained.  Shelters at times turn to this procedure to quiet problem dogs.  Hoarders will use this technique to bring less attention to themselves.  Various institutions where animals are used in experiments make use of this procedure since dogs’ barking have a detrimental effect on the research staff.  Some landlords place devoicing requirements as part of lease conditions to avoid the hassle they will receive from other tenants’ noise complaints.  In other cases, courts will step in and order a dog to be devocalized.

A rational thought such as shouldn’t these procedures be illegal come to mind.  In more than 20 countries, it is unlawful; sadly, there is no Federal statute in the US that makes these procedures illegal.  You would hope that most States would have laws on their books making these reprehensible procedures illegal, but tragically only six States currently offer some marginal protection.  The States of Massachusetts, Maryland, and New Jersey allow this practice if it is determined by a licensed veterinarian to be “medically necessary.”  Pennsylvania allows the procedure with the only stipulation that the procedure is done by a licensed veterinarian utilizing anesthesia.  The Statues in California and Rhode Island are also very weak; they only speak to disallowing the practice if it is a condition in a real estate agreement.

Logic would turn to the veterinary community to speak out against these procedures; they do to some extent.  The American Animal Hospital Association states that it “is opposed to the practice known as debarking, canine devocalization, or vocal cordectomy.  Devocalization for inappropriate and excessive vocalization is often ineffective in achieving the desired results and can deprive canines of performing a normal behavior. Appropriate behavioral modification efforts should be employed that avoid the use of punishment or aversive methods. When deemed necessary, devocalization should only be performed by qualified, licensed veterinarians as a final alternative to relinquishment or euthanasia. Exceptions to this statement would be in the rare case of airway obstruction or laryngeal paralysis, which cannot be addressed through other surgical procedures.”  The American Veterinary Medical Association takes a similar stance.  The Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association provides only a Devocalization Fact Sheet.  The six-page fact sheet offers no stance on the procedure; they refer you to discuss your concerns with your licensed veterinarian.  The Devocalization Fact Sheet does make reference to veterinary schools stating that that the “devocalization procedures are not widely included in veterinary medical school curricula.”  You would hope that the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AVMC) would offer some type of position on devocalization, they do not.  The AVMC also does not provide a stance on ear cropping, cat declawing, or tail docking.


  Dogs do not bark intentionally to annoy humans; they use their bark as their ‘voice’ to communicate various emotions and appeals.  They voice to say “hello” to humans and non-humans and directly to their own kind.  They use their ‘voice’ to ask for help, to alert others that someone else needs help, they alert to danger for themselves and others.  Can their ‘voice’ get annoying at times? Yes, just like when humans do not know when to hold their ‘voice.’ 

There are many viable and proven alternatives to reduce or eliminate unwanted barking rather than the inhumane extreme of devoicing.  Basic training of the dog as well as the human companion can generally resolve the issue.  Other options include; environmental enrichment, exercise, doggy daycare, soundproofing, ultrasonic devices, Thunder Shirts, DAP (Dog Appeasing Pheromones) diffusers, no-bark collars that dispense citronella, and even the use of static shock collars if used appropriately.  There should be no case for devocalization with all these alternatives unless the only other approach offered is euthanasia.

Canine Covid-19 Detectors

Bianca De Leon

For years canines have been trained to use their nose to sniff out cancers, malaria, and other human illnesses. With the increasing rise in Covid-19 cases across the globe as well as the overwhelming desire to restart our economy, canines are now being trained to detect the Covid-19 virus.

Canines have approximately 300 million scent receptors which allow them to detect tiny concentrations of odor. Scientists are using this unique ability to help detect Covid-19 in humans and ultimately stop the spread of this highly contiguous virus. So, what does it take to train a canine to detect Covid-19? Scientists are training canines to smell samples, most often of sweat, in sterile containers, and to sit or paw the floor when the canine detect signs of the infection. Several trials have been conducted

the pandemic began. Trials at airports in the United Arab Emirates, Finland, and Lebanon are using canines to detect the virus in passengers’ sweat samples, which are then tested against conventional Covid-19 tests. These tests are reporting an overwhelming accuracy by the canines. Scientists believe this success is due to the canine’s ability to pick up on a specific scent produced by volatile organic compounds that are generated by catabolites—substances produced by the replication of the virus that escapes the body through sweat. Other trials used saliva and tracheobronchial secretions. In a report by BMC in July 2020, it was reported that after one week of training BMC’s canines, the canines were able to detect the virus using saliva and tracheobronchial secretions, with an overall average detection rate of 94%.

While there are some limitations—one being that the FDA has not approved this method of screening—scientists still believe this is a promising first step in canine Covid-19 detection. So, promising that the Miami Heat just announced that they will be using Covid sniffing dogs to screen fans at games. According to the Heat representatives, fans arriving for the game will be brought to a screening area where a detection dog will walk past each fan. If the dog keeps going, the fan is cleared. But if the dog sits—a sign that the canine has detected the virus—the fan will be denied entry and issued a full refund. If a fan is allergic to or afraid of dogs, the fan can instead take a rapid antigen test.

For many of us—humans—detection dogs represent a glimpse of light and hope as Covid cases total over 99 million worldwide, but what about these detection dogs? As we know by now, Covid is extremely contiguous. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), dogs, as well as other mammals, can become infected with the virus after close contact with a human infected with the virus. Once infected, pets can spread the virus to other animals. Pets can also spread the virus to human, although the risk according the CDC is relatively low. Therefore, the CDC recommends that pet owners treat pets as they would any other human family members—i.e., it is recommended that pets owners not allow pets to interact with people outside of their household to avoid possible exposure to the virus. The CDC also recommends that if a person within their household becomes sick, that person should be isolated from everyone, including the household pet.

While the use of these detection dogs means decreasing the spread of the virus and restarting our economy as demonstrated by the Miami Heat and various airports, what does it mean for detection dogs? For the detection dog to detect the presence of the virus, the dog needs to come into close contact with its target, meaning the detection dog is essentially increasing its possible exposure to this deadly virus. This leads us to many unanswered questions. One question is, are these detection dogs being tested regularly for the virus? An important question especially with the discovery of the new variant—which is said to be more contiguous and more deadly than the previous variant. Another question is, if a dog test positive for the virus, what systems and/or procedures are in place to ensure the dog is properly isolated and receives proper treatment? Pets—like humans—who tested positive for Covid-19, have experienced different symptoms. Some pets have experienced mild illness while others have experienced no symptoms at all. Symptoms or not, one infected detention dog, can infect an entire airport or arena. Furthermore, Finally, if the dog loses its ability to sniff out the virus after contracting the infection—loss of smell and loss of taste being a common symptom of the Covid-19—where does the dog go? What happens to the dog? Obviously, the dog will be out of a job, but will the organization utilizing the detection dog be responsible for finding the dog a loving home similar to the practice employed with retired K9 dogs? One would hope so, as it would be inhumane and unfair for these canines to end up at crowded shelter for doing their job, but I guess only time will tell!

Are Bloodless Bullfights Much Better than Traditional Bullfighting?

Danielle Maffei

While bullfighting is prohibited in a number of countries around the world, there still are some countries that continue practicing this inhumane tradition, such as Spain, France, Portugal, Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela, Peru and Ecuador. Some cities in Spain have banned bullfighting; however, in contrast, there are other Spanish cities such as Valencia and Madrid that have bullfighting schools, which teach children as young as 9 years old the “art” of bullfighting.

In these countries, the bulls stand no chance. The bulls are weakened significantly before the fights with either drugs or having sandbags dropped on their backs. Further, before the fight, their horns are shaved to keep them off balance, and they might have petroleum jelly rubbed into their eyes to worsen their vision. The bulls also have their necks and backs pierced with barbed lances, which impairs the bulls’ ability to lift their heads. During the fight, bullfighters stab them with banderillas (shown in the picture below), or sticks with a sharp point on the end, weakening the bulls even more, until the bulls becomes dizzy from blood loss. Finally, the bullfighter will try to sever the bull’s aorta, which would kill the bull quickly; however, more times than not, the bullfighter misses the aorta, and only maims and tortures the bull even more. If the bull is not killed in the arena, he is dragged out of the arena by his horns and killed later.

Bullfighting is not federally prohibited in America. What is prohibited nationally, however, is killing the bull in the arena as a finale of the bullfight. State statutes address whether certain types of bullfighting is permitted in its jurisdiction. For instance, the California legislature banned bullfighting in 1957; however, the statute included a religious exemption, which permitted bloodless bullfights (not to be confused with the alleged anti-cruel sport, rodeo clowning, which entails rodeo clowns actually riding the bull, as seen in the picture below). Anti-cruelty statutes in Wisconsin and Texas ensure that bloodless bullfights are an exception and are not banned. Other states, such as Rhode Island and Florida, have an explicit ban on bullfights of all forms.

Bulls are supposedly not injured nor killed in bloodless bullfights; thus, supporters contend that this alternative is more humane and cruelty-free. A bloodless bullfight involves a Velcro adaption of the banderilla and placing Velcro on the bull’s back, which causes less harm to the bull because the sharp point is replaced with a Velcro tip. This method has the same visual effect as the banderilla latching onto the bull’s back.

Still, this practice consists of intentionally aggravating and provoking the bull, causing the bull to have significant stress and exhaustion. Even with the Velcro banderilla, the bulls are nevertheless exploited and suffer at the expense of human entertainment. Further, there is most likely unseen abuse toward these bulls outside of the arena, and, although bulls are not killed in the arena, they are typically taken to a slaughterhouse afterward, or they are used again and again in these fights until they are no longer able to participate. When that occurs, they are killed.

In order to avoid animal cruelty altogether in bullfighting, it seems that the best approach is to prohibit bullfighting throughout the nation. It is indisputable that bulls are essentially tortured in these fights, bloodless or not, and the ultimate result for these bulls is inevitably death. Even if, for argument’s sake, the bulls are not slain in the conclusion of their fighting careers, the whole nature of the “sport” encourages violence and aggression toward the bulls and is therefore inhumane.

Moreover, in regards to California’s statutory exemption for religion, it is clear that bullfighting is more of a cultural activity versus a religious one. Bullfighting, according to many supporters, is an “art” and a “tradition,” when, in truth, it is actually a sadistic form of entertainment –– which, if banned, would not violate anyone’s fundamental right of practicing religion. Consequently, bullfighting should not be constitutionally protected. Cockfighting and dog fighting are also viewed as cultural activities, but they are banned in more than half the states throughout the country under anti-cruelty laws, so what difference does it make to ban bullfighting as well? Additionally, why would bullfighting not be included in these anti-cruelty laws to begin with? Each “sport” incites violence and torture and always results in the animals’ unnecessary and cruel deaths.

Such a sport does not belong in America, or any civilized society. There are several traditional activities that have been abandoned, and bullfighting should unquestionably be added to that list. Despite the argument that the bulls are not tortured or killed in the arenas, it is evident that the bulls still undergo violence and are exploited, and the bulls are eventually slaughtered regardless. Therefore, is bloodless bullfighting any better than traditional bullfights? It does not seem so.

Titers – education – viable alternative to over-vaccination

Michelle Mattei

            Titers is a word that some vets embrace, causes eye rolls from others, and for still many, an opportunity to launch into a diatribe akin to a Greek tragedy.  So why is this word causing so much controversy and agita between companion animal parents and some vets?  So let’s start with defining what a titer is.  As a human, we come across this when we apply to attend a university.  Most universities, either by State statute or university policy, ask for proof of vaccination against certain infectious diseases, the most common being MMR – measles, mumps, and rubella (German measles).  The prospective student contacts their pediatrician for a copy of their immunization records to show proof of vaccination.  If the immunization record cannot be located, the prospective student has two choices, get re-vaccinated or go for a titer test.  A titer is a test that requires blood to be drawn and sent for analysis to determine the level of antibodies against specific disease types.  Antibodies are a natural reaction to an antigen.  The body produces an antigen (stimulus) in response to an infection triggered by a virus, bacteria, or a vaccine.  The titer test results will provide evidence if antibodies are present in your system to provide proof of either vaccination or that you contracted a specific infection.  The titers test can be done on non-human animals to show which antibodies appear in their bloodstream.  In either case, if the antibodies are present, there is, in most cases, no need for revaccination. 

Titer tests for non-human animals have been used for several decades.  Still, the recent shift towards the increased use of titers is based on over-vaccination concerns, not only based on the vaccines themselves but also the frequency of boosters vaccinations and the expansion of non-core vaccines for a litany of different diseases.  The traditional core vaccines for dogs have generally been for; Canine rabies virus, Canine distemper virus (CDV), Canine parvovirus (CPV-2), and Canine adenovirus (hepatitis).  Depending on which of many guidelines are offered, Canine parainfluenza (flu) is either consider a core or non-core vaccine.  Non-core vaccines for dogs generally are considered to be; Bordetella bronchiseptica (kennel cough), Lyme disease, Leptospirosis, Coronavirus, and Giardia.

            So why is the titer topic so controversial with some vets?  Well, it depends on your vet, the type of vet you go to, how your vet chooses to interpret the science, and their financial motivation.  If your vet is traditional, they will likely suggest not only the core vaccines but also non-core vaccines based on their own set of beliefs, based on their interpretation of current scientific or non-scientific findings.  A holistic vet will tend to divert away from the vaccine guidelines and suggest the titer

There is yet another group of vets who are employed by large corporations that promote as part of their corporate governance policy or franchise agreement that the vets are required to encourage the use of vaccines both core and noncore, re-vaccination should vaccination be in doubt, and repeated boosters on an annual basis, all to meet their financial targets.  As a non-human animal parent, doesn’t this make you start to wonder and question?

Here are some interesting statistics that should bring additional questions and concerns to mind in your decision-making process.  There is a more extensive list as part of the embedded link.

  • Only ~40% of veterinarians follow the current WSAVA, AVMA, AAHA, CVMA vaccine guidelines
  • They can offer separated vaccine components, rather than give them all together, since the published data show more adverse reactions when multiple vaccines are given
  • Rabies vaccine is often given with other boosters for convenience, when this is ill advised, as Killed, inactivated vaccines like rabies make up 15% of veterinary biologicals used, but 85% of the post-vaccination reactions. Use only thimerosal (mercury) – free rabies vaccines
  • There is no such thing as an ‘up to date’ or ‘due’ vaccination
  • Vaccination may not equate to immunization
  • Giving boosters to immunized animals is unwise, as it introduces unnecessary antigen, adjuvant and preservatives
  • Heavy metal exposure from vaccines is an emerging concern for humans, pets and livestock
  • Half-dose CDV + CPV vaccines in small adult dogs sustained protective serum antibody titers
  • No evidence that annual boosters are necessary; need to lengthen the interval to every 3 yrs
  • Geriatric animals vaccinated only with caution

Just like not all veterinarians are the same when it comes to vaccines and titers, some veterinary schools are taking a more rational stance when it comes to this issue.  The College of Veterinary Medicine at Kansas State University states, “Vaccine titers have been gaining more acceptance over the past few years to reduce the frequency of vaccination. In order to be useful, two criteria need to be met: 1) One needs to be able to detect a measurable immunity (antibody) to a disease in a blood sample, and 2) There needs to have been challenge studies performed to associate protection with that specific titer level. A challenge study shows that animals which have a specified antibody titer did not get sick when exposed to the disease for which the titer was checked.”  Let’s all hope that more veterinary schools will promote this view and the other points stated on the College’s website.

My personal experience was to leave my companion animals veterinary practice after 30 years with them when they attempted to scare me and deter me away from titers.  Our current vet is a blend of traditional when needed as well as holistic.  This article is meant to challenge the old ways and introduce you and your companion animal family and beyond to possible alternatives.

Colorado Combats Animal Cruelty

Kristin Jones

Every year, more than 10 million animals die from abuse in the United States alone. Unfortunately, not all animal abuse cases are reported. Therefore, in reality, this number is likely over 100 million. In addition, of these likely 100 million cases of animal abuse, only a fraction of the offenders are actually prosecuted. This disparity means something needs to change in terms of animal abuse prosecution, and there must be stricter laws to protect these animals from further abuse.

In an attempt to fight against animal cruelty, Colorado Governor Jared Polis signed House Bill 19-1092, also known as Animal Ban For Cruelty to Animals Conviction, which concerns a prohibition on the future ownership of an animal for persons convicted of animal cruelty. The bill prohibits those convicted of aggravated cruelty to animals from owning, possessing, or caring for a pet animal for upwards of five years from the date of their conviction. The bill also allows judges to sentence offenders to complete an anger management program, mental health treatment program, or any other appropriate treatment program designed to address the underlying causative factors for the violation. This aspect of the bill is particularly valuable as some acts of animal cruelty, such as animal hoarding, are strongly linked to mental illness and can respond to treatment. Thus, without treatment, the abuser will likely repeat the behavior.

To date, most states do not have mandatory requirements prohibiting convicted animal abusers from owning or possessing animals. Twenty-one states have permissive possession bans (Alabama, Alaska, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming), which means the court decides whether the defendant should be prohibited from owning or possessing animals. Seventeen states have mandatory possession bans (California, Colorado, Delaware, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, Oregon, Rhode Island, Washington, and West Virginia) requiring courts to prohibit ownership for a designated period of time. It is crucial for the latter number to increase as possession bans are one of the most effective ways to prevent repeat offenses. These bans restrict the abuser’s access to animals, limiting their pool of potential victims.


Although Colorado’s bill is a great start to keep animals out of the hands of their abusers, there is still significant room for improvement. For example, the prohibition period of three to five years is such a trivial amount of time to forbid an animal abuser from owning a pet. A child abuser can be permanently stripped of their parental rights, but in three to five years, an animal abuser can once again own the very thing that was their victim. Without proof of rehabilitation, who says that the offender will not simply repeat what they have done in the past. Convicted abusers should never be allowed to own an animal again, or they must prove that they have been rehabilitated in order to own one in the future. In addition, the law will be enforced like a restraining order, which would rely on a report that the offender is in possession of an animal or a routine check revealing such. The problem with this is that since courts simply treat this as a violation of a court order, it is often unenforceable.

Other flaws of the bill include the fact that it only protects “pet animals.” This is problematic because about 97% of all abused and killed animals yearly are farm animals. These animals are simply seen as part of business and, as a result, are drugged and confined only to produce more milk and eggs, breed more offspring, and die. Thus, the bill’s limited protection of only “pet animal” leaves those who are most subject to abuse vulnerable to repeated mistreatment by their offender. The bill also does not require the prohibition of animal ownership for those convicted of misdemeanor animal cruelty. This means that it is up to the judge’s discretion on whether or not to forbid the ownership of animals for misdemeanor offenses. Although it does still allow for the prohibition of ownership, required bans would be more effective in keeping animals away from their abusers.

Though there is room for improvement, this is a great start in the fight against animal cruelty as it holds those people responsible for animal abuse accountable for their actions. Other states should follow in Colorado’s footsteps to begin strengthening their law punishing animal abusers.

Poverty and Poaching: can CITES or the Convention on Biological Diversity stop the one of the root causes of the illegal wildlife trade?

Jennifer Timmons

In 2015 the United Nations created Sustainable Development Goal 15.7. That goal specifically addresses the urgent need to end poaching but despite this goal, the illegal wildlife trade is still one of the most profitable illegal enterprise in the world, bringing in up to 23 billion dollars a year. Wildlife trafficking can be done through complex crime syndicates or individuals looking for a quick buck. However, many high value crimes that make news headlines often trace back to an individual shooter who is usually a poor resident of the area where the poaching took place. With no way to make ends meet, these people turn to poaching to feed their families. A rhino poacher approached an investigative journalist and explained how he did not want to poach rhinos because it was so dangerous, but he had no other way to feed his family. The journalist discusses how the communities in his documentary are located on the outskirts of national parks in Africa, where there is very little means to earn a living. (Nick Read, The Traffickers: Killed for a Horn, NETFLIX 2016) It’s seen all over the world, the poorest communities struggle to survive and turn to poaching. Since wildlife trafficking includes so many different players, and usually involves crossing national borders, international agreements are needed to address the pressing issue of poverty threatening wildlife. There needs to be a way to provide aid to hard-to-reach places in developing counties, with a focused on specifically targeting communities with high poaching. Two international agreements come to mind when discussing the illegal wildlife trade, CITES and the Convention on Biological Diversity, but are they up to the task or do they fall short of their duties?

CITES aims to provide protection to all animals (and even plants) that are threatened or endangered. According to World Wildlife Fund, “CITES, which stands for the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, is a global agreement among governments to regulate or ban international trade in species under threat.” CITES is broken in to three trade categories: Appendix 1, Appendix 2, and Appendix 3. Appendix 1 is the most restrictive and includes critically endangered plants and animals. Appendix 1 species are completely prohibited from trade, except for rare cases involving scientific research.  This includes live, dead, and animal parts. According to World Wildlife Fund, CITES is heralded as one of the best tools to combat the illegal wildlife trade with over 183 member Parties regulating more than 35,000 species. However, CITES seems only partially to work by specifically targeting end consumers and not addressing poverty, one of the causes of poaching. CITES does not have a mechanism for developing a means to give alternative jobs to communities who participate in poaching, or addressing the issues of how poaching and poverty have a correlation. An approach is needed within CITES that would be different from a blanket aid package. Its goal should be to specifically seek out communities where poaching is the primary way to make a living, dissect the root causes of poverty (i.e. gangs, lack of public services, etc.), and address those issue.  CITES targets the end market but not the base of the problem. An approach is needed to target both ends of the trafficking cycle and CITES fails to do that.

The Convention on Biological Diversity (TCBD) likewise fails to target communities with high poaching. TCBD is focused on: the conservation of biological diversity, the sustainable use of the components of biological diversity, and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources. TCBD was not necessarily created to deal with poaching and the illegal wildlife trade as mentioned in TRAFFIC’s Briefing on the Scope and Content of the Post2020 Global Biodiversity Framework report, “The Aichi Targets in the [T]CBD’s Strategic Plan to 2020 do not include a target specific to trade in wildlife, despite illegal and unsustainable trade being one of the key drivers of biodiversity loss, and sustainable, well-managed legal wildlife trade having a scope for providing benefits to all from biodiversity and ecosystem services.” However, there is a section in the TCBD called Sustainable Wildlife Management which states that one of its goal is to tackle “Multidisciplinary approaches in sustainable wildlife management, including alternative livelihoods.” This section of the TCBD could easily focus on creating pathways for communities turning to poaching for a living to find alternative livelihoods. Unfortunately, TCBD falls short and has only focused on the bushmeat trade and not poaching as a whole. Another issue as stated by TRAFFIC in the earlier quote, is that there are no targets or benchmarks for meeting the goals. It’s not easy to implement a strategy as complex as providing possibly millions of people with alternative livelihoods with no way of telling if the implementation strategy is even working. In the end, TCBD fails to address poverty and poaching in a wholistic way.

While CITES is what usually comes to mind when discussing the illegal wildlife trade, TCBD has a better section that can address poaching specifically linked to poverty. Currently neither is addressing poverty as a significant factor to poaching, CITES targets the consumer, while TCBD focuses on biodiversity and genetic sharing. However, these are only two of the many international conventions, agreements, and treaties that could possibly address poverty to stop the illegal wildlife trade. Poverty is a complex issue and its causes vary greatly. While not every poaching incident may be directly related to poverty, and a great many aren’t, there is still enough of a correlation to be greatly concerned, especially when many of these people don’t want to be poaching in the first place. One thing is certain both CITES and TCBD do not address the issue. It’s interesting that poverty is not predominant in two conventions that specifically address issues concerning wildlife, when poverty is such a danger to it.

A Proposed Bill in New York Seeks to Prohibit the Shipment of Live Animals by Mail After Recent USPS Delays Reveal Devastating Impacts

Nicolette Merlino

On February 4, 2021, New York Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal introduced a bill (A4611) which, if enacted, would amend New York’s agriculture and marketing law to prohibit the shipment of certain “live animals” by postal mail into or within the state of New York and from the state of New York to points outside the State. 

The proposed legislation is a response to the devastating impact that recent USPS setbacks are having on the lives of animals shipped by postal mail. As a result of drastic financial cuts, USPS has recently experienced an elevated level of shipment delays and heightened reports of lost mail. Shipping live animals through the postal system is a common practice in the United States as it is generally a less expensive alternative to other transportation methods. However, recent delays have resulted in some vendors suspending USPS shipments after an increased number of animals arrived dead in the mail. While mail carriers are subject to precautions to ensure the safe delivery of animals, such attempts are clearly inadequate where increased delay is inevitable. For example, in August of 2020, it was reported that thousands of live chicks were being delivered dead in the northeast. In many of the cases, the live chicks were left inside warehouses for up to 75 hours before delivery. According to concerned veterinarians, a major issue with the shipment of birds by postal mail is the inability to regulate the temperature necessary to keep chicks warm. The consequences are especially detrimental to chicks because they are generally shipped when newly hatched. As such, these mailed chicks often spend a critical learning period inside a dark box.

The United States Postal Service has allowed for the shipment of certain live animals since 1918. USPS guidelines designate which animals are considered “legally mailable” subject to the requirement that “proper conditions” are met. According to the USPS website, “mailable animals,” include adult birds and day-old “poultry,” such as chickens, ducks, geese, turkeys, and partridges, other small, harmless cold-blooded animals, like frogs, toads, and baby alligators, as well as certain insects. The United Parcel Service (UPS) similarly permits the shipment of small, harmless cold-blooded animals, all fish, and non-nuisance insects.

While the recent postal crisis has resulted in a spike in the number of animal fatalities, the harmful impacts associated with the practice of transporting animals through the mail are well-established. According to a January 2013 article by Farm Sanctuary, more than one hundred chicks mailed that month from Texas and expected to arrive Alabama traveled close to one thousand miles in the wrong direction as a result of mailing address error. The chicks ended up in Washington D.C., where the package sat unclaimed at a post office until postal workers eventually realized the problem and contacted animal control. A similar event occurred in July of 2015, where a box containing sixteen chicks and mailed from Wisconsin arrived to and remained at a New York post office unclaimed. Despite the fact that the package contained several live chicks, postal workers almost stamped the box “Return to Sender.” Fortunately, in this case, a concerned postal worker the chicks in the box and took them home to care to them. For many animals, however, the result of having to travel back several days to the return address could be the difference between life and death. Notwithstanding the apparent serious consequences, this standard procedure is implemented on all unclaimed packages, including those holding live animals.

            The proposed New York bill defines “live animal” relatively broadly, as meaning “any mammal, bird, reptile, or amphibian.” The ban would prohibit both the shipment of “live animals” out of and into the State of New York. As such, if enacted, the legislation would represent a positive step in the advancement and recognition of animal welfare. However, like much of the legislation enacted for the benefit of animals, potential constitutional issues have emerged. Following the bills proposal, commentators raised possible preemption issues as the law would serve to prohibit practices that would otherwise be legal under Federal law. Specifically, the broad definition of “live animals” would effectively incorporate a large majority of  the “mailable animals,” currently legally shippable under USPS guidelines. Thus, there is a possibility that the proposed bill, if challenged under the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution of the United States, would be considered invalid. 

The Case Against Captivity

Marissa O’Connor

Zoos across the nation love to boast about their conservation efforts to save species and market themselves as the 5-star Caribbean island resorts of the animal world. The average person would agree with the notion that captivity means longer lifespans for animals since there are no predators, around-the-clock medical care, and nutritional meals provided. While this may be the case for some smaller, more prey vulnerable species, this is not the case for many keystone species; species that should be a priority for conservation. Marine mammals, elephants, giant pandas, and cheetahs are examples of keystone species that are notoriously difficult to establish effective husbandry for in captivity. Consequentially, these species are the most popular animals that zoos can house and are therefore likely the most miserable.

Marine mammal species, notably dolphins and whales, are species that are especially unsuitable for captivity. Marine mammals often swim up to hundreds of nautical miles a day and have unique, sensitive family structures. The natural environment of marine mammals can never be mimicked in a captive setting and deprives the mammals of the environment they need to be healthy, subsequently, captive marine mammals often show signs of psychological and physical trauma. Killer whales in captivity are infamous for their dorsal fin collapse, which is experienced by all captive male orcas and many females. In the wild, however, dorsal fin collapse is only seen in about one percent of killer whales. Moreover, many marine mammals rely on sonar to communicate and navigate their surroundings. Due to their extremely limited environment, these marine mammals are forced into a perpetual motion of endless circles around their tanks. The human equivalent is, quite literally, solitary confinement.

Moreover, while dolphins and whales are subjected to a life of solitary confinement, aquariums are aware of another ocean behemoth unsuitable for captivity. Despite repeated efforts across the planet, aquariums have never been able to successfully house an adult great white shark. In 2004, the Monterey Bay Aquarium managed to sustain a 4-foot great white shark for a mere 198 days, the longest in record. Before this stint, the longest a great white shark was able to survive in an aquarium was only 16 days. The Monterey Bay Aquarium, until recently, was unable to curve their appetite for displaying a great white shark, and many other aquariums still have “great white exhibition programs”. Knowing the captive stints will likely cause the shark to die, these futile attempts to house great white sharks seek to satisfy human curiosity only, instead of species preservation.

Marine mammals are not the only species to suffer in captivity, elephants are also afflicted. A study published in 2008 in Science Magazine reported that their data suggests that female elephant’s health and overall well-being are so compromised in captivity their lifespans are less than half the median life span of protected populations in Africa and Asia. More specifically, Asian elephant calves are especially compromised and have an unusually high infant mortality rate. In captive African elephants, the median life span was 17 years, in the wild, it is 56. For captive Asian zoo elephants, the median was 19 years, in wild it was almost 42.

Like many other wildlife species, the giant panda’s population has been decreasing due to habitat loss and deforestation. Being such a charismatic animal, conservation efforts had no issue devoting vast resources to preserving the population. Giant pandas are often used as the face of conservation, and the World Wildlife Fund sports the giant panda as their mascot. The captive breeding programs have very low success rates, however, and while captive breeding and reintroduction to the wild have helped numerous other species, this is not the case for the giant panda. Conservationists devoted to the giant pandas frequently recognize that captive breeding of pandas will not be successful in saving the species from extinction. Similar to the great white shark, zoos are reluctant to come to the conclusion they are not successful in conserving the giant panda. Some zookeepers have resorted to extreme lengths to restore the natural instincts they stripped from the panda by showing them footage of other pandas mating, and by forced breeding.

Like many other wildlife species, the giant panda’s population has been decreasing due to habitat loss and deforestation. Being such a charismatic animal, conservation efforts had no issue devoting vast resources to preserving the population. Giant pandas are often used as the face of conservation, and the World Wildlife Fund sports the giant panda as their mascot. The captive breeding programs have very low success rates, however, and while captive breeding and reintroduction to the wild have helped numerous other species, this is not the case for the giant panda. Conservationists devoted to the giant pandas frequently recognize that captive breeding of pandas will not be successful in saving the species from extinction. Similar to the great white shark, zoos are reluctant to come to the conclusion they are not successful in conserving the giant panda. Some zookeepers have resorted to extreme lengths to restore the natural instincts they stripped from the panda by showing them footage of other pandas mating, and by forced breeding.

Aside from their notoriety for being difficult to keep in captivity, all of these species are lucrative for zoos to keep on display as conservation efforts, successful or not, attract large amounts of tourists. The reluctance of zoos to end unsuccessful conservation programs directly negates their goal of conservation and causes continuous harm to these species. The case for captivity is usually focused on the improved longevity of lifespans, but what good are longer lifespans if the animal is suffering? Extending the lifespan of a species while depriving it of everything else is not conservation, it is cruelty.

Specific Task Forces to Handle Animal Cruelty: Reasonable Or Not?

Emily Indriolo

            Upon first look for information on horse cruelty I found this post from Equine Advocates. It presents a very interesting theory: specific task forces within police departments to handle animal cruelty. It was surprising because it was something that never came to mind before. Why are there so few specific task forces to handle animal cruelty? It seems like a very good and efficient idea so one would think it would implemented across the country. A quick google search will inform you that not many states have them, let alone counties, and even if they do they don’t seem to be funded very well. So that leaves the question, are animal cruelty task forces a reasonable thing to implement? Or are they just too difficult to achieve and more of a dream than a reality? I would say that I stand somewhere in the middle.

            The post I found from the Equine Advocates website takes a very strong stance. They believe that an animal cruelty task force should be implemented in every county in every state but especially in the ones that have farms. They preface this argument by telling the reader about Skye’s Amendment, a New York State law that makes it a felony to abuse any animal in New York. We are told that the law has helped greatly with training police in the matter of animals and for putting dangerous people behind bars. They believe that stronger animal cruelty laws combined with specific animal cruelty task forces is the way handle the ever-growing issue of animal cruelty. Skye’s Amendment was only implemented in 2010. It took a horse being stabbed eighteen times with a butcher knife until she bled to death for the state to decide that animal cruelty should be a felony. Interestingly, it was surprisingly difficult to actually find the law in question but its actual title is N.Y. Afri. Mkts Law § 353-a. Aggravated cruelty to animals.

            I agree with Equine Advocates that stronger animal cruelty laws and an animal cruelty task force for every county would certainly make drastic changes in the country but I do not think it can realistically happen. I imagine that the sole reason for this is money. As they say, money makes the world go round, but apparently no one wants to use it to protect animals. Just recently, due to the call for action to defund the police in the Summer of 2020, the LAPD cut a portion of their animal cruelty task force and defunded it in general. It is quite clear that money is the biggest motivating factor in the decision to either help or ignore the plight of animals and while our world cares more about money over morals it will probably always be this way.

            However I do believe there can be a happy medium solution. Creating an animal task force for every county, while sounds lovely, is just unrealistic but creating an animal task force for every state is a very reasonable and good place to start. Once there is one there is room for more to grow. As the Equine Advocates post suggests there should be task forces in counties with heavy farm populations. Another thing that could help to move around the money issue is to take volunteers for the task forces. I am sure that many people in every county in the United States care about preventing animal cruelty and would be more than happy to help. Is it really necessary for the task forces to be made up completely of police officers? I don’t think so. I believe they should be made up of people who actually want to help and are not just doing it “because it is their job.” A little expense on training volunteers is nothing compared to having to pay a police officer’s salary every week for the same job. If money really is the issue then this is a good workaround. Although, police officers are the only ones with the power to make arrests but placing one or two on the task force is probably sufficient. Most animal protection teams are run by humane societies rather than the local law enforcement anyway so why not have the team created by law enforcement also have citizen members? It seems to work out well for them.

            Most people are willfully ignorant to the plight of animals. They know but they prefer not to see what is happening to them. If this wall of ignorance is removed then changes may start to happen. If the general public were educated more about animal cruelty they would probably want to help more and then maybe money won’t be such a barrier between humans and helping animals anymore.

Animals Have No Home In The Circus

Michael Schwartz

Humans would not enjoy entertainment at the expense of fellow humans torture and pain, so why should we allow the expense to be paid by the animals we love? In 1941, Disney produced an instant classic in the film Dumbo, which follows the life of an elephant who was taken away from the family he had known to perform as a circus elephant. Originally depicted as a cartoon, to perhaps lessen the depressed nature behind an animals life in a circus ring, the live action film produced in 2019 rings in a truer portrait of a mournful existence. The upbringing, training, and use of animals for the circus is an inhumane and barbaric practice that must be discontinued swiftly and immediately. The treatment which the animals are receiving on a daily basis in no way justifies any monetary or entertainment ends. This is a call for the banning of animal circuses.

            Before any performance takes place, every single animal, whether it be a tiger, elephant, monkey, or any other animal must undergo months of grueling training before they enter the ring. What does this training entail? Let’s start with the case of the elephants in training. A common practice in the field is to use bullhooks on these friendly giants. A bullhook is a long pole that has a sharp hook attached at the end. These hooks dig into the elephant’s sensitive flesh (usually used right behind the ears or ankles) causing extreme pain for the animal. Another cruel tactic used for almost all of the animals is a whip. The skin-crawling lashing is used merely for letting the animals know of what punishment awaits them if they do not quickly learn their stunts or behave in a manner according to the circus’s liking. Though it is not a competition, the most horrific allowance under the Animal Welfare Act is the allowed use of electric prods when training animals. The use of electric prods has drawn the attention of Dr. Temple Grandin, animal behaviourist, in the past. Not only do the electric prods create immense physical pain on contact, but they also “impair the animals’ immune system, stop weight gain, damage rumen function and reduce reproductive ability. Animals that are handled roughly and become excited or frightened will remember their experience and be much harder to handle the next time. Their level of anxiety or stress when entering the handling facility will be higher due to their memory of previous experiences.” The physical abuse circus animals take on a daily basis is well documented, but unfortunately, it is not the only method of torture they are dealing with. Coupling their physical mistreatment with their mental damages, circus animals are constantly left in a state of despair.

   A large percentage of the animals used in the circuses have been captured from their native habitats from very young ages. This theft and displacement places a distinctly different quality of life for all of the animals. Take primates as an example. Baboons, chimpanzees, spider monkeys, and other primates who are taken from their homes and placed into small, cramped cages live a life that is a stark contrast to what they were used to. Primates are widely known for living in close-knit communities, who live, travel, and communicate together, usually in large numbers. What is also known is the physiological horrors that animals must embrace when they are facing captivity. The tight housing of the animals, which is even seen in the off-season of the circuses, lead to unnatural forms of behavior such as repeated head-bobbing, swaying, and pacing. Pacing is when an animal appears to be a “trance” as it continuously moves in the same motion over and over again. What is particularly saddening about this aspect is that the animals once used pacing as a means of stretching, exercising, and enjoying their day. But now, they are forced to barely shift around in their small cages, only furthering their anxieties and reminding them of the freedoms they once had. Another unfortunate habit the animals can develop is sham-chewing, which is the repetitive movement of the jaw, sham-chewing is another self-directed, deprivation stereotype and is commonly shown in sows kept in gestation crates.

In a fight to disband any circuses that benefits off of and continues the use of animals, it is essential to spread the awareness of the ongoings behind the scenes of these spectacles. Though the thought of the treatment of these poor animals brings in emotions of despair, it is encouraging to know that there is a wave of momentum on our side. The use of animals in entertainment has already been restricted or banned in cities across the U.S. and in countries worldwide. For instance, Bolivia, Greece, Israel, Peru, and Sweden have banned the use of all animals in circuses, and Britain has prohibited the use of wild animals in traveling circuses. There are a variety of options for wonderful, animal-free circuses, such as the famous Cirque Du Soleil. The captivation, and training of animals for our entertainment purposes is a barbaric tactic that has been shown to no longer be necessary. With action already being taken, it is vital to continue the momentum and not cease our hope of freeing animals from their torturers.

FDA, Milk up Your Mind

Áine Dillon

Spanning over the last few decades, there has been controversy growing in Europe and the United States about how plant-based milk alternatives can label their products. The debate surrounds which vowel the plant-based milk alternatives can use (milk with an ‘i,’ or mylk with a ‘y’). According to the Department of Agriculture, milk consumption has dropped 37% since 1970, and cow milk sales dropped from $15 billion in 2011to $12 billion in 2016. With the growing popularity and variety of plant-based milks, the cries from the dairy industry seem to be growing louder. The dairy industry is opposed to plant-based milks spelling milk with an ‘i,’ claiming that using the word ‘milk’ implies that the beverage has similar nutritional properties or taste to cow’s milk. However, will changing the vowel used in milk aid consumer knowledge? Or is it a ploy by the dairy industry to weaken their plant-based competitors?

Merriam-Webster defines milk as “a fluid secreted by the mammary glands of females for the nourishment of their young.” Scott Gottlieb, former FDA Commissioner, stated “An almond doesn’t lactate, I will confess.” Using this definition of milk, it is clear that beverages made from almond, soy, cashew or hemp do not fit this definition. However, the dairy industry argues that a consumer may believe that almond milk has the same nutritional value as cow’s milk. What the FDA wants to avoid is having confused parents buying almond milk for their children, thinking that has the same nutritional value of cow’s milk, and the child having life-lasting conditions from being malnourished. Even though research shows that drinking milk is a good source of nutrients for children, there are many other ways to get the same nutrients, and recent studies have concluded that drinking milk is not necessary for children. Even further, many plant-based milks are fortified and contain many of the essential nutrients that cow’s milk offers, although none contain all the nutrients found in milk. 

However, the dairy industry claims that using the word milk implies that the beverage has similar fat, protein, salts, lactose, enzymes, vitamins to cow’s milk. However, simply looking at the nutritional value of the beverage compared to cow’s milk would exclude other milks that come from animals (such as goat’s milk or sheep’s milk). The question becomes if every type of milk (animal or plant-based) has a different nutritional makeup, why exclude the plant-based milks from using the ‘i,’ while allowing animal-based milks to use the ‘i.’ Similar rules by the FDA include defining butter to be dairy-based, therefore excluding oil-based spreads like margarine from using the word butter. However, if a food is not trying to be ‘butter’ then they can use the word. Therefore, peanut butter is still allowed to use the word butter because it is not intimidating butter. 

In 2013, a case was brought to a U.S. District court about the legality of products being labeled as soymilk or almond milk, and if they were misleading. The judge presiding on the case, Judge Samuel Conti, stated “Under plaintiffs’ logic, a reasonable consumer might also believe that veggie bacon contains pork, that flourless chocolate cake contains flour, or that e-books are made out of paper.” The judge concluded soy milk and almond milk are accurate descriptions of what the beverage is and are not misleading. 

Some argue that while labeling plant-based alternatives as milk with an ‘i’ is correct, plant-based alternatives companies should embrace the ‘y’ in mylk. Maybe they can be an indicator for consumers that this beverage does not come at the cost of forced pregnancies and inhumane treatment. Additionally, the change from i to y may not make a difference in sales either as the change most likely will not affect people who already consume non-dairy milks. Over the last 15 years there has been a 300% increase in veganism, and an estimated 70% of the world’s adults are lactose intolerant. Further, more people are aware of the ethical implications of consuming dairy due to the cruel treatment cows endure to produce milk constantly. The ethical, environmental, or dietary reasons for abstaining from drinking milk or consuming milk products will not change, no matter what vowel is used. However, it does enforce the idea that plant-based milk alternatives are lesser, or do not deserve the title of being milk. Further, more changes may come. Vegan butter, ice-cream and cheese might also need to change if the FDA finds milk to only apply to milks from animals. Currently, the FDA does allow for plant-based milk alternatives to use the ‘i,’ but growing concerns from the dairy industry may eliminate that choice. 

The New York State’s new bill: end of pet sale for good?

Chloe Kim

On February 3, 2020, the New York State Senate’s Domestic Animal Welfare Committee approved the bill (S.4234/A.6298) that has been introduced by Senator Michael Gianaris and Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal. The bill would prohibit retail pet stores and commercial pet shops from selling any dog, cat, or rabbit. It then also would prevent retail pet stores from buying dog, cat, or rabbit from a commercial puppy mill or pet breeders. To this date, California (2017) and Maryland (2018) are only two states that have enacted similar bills. If this bill passes, it will make New York the third state confirming its position against the puppy mill pipeline.

Cruel and inhumane conditions of puppy mills are known to some, but not widely and publicly enough to stop them from continuously exploiting puppies on demand. Commercial dog breeders are not afraid to treating and placing breeding dogs as profitable as possible, which include tiny overcrowded cages, unsanitary and dangerous facilities, little to none veterinary care, and merciless separation between mothers and babies and cage mates. The breeding dogs spend their entire lives in confinement, and they are bred at every possible opportunity, sometimes even when they are sick and exhausted, all for the profit. The puppies are then sold to pet brokers and transported to pet shops and retail stores for sale. These puppy mills, brokers, dealers, transporters, and retail shops complete the puppy mill pipeline, and individual customers who purchase the puppies at retail stores, whether they know or not, fuel the puppy mill pipeline to continue in business. This pet mill pipeline is not just limited to dogs. Daunting realities also exist for cats, as found in kitten mills, where their conditions are no better than those of puppy mills – if not worse. The kittens are placed in crowded wire cages to reduce labor cost for waste clean-up, with almost no veterinary care, and adult cats are repetitively bred until they are too sick to produce; once the breeding cats reach that point of sickness, we do not want to know what happens to them next. The new bill would deter this pipeline operation by prohibiting the selling and buying process between puppy (kitten) mills and retail stores.

Despite tremendous work of organizations, activists, scholars, and legislators to stop the pet mill operation, the results have been shown on only two states so far: California and Maryland. The federal government has also tried to regulate puppy mills but failed to do so successfully. It has been reported that the standard for breeder licenses is inadequate; enforcement power is weak, and penalties are light.

It should also be noted that the general target (including the new bill) of the pet mill bans so far only focuses on the sale of dogs, cats, and rabbits. Although we are generally aware of dogs, cats, and rabbits being somewhat the most popular demands at retail pet stores, we also know that retail pet stores also sell so many other species, which include but not limited to birds, hamsters, ferrets, fish, and turtles; the list goes on. No laws are regulating a sale of other animals, nor are there any laws at least ensuring their condition at retail pet stores. No law yet cares about whether they are well fed and watered. The New York State’s new bill also does not mention anything else about the sale and purchase of pets other than dogs, cats, and rabbits. Retail pet stores could continuously sell and purchase hamsters, birds, gerbils, fish, and frogs, as many as they want, regardless of where and how these animals are bred and treated before they are sold to the customers. There is nothing that can stop retail pet stores to even operate hamster mills on their own, no matter how unethically and inhumanely they do so – as long as they do not buy or sell dogs, cats, and rabbits from commercial breeders and pet mills. How ethical and humane is that? We may rejoice New York’s great news on this bill. It will shut down, or lead to shut down, lots of puppy and kitten mill pipeline in New York pet sale market. It will also encourage retail pet stores to connect with local animal rescue organizations and animal adoption shelters that could help to guide the public towards adopting their companions from shelters, rather than purchasing them. However, the efforts should not stop there. New York is only the third state to ban on retail puppy sale (only if the bill passes), and we have lots of other animals that are still popular in demand without any regulation to ensure their safety. The new bill also does not ban an individual from purchasing dogs, cats, and rabbits from commercial breeders and mills directly. A small improvement should not blindfold us; the factories are still up and running unless we stop them all for good. 

Canadian beavers in Patagonia’s forests: environmental ethics and invasive species management

Andrea Galassi

According to the Smithsonian’s National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute, beavers, the largest rodents in North America, are “one of the few species that significantly modify their environment.” By erecting of watertight dams of sticks woven with reeds, branches and saplings, which are caulked with mud, they diminish the stream erosion and form slow-moving ponds. As we can imagine, these ponds serve as habitat for a wide range of small aquatic life and also provide water and food for much larger animals. However, in some parts of the world, beavers had generated a decrease in the biomass and the volume of the forests, especially those classified, as “protected forests” because of they are associated with watercourses, an impact that is difficult to overcome in a natural way. Such is the case of Patagonian forests in Argentina and Chile.

beaver overpopulation — Tierra del Fuego

Going back in history, in 1946 10 pairs of beavers (Castor Canadensis) were brought from Manitoba to the Argentinian archipelago of Tierra del Fuego in an attempt to bring the fur industry to the area. But what Argentina´s military government ignored was the fact that beavers had no natural predators— like wolves, lynx, or coyotes— in the area in contrast to North America, which is home to bears and wolves. Thus the population swelled over the last 70 years, causing damage to thousands of old-growth trees –like Nothofagus or southern beeches forests- and peat bogs. In addition, the species has a serious impact on the ecosystem services of the turbines, which also have a specific role in basin regulation, in sustaining biodiversity and for their global contribution to carbon sequestration. Moreover, beaver dams –some of which I´ve actually witnessed myself when a recent visit to “Bahia Lapataia”, Tierra del Fuego- are so dominate that researchers can identify them in satellites images.

It was not until the 1990s that the governments of Argentina and Chile began to realize the magnitude of their beaver problem. Even though they tried to encourage recreational and commercial beaver hunting, trained hundreds of locals to trap encouraged restaurants to serve beaver-meat recipes and put a bounty on each beaver they could not reverse the damage because of low fur prices and hunting difficulties. Moreover, according to Alejandro Valenzuela -conservation coordinator for Argentina’s Southern Patagonia National Parks- the program caused more ecological damage than it saved: since beavers are territorial, the movement of a beaver colony from a pond, will allow new beavers will move in, but they won’t use the old dam. Instead, they will build a new dam, felling more trees and creating a larger pond in the process.

After several discussions, in 2008 Argentinian government –in cooperation with the Republic of Chile – began a 10-year mission to exterminate 100,000 beavers with traps and training hunters to eventually eradicate the species. Through the Secretary of Environment and Sustainable Development, the National Government established a Pilot Program in order to provide governance of invasive alien species. In 2019, preliminary results from a pilot project in Esmeralda-Lasifashaj region, which ran from October 2016 to January 2017 and from March to May 2017, were released. The studies show that “eradication was not achieved using the methods and efforts in the first part of the pilot study” [highlighting] “the need for more effort or the application of different techniques or trapping strategies. For example, daily checking of traps may cause the animals to be cautious so, the next step in the Programme will involve exploring alternative trapping methods to reduce disturbance”.

Consequently, at this moment all the efforts are centralized in the eradication and the fact that Argentina and Chile will also have to figure out how to restore the forests that have already been damaged by the beavers. This will be a next step. However, as an Animal Law student there are ethical questions for and against specific actions about the eradication of beavers as non-native specie from Patagonia that necessarily arise here. For instance, are beavers as individual sentient animals opposite to the value (at the species level) of plants and trees in Patagonia, and its ecosystems as well? Furthermore, is killing for conservation justified in order to eradicate invasive species?

Conservation Biology is “a multidisciplinary science that has developed to address the loss of biological diversity.” Its two central goals are “to evaluate human impacts on biological diversity and to develop practical approaches to prevent the extinction of species”. In other words, there is an inherent idea that CB is conformed by both value judgments and ethical decisions. Moreover, in the last few years Ethics and Animal Welfare have been presented an optional and newly born approach: the Compassionate Conservation Approach which aims to safeguard Earth’s biological diversity while retaining a commitment to treating individuals “with respect and concern for their well-being.” Even though there are currently two sides – those who consider killing to be unacceptable in any situation; and those who think it might be acceptable when there’s no other solution- by embracing animal ethics, the Compassionate Conservation Approach offers an interesting viewpoint by bringing the practices and sciences of animal welfare and conservation biology closer together and by envisioning the application of specific ethical arguments to improve the status quo of beavers versus ecosystem in Patagonia. The application of environmental ethics to political decisions can be crucial for understanding and settling our responsibility towards the multiple problems that currently affect our planet.

What’s going on with feral cats?

Chloe Kim

It is estimated that about 68 percent of U.S. households live with animal (non-human) companions, and there are approximately 94 million pet cats in the U.S. On the other hand, the number of feral cats in the U.S. is estimated as many as 160 million. Although this number is only an estimate, it still suggests that there are almost the same or a greater number of cats living without owners than pet cats who are (hopefully) well-fed and waters by their human companions. 

Feral cats are often used to mean stray cats and vice versa. Under some circumstances, they can mean the same thing. However, they are not entirely the same. Generally, a stray cat is a cat who was once domesticated, then was lost or abandoned and strayed from their home. A feral cat is a cat who was never domesticated or whose interaction/socialization with a human was lost. When a cat is born in a wild state, it is more likely that a cat would become (or remain) a feral cat. Sometimes, when a stray cat is left in the wild too long that his/her interaction with a human dwindles, he/she can become a feral cat. Either way, they both live in our communities, being exposed to a harsh and dangerous environment.

When one finds an unknown cat who seems to belong to no one, there are many things one can do: trying to find the owner first, making sure the cat does not look sick or in dangerous state, taking the cat in for scanning for a microchip and TNR (trap-neuter-return), or calling a local animal rescue center. One simple, easy, and very effective way to help the cat would be feeding and providing fresh water for the cat, and the legal consequences of giving hands for the cat may differ by states. There are only thirteen states that have laws addressing feral cats. In New York State, feral cats are considered as companions rather than as wildlife, and you can freely feed feral cats without violating any law. In Virginia and Delaware, you may feed feral cats, but then specific responsibilities may come along with the action; you may be considered the owner or caregiver after feeding feral cats consecutively, which means that you may have to be responsible for complying specific regulations for providing adequate care for them. Some states, like Connecticut, where each town adopts its ordinance as to keeping and registering feral cats, may impose certain requirements on feral cat keepers such as vaccinating and sterilizing them. New Jersey maintains managed cat colonies where feral cats are cared for by groups of volunteers, and the managed cat colonies should have their cats checked by a vet for public safety purposes. Depending on where you feed and provide shelter for feral cats, you may freely enjoy doing so or be liable for providing necessary services for them, and in extreme cases, may become liable for damages done by feral cats you feed.

Feral cats under anti-cruelty laws also vary by state. In all 50 states and the District of Columbia, one can be charged with a criminal offense, from as light as a misdemeanor to as heavy as a felony, for intentional killing and injuring of a cat. Sometimes a definition of a cat includes a feral cat as well. However, it does not mean that those laws were written with a specific intent to protect feral cats because the laws are generally more focused on pets under personal ownership. In some states, instead, feral cats are expressly excluded from their well-deserved protection. For example, Wyoming treats stray cats as a predatory animal, and therefore, there is no protection for them under anti-cruelty law. In South Dakota, one can be criminally charged under anti-cruelty law by poisoning or killing a cat who actually has an owner; feral cats or stray cats where their owners are unknown – or doesn’t exist –, South Dakota’s anti-cruelty law can’t do much for them.

A number of feral cats are growing every year, and their overpopulation poses various issues in many communities. If they are not well fed and sheltered, they may roam for food in trash and areas where food wastes are, which may develop into public sanitary and safety issues. Recently, researchers raised concern for endangered birds in Hawaii as feral cats become the birds’ predators.

Although their nature now made them difficult to socialize with humans, most of the feral cats (if not themselves at least their parents or grandparents) were once someone’s companions, who deserved nutritious food, fresh water, and a safe home. Once they were lost and abandoned, we started treating them as strangers and, in some cases, as dangers. Without specific guidelines and regulations, most people can only rely on their own resources and private organizations at best to feed and take care of feral cats; it may be challenging to protect feral cats in every aspect of law. However, state and local governments may start addressing the issue of feral cats so that we could better take care of them with what we have. Most feral cats only live less than two years on his/her own, and it is way too shorter than ten to twenty years if they are with their human companions providing them love and care they need. We should at least be able to provide them a healthy life, no matter how short it is, while they are with us.

Chemically Castrate the Swamp

  Alexis Tomaino

Atrazine wreaks havoc on the sex lives of adult male frogs, emasculating three-quarters of them and turning one in 10 into female. The 75 percent that are chemically castrated are essentially “dead” because of their inability to reproduce in the wild. The 10 percent (or more) that turn from males into females – something not known to occur under natural conditions in amphibians – can successfully mate with male frogs but, because these females are genetically male, all their offspring are male. The impacts of atrazine are most pronounced in frogs because they have highly permeable skin that can easily absorb the chemical. Exposure to atrazine at levels as low as 0.1 parts per billion has been shown to affect the development of sex characteristics in frogs. 

            Based on the evidence that atrazine is an endocrine disruptor to amphibians, the EPA should ban the use of Atrazine.  First, frogs are vital to a healthy ecosystem and their disappearance can disturb an intricate food web with cascading effects felt throughout an entire ecosystem. As tadpoles, they eat algae, helping regulate blooms and reducing the chances of algal contamination. As adults, their consumption of insects helps control populations, including adult mosquitoes and their larvae that can transmit diseases including Dengue fever, Malaria, West Nile fever and Zika.  Frogs are also an important source of food for a variety of animals, including birds, fish, and snakes.  But more fundamentally, frogs have existed for nearly 300 million years and have a right to exist unmolested.  As frogs are currently threatened by disease, pollution, habitat loss, invasive species and climate change, their populations have declined dramatically since the 1950s, and it is believed more than 120 species have already become extinct since 1980s.  Failure of the EPA to take action to protect frogs from the harmful effects of atrazine is tantamount to ignoring its mission to “reduce environmental risks … based on the best available scientific information.”

            Instead the Trump EPA has loosened restrictions on atrazine following the tenure as EPA adviser of Jeff Sands, a former pesticide-industry lobbyist for Syngenta.  Sands’s presence at the EPA drew criticism when the EPA scaled back a $4.8 million fine levied against Syngenta during the Obama years for violating pesticide regulations that resulted in the sickening of farm workers in Hawaii. The Trump EPA settled this case for a tiny fraction of $150,000, though the EPA also ordered Syngenta to spend a minimum of $400,000 to conduct worker training on how to use pesticides. Although Sands has asserted he did not influence these EPA decisions, Sands’s connection to Syngenta muddies the water and is in line with other actions from Trump’s EPA, which has focused on reducing regulatory burdens on industry and easing enforcement actions while bringing industry insiders into the administration to the detriment of the flora and fauna it is charged to protect.  

            Sands’s employment was permitted because of an ethics waiver in which the White House allowed Sands to work on issues he dealt with in the private sector because of “his deep understanding of agricultural issues forged through his previous service with Congress, a trade association and a company.” The waiver allowed him to work on issues that could affect his former industry, the agricultural sector, at large. While the waiver request did not expressly ask that he be exempted from rules prohibiting him from being involved with any agency action that would specifically affect a former employer, there is no evidence of compliance with these rules.  And although Sands’s departure from EPA in 2018 (and has subsequent employment as an adviser for Rep. Ted Yoho (Fla.), a conservative Republican lawmaker who sits on the House Agriculture Committee)  predates the November 2019 atrazine policy change announcement, the swampy smell lingers around the EPA’s decision to sacrifice frogs and promote Syngenta’s business.

Border Walls & Climate Change

Alexis Tomaino

Scientists now estimate that “half of all life” is “on the move” in direct response to anthropogenic climate change.  Yet at the very moment when ecological corridors for animal migrations should be safeguarded and prospectively secured because of climate change, more nations are constructing international barriers as a national security tool to impede human migration. Walls erected along international boundaries in the name of national security have unintended but significant consequences for biodiversity: they reduce the area, quality, and connectivity of plant and animal habitats.  And they block the ability of species to migrate and relocate to more suitable habitats.

            Since 1945, the number of large-scale, transnational border walls has increased from seven to 77, most built for the sole purpose of blocking human migration. This is a global crisis: in Africa, a barrier between Somalia and Kenya, made of barbed wire, concrete, and posts is nearing completion and a 1,700-mile sand wall fortified and surrounded by millions of land mines was built by Morocco along disputed, ungoverned territory on its border with Western Sahara. In Asia, Chinese President Xi Jinping has called for an iron wall around the Xinjiang region. In Central America, Ecuador has erected concrete panels along the Peruvian border.  In Europe, a mile-long wall exists at Calais, France funded by the United Kingdom to prevent migrants from accessing the Channel Tunnel and the Baltic States are raising a fence along their eastern frontier. And, in North America, the United States President Donald Trump has pledged to construct a “great wall” (the “Trump Wall”) along the 1,933 mile-long southern border between the United States and Mexico (the “Border”)—and in the process bisect a continent—in response to what he called a national security threat of human migration. 

            Although the construction of Trump Wall has been debated for a variety of reasons including illegal diversion of funds earmarked by Congress to fund the wall, largely absent from such discussions is a meaningful analysis of the devastating impact of such a wall on species’ climate change adaptation.  The border wall not only divides communities where millions of people live, it also cuts through the habitats of more than 1,500 wildlife species, disrupting a fragile and unique web of life in the borderlands. Aside from the physical wall, construction vehicle disturbance as well as lighting and noise pollution will wreak havoc on wildlife and sensitive habitat. Two animals—the ocelot (Leopardus pardalis) and Sonoran pronghorn (Antilocapra americana sonoriensis)— help bring this abstract problem into focus.  What’s undeniable is that the 654 miles of walls and fences already along the Border have cut off, isolated, and reduced populations of these amazing animals. 

A cat with its mouth open

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            “Drive slowly. Ocelots” signs still pepper the campus of the University of Texas at Rio Grande Valley, located just twenty miles from the Border, harkening to the days when these small, spotted and striped felines roamed broadly throughout the Southwest.  But any actual sighting of ocelots now is a rarity.  Biologists estimate that fewer than 50 remain in the U.S.  Because of these small populations, the Trump Wall would, inter alia, weaken these species’ genetic health by blocking access to suitable mates in Mexico.  Populations with low genetic diversity are poorly suited to adapt to changing environmental conditions, shrinking habitats or new diseases.  Thus, without a concerted relocation plan, the ocelot would become extirpated in the U.S. because the Trump Wall result in the loss of connectivity with other ocelots.  

A herd of zebra standing on top of a dry grass field

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            Known as the “prairie ghost,” the Sonoran Pronghorn is a small antelope with a reddish-brown coat, white belly, and white and black face with shiny black horns.  These animals are the fastest land animal in North America. Only 400 Sonoran Pronghorn are estimated to remain in the wild with only 160 left in the United States.  In addition to weakening these species’ genetic health by blocking access to suitable mates in Mexico, Sonoran Pronghorn move nomadically in response to changing forage conditions and water availability as a result of sporadic rainfall and are uniquely susceptible to drought conditions that are expected to increase as a result of climate change.  Indeed, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recommends in its 2015 Draft Recovery Plan for Sonoran Pronghorn that the ability to migrate to water sources be preserved.  Because they require large expanses of contiguous habitat to persist in the harsh desert environment, the Trump Wall would almost certainly result in the extinction of the Sonoran Pronghorn.

            The inherent conflict between the use of a Border wall as a “national security” tool to control human migration and the need to protect ecological migration corridors along the Border for species survival and ecosystem health in light of climate change must be resolved in favor of the animals.  Time is of the essence.  The Border is not yet completely walled-off and vital migration corridors still remain.  But to add insult to injury, many of these critical areas are on federal land which makes them the easiest to construct upon because the land is already under federal control.  For example, the Lower Rio Grande Valley includes protected areas home to a vast array of wildlife including endangered and threatened species with ranges not restricted to one country.  Indeed, the primary wildlife conservation strategy has been to link habitat patches that are isolated due to intense agriculture, urbanization, and security fencing, in order to create and maintain a more continuous wildlife corridor for the species that migrate and move among habitat areas. In south Texas alone, the federal government has spent over $80 million in taxpayer money to support piecemeal aggregation of the refuge which today exceeds 90,000 acres. These federal efforts to conserve the rich and diverse biology are imminently threatened by the proposed Border wall. And the eyes of the world are upon us.  The United States should cease construction of the Border Wall and commence a prioritization of animal migration corridors in light of climate change.  If we do not, we have no ability to speak out when others perpetuate the same mistake.

Denver Stops Bullying the Bully Breeds

Emma Campbell

Pit bulls were banned from Denver in 1989. There have been many legal challenges to the law and in 2004, the Colorado state legislature outlawed breed-specific bans. However, this only lasted about a year because the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that dog breeds were a local issue, and therefore the city had a right to ban pit bulls under their home rule authority.

Fast forward to 2020, Denver City Council passed a bill lifting the ban, replacing it with a registration system. Despite this glimmer of hope for the bully breeds the mayor vetoed the bill citing his uncertainty. The City Council had the opportunity to override that veto on February 24th. However, they were unable to get the votes.

When it comes to breed specific laws there is strong support and opposition from the public. There are outspoken members of the community on both sides, which can be seen in Denver as this law has been a topic of discussion. Two important questions to consider is why do these bans garner so much controversy and do they work?

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), more than 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs each year in the United States, 800,000 of them receiving medical attention, half of them being children. So, dog bites can pose a serious health risk. Denver initially implemented the ban because of two very severe attacks, one resulting in the death of a young boy.

However, the issue is very complex and any dog can bite, regardless of its breed. There are many factors that determine a particular dog’s chance of injuring a person, including their individual history, behavior, size, number of dogs involved, and the vulnerability of the person bitten. Breed-specific bans try to simplify a complex social problem and in doing so these laws divert resources away from actually fixing the problem.

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) has highlighted several reasons why breed-specific bans and restrictions are not a responsible approach to dog bite prevention:

  • Breed-specific laws can be difficult to enforce because a dog’s breed cannot always be determined by how it appears. “Pit bulls” are the most frequent targets of breed-specific legislation and they are not even a breed.
  • Breed-specific legislation is discriminatory against responsible owners and their dogs.
  • Breed bans do not address the social issue of irresponsible pet ownership.
  • It is not possible to calculate a bite rate for a breed or to compare rates between breeds because the data reported is often unreliable. This is because:
    • The breed of a biting dog is often not known or is reported inaccurately.
    • The actual number of bites that occur in a community is not known, especially if they don’t result in serious injury.
    • The number of dogs of a particular breed or combination of breeds in a community is not known because it is rare for all dogs in a community to be licensed. For example, Denver City Council noted that approximately only 20% of dog owners have their dog registered with the town.
    • Statistics often do not consider multiple incidents caused by a single animal.
    • Breed popularity changes over time, making comparison of breed-specific bite rates unreliable.

The AVMA also highlights strategies for dog bite prevention:

  • Enforcement of generic, non-breed-specific dangerous dog laws, with an emphasis on chronically irresponsible owners.
  • Enforcement of animal control ordinances such as leash laws, by trained animal care and control officers.
  • Prohibition of dog fighting.
  • Encouraging neutering for dogs not intended for breeding.
  • School-based and adult education programs that teach pet selection strategies, pet care and responsibility, and bite prevention.

The AVMA is not alone. There is a long list of groups from varying points of view that voice concern over the implementation of breed specific bans, like the CDC, Humane Society, American Bar Association, State Farm Insurance, and the United States Department of Justice, just to name a few.

Denver is not alone, there are are various municipalities throughout the United States that have breed specific bans. Also, all military bases exclude pit bulls, rottweilers, doberman pinschers, chow chows, and wolf hybrids. There is no evidence that shows that these bans are successful. It is often argued by ban advocates that there is no evidence that it is not successful, and it is better to be safe than sorry. That may sound good, but the issue is that good dogs and responsible dog owners are punished because of an unwarranted fear. The evidence does show that the way people treat their animals has a direct correlation with how their animal behaves. Instead of worrying about the dog in your neighbor’s yard, you should worry about your neighbor.

“Furever” Home or Hospice? New FDA Regulation Approves Animal Abuse and Allows Labs to put the Abused up for Adoption

Giovanna DiFilippo

Humans have used animals for experimentation in biomedical research as far back as ancient Greco-Roman times. Classic philosophers, including the likes of Aristotle and Erasistratus, recorded their experiments on animals and their writings are some of the first records of animal testing in existence. There is no doubt that animal testing has been widely utilized by experimentalists in biomedical research. Such inquiries have helped humankind to advance many of the medical developments we use today. However, technology is rapidly expanding upon society’s biomedical research and it is no longer necessary for humans to experiment on animals. In fact, many biomedical companies and cosmetics companies that test on animals have been subjected to societal pressure to cease testing on animals. Just last week the Food and Drug Administration publicly announced that it will endorse a policy that allows laboratory animals to be adopted once they are no longer needed for experimental use. Many animal rights activists view this new policy as a victory for laboratory animals, but it only perpetuates the interests of the laboratories in experimenting on these animals.

            According to Cruelty Free International, testing on animals is defined as “any scientific experiment or test in which a live animal is forced to undergo something that is likely to cause them pain and suffering.” The animals are harmed deliberately and not for their own interests, but for the interests of furthering scientific inquiry for the overall benefit of society. Some experiments commonly performed on animals in laboratories include injecting animals with known toxic substances, exposing animals to radiation, performing surgery to purposefully remove vital organs and tissues, and forcing animals to inhale poisonous fumes. The most popular animals used to experiment on in laboratories are by far rats and mice. However, laboratories also use fish, rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, farm animals, birds, cats, dogs and nonhuman primates.

            For years the Food and Drug Administration has defended animal testing on the basis that animal testing is essential for some medical devices where nonanimal testing would not be a viable option. However, biomedical technology has advanced enough to where a scientist can now reproduce human tissues and perform accurate experiments on that laboratory created human biological material. Yet the Food and Drug Administration maintains that animal testing reliably measures how much of a drug is absorbed into the blood stream, how a medical product is chemically broken down in the body, the toxicity of a product and how quickly that product is excreted from the body. These justifications do not take into consideration how nonhuman animals are imperfect specimens for predicting how such experiments would affect the human body.

            These laboratories obtain their animals from “class A” dealers and “class B” dealers. “Class A” dealers are those in the business of breeding animals exclusively for their use in these scientific experiments. The “class B” dealers are merely brokers who sell animals to these laboratories after acquiring them from animal shelters. Those animals who survive these abhorrent experiments are typically euthanized by the scientists that experiment on them. This new policy of the Food and Drug Administration to adopt “retired” lab animals as pets is not a new concept. Other agencies, such as the National Institute of Health and the Department of Veteran Affairs, have also supported similar policies of their own encouraging the adoption of retired laboratory dogs. No federal legislation or policy currently exists surrounding this issue.

            Many animal rights activists are celebrating the Food and Drug Administration’s new policy supporting the adoption of laboratory animals after they are no longer needed for experimental use. However, no substantial change was seen when the other agencies, such as the NIH and VA, adopted similar policies. Animals are still going to be tortured relentlessly by scientists in the name of scientific discovery and biomedical research. Animal advocates should not celebrate the recognition that these animals need homes only at the end of their experimental use. Instead, animal advocates should increase their focus on preventing the use of animals for experimental testing in the laboratories. By supporting these weak policies, animal advocates are communicating to the agencies and public that it is permissible to treat the animals as scientific commodities and, only if they survive the horrors of the lab, are they worthy of the privilege of living a healthier life.

            Even the promise of a happy and healthy retirement for laboratory animals is reprehensible. For their entire lives these animals are kept in solitude and abhorrent conditions. Most have no idea what it feels like to live outside of a small wired cage. They have been forced to undergo surgeries, ingest toxic chemicals, inhale poisonous fumes and live in high anxiety environments. Most animals will be untrusting of humans and thus would not be suitable for a family. Some others will become very sick and not survive very long in their adoptive homes.  Pulling the survivors out of these labs is comparable to releasing a cancer patient from their hospital room to live out their final days in hospice; it’s a nicer alternative than dying alone in a tiny cage, but it does not remedy what the laboratories are enabled to do to these animals in the future. It instead allows for more animals to be subject to this torturous life, only to be granted a final few years, months or days in a loving home. Animal activists and advocates alike need to save their celebratory sentiment for a larger purpose and continue the fight for animal liberation from these laboratories that exist to solely torture these vulnerable souls.

Animal Mistreatment Causes Environmental Damage

Gabriela Tavarez

Pollution impacts animals just as much as it affects humans.  Human activity (factory farming, waste disposal, etc.) impacts wildlife’s habitat.  In addition, erratic and long-lasting wildfires in California have caused over a billion animals to die.  According to the National Audubon Society, even though pollution affects humans, it severely impacts birds since birds spend more time in the open air as opposed to humans.  Birds become vulnerable to catching diseases when they inhale the air.  Nonetheless, pollution affects aquatic animals when waste is disposed into waterways.  Specifically, water pollution infects the water, along with aquatic animals, which can ultimately be toxic for human consumption.

Furthermore, human activity such as factory farming lead to devastating environmental effects.  Factory farming focuses on increasing productivity and economic efficiency.  As a result, farmers are exempted from animal welfare regulation.  Such devastating effects include the deterioration of topsoil and water quality and quantity.  Meanwhile, factory animals such as pigs and cattle are confined to small spaces where they are prevented from roaming free.  Also, factory animals are forced to undergo unnatural diets.  For example, cattle are fed corn due to its low cost, in order for them to grow faster.  However, their stomachs were not designed to digest corn, so they are given antibiotics to prevent illnesses when they eat corn.  Also, factory farming releases carbon dioxide (greenhouse gases) into the atmosphere.  Particularly, livestock releases methane, which increases temperature. 

Additionally, the quality and quantity of water is dwindling as factory farming increases production.  Factory farming removes trees to create more space to raise livestock and removes other natural wildlife from their habitat.  Factory farms also demolish topsoil.  Humans rely on soil to provide nutrients for food, but factory farms dilute the soil since farmers clear the fields in order to grow crops.  Specifically, they clear fields to grow corn and soy to feed their cattle.  Many animal activists call for stricter regulations on factory farming to decrease production.  This can reduce pollution and its harmful effects on animals.  However, that is not without opposition.  Factory farmers call for minimal regulation since prohibition would lessen economic efficiency and increase the cost in meat production since grass-fed cattle is costly.  Nonetheless, people would be willing to eat grass-fed meat since it is a healthier option.  When an animal is in distress, it causes the meat to darken and becomes unsuitable for consumption.     

Factory animals are confined within lagoons where their waste can trickle into open water and affect aquatic animals.  Aquatic animals are not able to sustain these environmental changes.  The unfavorable tides and changes in water temperature expose them to new predators.  Humans also become vulnerable to diseases from drinking or swimming in the toxic water.  However, humans can choose not to swim or drink the water.  Humans can also change their habits to reduce environmental damage.  Nevertheless, aquatic animals do not have such privilege because they are forced to stay in the water.  The toxic chemicals also lead to an increase in nitrogen and phosphorus, which increases the growth of toxic algae.  Animals die from consuming toxic algae.  Factory farming demonstrates an endless cycle where one effect on a certain species can trickle down to other species.  Furthermore, high levels of mercury found in water causes behavioral and reproductive changes in aquatic animals.  It is important that humans take imperative steps to reduce the damage to wildlife.  For example, humans can stop littering on beaches, seas, lakes, rivers, etc.  When garbage is thrown into the water, it can entrap marine animals.  Most water-dwelling animals such as sea otters, become trapped in the debris and can drown from being trapped.  Water pollution even affects the soil, which humans need to grow crops for food. 

Pollution is caused by overpopulation.  Due to overpopulation, humans continue to consume resources that it forces the animal population to diminish at a rapid rate.  The human population is substantial that it exceeds the resources available to sustain it.  The environment cannot replenish itself before it is conquered by human consumption.  As the population increases, it leads to more factory farming, which increases food production and deforestation.  It also leads to waste thrown into waterways and causes an imbalance within the ecosystem.  When it comes to maximizing production and minimizing costs, the government seems to disregard the suffering of non-human species.  It is important that there are stricter government regulations that would reduce pollution.  That is why it is important that states have the freedom to regulate or prohibit certain conduct pertaining to animal welfare that the federal government disregards.       

Retail Pet Sales Ban (A Hope To End Puppy Mills)

Rebecca Powers

The Animal Welfare Act (AWA) gives the Secretary of Agriculture the authority to promulgate regulations for the sale, housing, and treatment of pets. “A puppy mill is a breeding operation that breeds dogs for profit, prioritizing financial gain over the health or well-being of the dogs.” The AWA does not limit the number of dogs that can be at one facility and does not require a minimum number of people to work there taking care of the dogs. Dogs can be stacked in small cages with wire flooring and be caged for 24 hours a day it’s entire life. Additionally, inspections are very limited and, once the initial license is given by the USDA, the facility may not be inspected again for 2-3 years.

I recently went to a large mall in Albany, New York. While there I passed by a pet store selling “purebred” and “designer” puppies. In the small store was a wall of glass and behind it a wall of small cages. They were stacked about four high and eight across, most about 2 feet by 2 feet. The puppies were pacing and barking or lying down shivering. I was surprised because I had heard of recent New York State legislation to ban the sale of puppies at retail stores, moving to use the space for rescue dogs and adoption. These dogs were obviously not from animal shelters.

            In the past few years pictures, videos, and more information has come out about the horrors of puppy mills. There is a system that has developed between puppy mills and pet stores. Basically all puppies in pet stores across the country are from these puppy mills. This is because the puppy mill and the pet store have put money ahead of humane, sanitary, quality care, and most Americans walking into a pet store in a mall have no idea about the conditions the dog was bred in. The pet store can say that they only sell from USDA approved breeders, and the average person may think that means a healthy, often checked environment. However, that is not the case as these facilities are rarely checked and the regulations about them are very minimal. Then it is simply a matter of money, some of the puppies can cost close to $1000. There are no real questions about the experience or ability of the buyer/future owner. Someone could literally walk in, point to a puppy behind a glass wall, swipe a card, and walk out with a new living being to take care of.

            Recently, California and Maryland have passed statewide bans on retail pet store sales. These are first of their kind at such a large scale, as almost 300 cities and counties have already enacted such bans. By limiting where those puppies can be sold it limits the demand on the supply side. These bans seek to end the “pipeline” from puppy mill to retail pet store. Legislation was introduced in New York in March 2019 that would add it to the growing list. The New York amendment would make the “sale of dogs, cats, and rabbits prohibited” at retail pet shops. However, it would allow for these pet shops to “showcase” animals for adoption by partnering with recognized shelters and organizations. It explicitly states that a store cannot use breeders or brokers, which would target puppy mills. It hopes to move retail pet stores away from being a for-profit business.

            A positive goal of these laws is that it should minimize the number of dogs euthanized at animal shelters. People go to pet stores to buy a puppy. There could be various reasons why someone might go to a pet store as opposed to a shelter. But regardless of the reason, if we can change it so that the puppies in the pet stores come from animal shelters, then we can save lives. There are plenty of puppies in shelters and numerous pure breed rescue organizations. If they are given the opportunity to bring the dogs to people, it could help raise money and awareness.             There is growing public awareness of both puppy mills and the New York legislation. It is time we end this inhumane pipeline of dogs. There are millions of adoptable pets out there waiting for a good home. Hopefully the public will get behind the amendment and call for state action on this issue.

How Backyard Breeders are Negating Pet Shop Bans

Elizabeth Burns

Just over a month ago, two pug babies were surrendered to The Pug Queen and Tiny Paws Pug Rescue. Sisters Bella and Sadie were only 3.5 months old, but both had tested positive for canine distemper. The virus begins by attacking the respiratory system before replicating and attacking the rest of the dog’s lymphatic system, gastrointestinal tract, and central nervous system. Canine distemper is usually fatal if contracted, and even if a dog survives the disease, it often has lasting nervous system damage. Sadly, despite all these rescues did to treat and care for these babies, both succumbed to the disease. Distemper, while incredibly deadly, is highly preventable with the distemper vaccination.

Photo courtesy of The Pug Queen (instagram: @thepugqueen)

The Pug Queen and other rescues in Southern California are all too familiar with situations like this. Most of the dogs that these rescues take in come from backyard breeders. Backyard breeders are generally different from puppy mills. Puppy mills are considered large-scale commercial facilities that breed as many puppies as possible to sell to vendors (i.e. pet stores). The dogs are often kept in deplorable conditions with little care. Backyard breeders share some similarities with puppy mills. These breeders are considered to be unethical, and they are often in the business solely for the money. They are usually inexperienced in dog breeding, and they take little consideration of their dogs’ needs, often providing minimal food, water, shelter, and veterinary care. Most backyard breeders also don’t take selective breeding or genetic issues into account. The result is sickly puppies often sold before they are supposed to be separated from the mother. However, backyard breeders are often attractive because they advertise “purebred” dogs.

Despite the purported benefits of owning a mutt, a lot of people are still drawn to purebred dogs. When getting a purebred people know what they are getting, i.e. there are breed standards for each recognized purebred that help inform a potential owner of health issues, temperament, or care requirements. Respectable, reliable breeders also know the history and health of the bloodline of their dogs and can inform potential owners of any issues to watch out for. Breeders also often guarantee the “quality” of their dogs and will even take “returns” of dogs that fail to meet health or other standards. There is also a sense of prestige and status that comes with owning a purebred dog. When buying a puppy from a breeder, the owner is given purebred paperwork that can be filed with the American Kennel Club (AKC).

Many people also choose to buy purebred puppies from pet stores. Before the plight of puppy mills became widely known, people often chose to buy puppies from pet shops. With campaigns against puppy mills, pet stores have tried to rebuild their reputations by showcasing the “breeders” they obtain their puppies from. Putting a face and name to the breeder often helps consumers feel better about buying from a pet store. Puppies still come with paperwork, and it is easy to find the breed you are looking for. There is also a misconception that pet store puppies are well-taken care of as opposed to buying from other sources. However, California, Maryland, and possibly New York have decided to ban the sale of puppies, kittens, and rabbits in pet stores, but pet stores can offer services and allow shelters to showcase adoptable animals. While this sounds like a great way to stop supporting puppy mills and encourage adopting a shelter animal, it also drives people to find other ways to get the specific dogs they desire.

Unfortunately, as with any product on the market, consumers look for the cheapest way to get what they want—maximize benefit at the lowest possible cost. Pet stores and good breeders charge a lot for their dogs, and these prices are not affordable for a lot of people. For example, a purebred French bulldog from a reputable breeder can average about $3,000 depending on the coloration. Why buy a $3,000 puppy when you can get a puppy of the same breed for $800? Backyard breeders are filling in a gap in the marketplace that allows buyers to get dogs at lower prices under the guise of a “family breeder.” People inherently feel better when they buy from a person breeding dogs in their home. The operation is not a puppy mill, and there is an expectation that small-time and hobby breeders take good care of their dogs. But, as The Pug Queen and other rescues know too well, the majority of the dogs they take in come from backyard breeders who neglect their dogs and only breed for profit.

The Major Gap in a New Bill in Congress to Rehome Research Animals

Cassie Jurenci

In May 2019, Representative Brendan Boyle (D-PA) introduced the Animal Freedom from Testing, Experiments, and Research Act of 2019 (the AFTER Act of 2019). If passed, the bill would require all federal departments, agencies, and instrumentalities that have laboratory or exhibiting animals to “facilitate the adoption or nonlaboratory placement of certain warm-blooded animals (e.g., dogs, cats, monkeys, guinea pigs, hamsters, and rabbits) with animal rescue organizations, animal sanctuaries, animal shelters, or individuals” who are no longer needed for research and are suitable for release. According to the US Humane Society, animals used in laboratory experiments who survive experimentation are typically euthanized at the end of the experiment, if not during. In a statement, Representative Boyle explained, “[f]or years, I’ve worked to end outdated government animal testing opposed by most Americans, and have been disturbed at how many animals are killed at the end of research even though there are individuals, rescues, and sanctuaries ready to take them in.” 

Regrettably, the AFTER Act does not extend the opportunity for rehoming following experimentation to the millions of birds, rats, or mice used in research every year.

According to the US Humane Society, rats and mice are the most-used animals in research yet, along with birds, they are not protected under the Animal Welfare Act (AWA). In fact, “[o]nly about 1 percent of animals used in research in the United States are protected by this legislation” according to Marc Bekoff, professor emeritus of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Colorado—Boulder and author of The Emotional Lives of Animals. In Emotional Lives, Bekoff explains how The Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 redefined “animal” to…exclude birds, rats, and mice, bred for research. In the absence of protections under the AWA and without statistics from the USDA on the use of mice and rats in research, ascertaining the number of individuals used in research is a challenge.

The Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress began the “monumental task” of estimating the number of these animals used in research and, in a report published in 2000, they determined that an estimated “85 percent of vertebrate animals used in research, education, and testing are mice and rats.” Compilers of the report contacted 100 of the 2,000 research organizations in its database, and of those organizations, the report found that between 250,000 and 1,000,000 rats, 400,000-2,000,000 mice, and 130,000-900,000 birds were registered with those facilities. Considering similar estimates by other organizations, excluding rats, mice, and birds from the AFTER Act means that tens of millions of animals are not eligible for rehoming after spending their lives as research subjects.

Excluding rats, mice, and birds from the AFTER Act also eliminates the opportunity for these animals to live the rich lives of which they are capable after their use in research. In Emotional Lives, Bekoff details numerous scientific observations showing the emotional and social natures of rats, mice, and birds. Bekoff explains how, “[r]ats show an increase in dopamine activity simply anticipating the opportunity to play” and have been shown to “chirp with joy.” He references brain chemistry studies that “support the idea that play is pleasurable and fun.” Bekoff goes on to say that “[r]ats who are tickled bond to the researchers and seek out tickles.”

Talking about mice, Bekoff describes a scientific study on empathy in which “adult mice were injected with acetic acid, causing them to writhe in pain…. Researchers discovered that mice who watch their peers in pain are more sensitive to it themselves and that an injected mouse writhed more if its partner was also writhing.” On sadness, Bekoff explains how mice who “are bullied or consistently dominated by other mice… [and] become withdrawn” can be successfully treated with human antidepressants. Finally, Bekoff writes about the ability of birds to display ranges of emotion from happiness to anger, highlighting researcher Irene Pepperberg’s studies of the famous African gray parrot, Alex.

Certainly, as animal researchers themselves must attest based on the results of their experiments, rats, mice, and birds are capable of emotional experiences. These animals deserve the same opportunities for adoption after research granted to other commonly used research animals.

According to Pew, a growing number of states have begun passing laws requiring research facilities to provide for the adoption of healthy cats and dogs following experimentation where possible. Federally, the National Institutes of Health, Food and Drug Administration, and Department of Veterans Affairs have policies relating to the adoption of certain laboratory animals no longer needed for research.

The AFTER Act is admirable in its endeavor to provide lab animals the opportunity to live the rest of their lives in caring homes and non-research facilities. However, it is deficient in scope by excluding the vast majority of animals used in research in the United States: rats, mice, and birds. The AFTER Act has remained in the House Agriculture Committee since its referral to that body upon its introduction. The bill should be amended to expand the opportunity for adoption to rats, mice, and birds.

NYC Foie Gras Ban

Amy Allen


n October 2019, the New York City Council voted to ban force-fed poultry products, like the culinary delicacy, foie gras, French for “fatty liver.” The ban begins in 2022, which gives establishments and the government a three years preparation period. The fines range between $500 and $2,000, depending on the severity of the violation. The ban does not allow any restaurant or food service establishment to “stor[e], maintain, sell, or offer to sell” any foie gras product. Generally, male Moulard ducks, a hybrid between Muscovy and Pekin, are used for foie gras in the United States. This new legislation brought fierce debate between animal rights groups and chefs who have also partnered with foie gras producers.

            The legislation was initially proposed by animal rights groups for the cruel and inhumane practices of force-fed poultry generally used called gavage. This practice involves force feeding live poultry a corn-based mixture, up to four pounds a day, that rapidly expands the poultry’s liver, sometimes so severely that the liver distends into the abdomen. The poultry’s liver can expand nearly 10 times its normal size. Often, the poultry is unable to walk from the distention and will pluck out its own feathers or attack other poultry due to the increased stress put onto its body. In France, gavage is required if a pâté is called foie gras.

            In France, a prominent group of animal activists, L214, tried to sue foie gras producers for animal welfare violations in 2013. The French activist released graphic videos of the conditions the animals are placed under and filed the first ever foie gras lawsuit. Even though the producer was cleared of all charges, several prominent French chefs vowed to stop using foie gras as part of their menu.

            However, other famous chefs continued to support the use of foie gras, such as Anthony Bourdain who famously commented that people were showing the worst aspects of the problem out of context to scare people and that the cultural history was the important aspect of the luxury item. Another prominent New York City restaurant owner, Ken Oringer, argued that city council members were fighting the wrong battle and factory farmed chickens were far worse than foie gras raise poultry. Oringer further agreed with Bourdain that animal rights activists were showing graphic videos to spark outrange that misrepresented the treatment of the animals. In the end, the city council found that force feeding animals was inhumane and a practice that had to be stopped in New York City.

            Several animal rights activist groups have supported the bill due to the cruelty the practice inflicts on the poultry. The groups point to the fact that foie gras is a purely luxury item for cuisine, but it puts poultry through intense and immense stress. A few days after New York City created the ban, Voters For Animal Rights filed law suit against D’Artagnan, Inc. and D’Artagnan, LLC, foie gras producers based in Union, New Jersey. The suit does not seek monetary damages, but injunctive relief against “deceptive marketing and advertising practices” that suggests their foie gras product do not harm animals.

            Hudson Valley Foie Gras, located about 100 miles north of New York City in Sullivan County, one of the largest force-fed poultry producers with over 400 employees, and its manager, Marcus Henley, continually defends the practice and say that the facility properly cares for the poultry. Hudson Valley Foie Gras is one of two businesses in Sullivan County that provide foie gras for most of the United States. Both Hudson Valley Foie Gras and La Belle, the other Sullivan County Foie Gras producer, sell nearly $38 million in foie gras annually and send around a third of their production to New York City. Hudson Valley Foie Gras has said that it will file a lawsuit against the city challenging the ban as unconstitutional. The ban will place a financial burden on the poorest county in New York state where most of the workers are Spanish-speaking immigrants, many of whom rely on the free housing provided by the farm.

The Enduring Battle Over America’s Wild Horses

Ben Pierce

There is a fight going on out west – a fight over how we should treat our wild horses.  On one side is the Bureau of Land Management (“BLM”), an agency within the U.S. Department of Interior charged with administering the Wild-Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971.  This statute “declares that wild free-roaming horses and burros are living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West,” and tasks BLM with managing and protecting wild free roaming horses “as components of the public lands.”  On the other side of the fight is arrayed a multitude of animal protection organizations, such as the Animal Welfare Institute and the American Wild Horse Campaign, that are highly critical of BLM’s treatment of wild horses.

Photo by Christine Mendoza

A recent pair of dueling pieces in the Salt Lake City Tribune shed light on this ongoing battle.  Last month, William Perry Pendley, deputy director for policy and programs for BLM, wrote that wild horses pose an “existential threat to our public lands.”  According to Pendley, when wild horse herds are “left Continue reading

Trump Administration Re-Authorizes Cruel Use of M-44 Cyanide Bombs

Tala DiBenedetto

Recently, the Trump Administration reauthorized the use of M-44 poison devices for use in wildlife culls.  These devices, also referred to as “cyanide bombs,” are planted in the wild and designed to lure in predators that threaten livestock with bait, then release a fatal dose of sodium cyanide, a highly toxic pesticide.  The devices are smeared with scented bait, which cause animals to bite on and pull them. This causes a capsule containing the sodium cyanide is then ejected into their mouth.  Deaths caused by the poisoning from these traps are agonizing. Use of M-44 devices gained some media attention when a fourteen-year-old boy named Canyon accidentally set off a device while walking his dog, injuring himself and killing his dog. After bending down to touch what looked like a garden sprinkler, the device exploded, shooting poison directly into the boys eyes, with the remainder blowing downwind towards his dog, Casey. Within a minute, Casey was “writhing with convulsions, a reddish foam emanating from his mouth. In front of Canyon, the yellow Lab made guttural sounds then went still.” Casey’s death is not an uncommon occurrence. An investigation uncovered that between 2000 and 2012, activation of these devices resulted in the deaths of 1,200 dogs. These cruel devices cast the same agonizing fate on countless wildlife across the country.

This program is carried out by Wildlife Services, a branch of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). Wildlife Services, founded in 1885, exists primarily for the benefit of the livestock industry, spending more than $80 million a year killing animals that are deemed a “nuisance” to humans. The agency uses of poisoned bait, neck snares, leghold traps (which are banned in 80 countries), aerial gunning, and cyanide traps to go after animals that threaten livestock grazing on public lands. Wildlife Services was responsible for the deaths of over 2.5 million animals in 2018.

Wildlife Services, along with its state counterpart agencies in Montana, New Mexico, South Dakota, Texas and Wyoming, have relied on the M-44s to kill animals that threaten livestock since the mid-1970s. These cyanide bombs kill thousands of animals every year, killing 6,579 in 2018 alone. These traps have been criticized not only for being cruel, but indiscriminate, fatally poisoning numerous non-target species, including federally endangered and threatened species.

M44 Dead Wolf or Coyote near POISON sign 2016-05813_Partial 11_Item 1(New Mexico) 12-scr.jpg
Corpse of a poisoned coyote

In 2019, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued a proposed interim decision reauthorizing the use of M-44 devices. The decision was met with thousands of public comments, almost entirely in opposition to reauthorization. As a result of the flood of public opposition, EPA withdrew its reauthorization application for further review.  Nevertheless, four months later the agency issued its decision to move forward with reauthorization with a few minor additional restrictions. Those restrictions include a 600-foot buffer around residences (unless there is written permission from the landowner), increasing the buffer from public pathways and roads, and one additional sign within 15 feet of a device. In addition to offering no protection to wildlife, the restrictions have been criticized as insufficient to adequately protect the public, pets, and vulnerable species.

Horse Racing: An Elitist Sport or Animal Abuse?

Erika-Marie Kissh

The life of a racehorse is one that even before its conception is planned out and greatly influenced by human beings. Their birth, life, and death, are unnatural and can be seen as out-and-out abuse in every stage of the horses’ life. The main reason why racehorses are forced to live such unnatural lives at the hands of humans is because horse-racing is an extremely lucrative “sport”. The International Federation of Horseracing Authorities estimates that prize money for races worldwide is approximately $3.5 billion dollars a year, and the global industry of horse-race betting makes approximately $116 billion dollars of revenue in a given year.

For thoroughbred racehorses, in particular, their conception and birth is planned out as meticulously as possible to ensure maximum race training time. Mares are forced to Continue reading

McDonald’s is for (Animal) Lovers

Samantha A. Mumola

It is no secret that the United States meat and dairy industries are harmful to animals, our health, and our planet.  Whether it is to slim down, become healthier, save animals’ lives, or reduce toxic waste, more people are adopting vegan and vegetarian diets every yearNo proof exists that humans must consume meat to live; to the contrary, it has been proven that those who live on plant-based diets are less likely to suffer from cancer, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, strokes, cardiovascular disease, and even Alzheimer’s disease.  Besides damaging one’s health, the meat industry also produces vast amounts of pollution and is one of the biggest causes of climate change.  This is all without mentioning the most heartbreaking truth about our society’s obsession with meat: it is an unnecessary waste of sentient animals’ lives.

Meat is especially harmful in the form that most United States citizens are receiving it.  Before a piece of flesh touches your plate, it has already been exposed to antibiotics, hormones, bacteria, ammonia, chlorine, fecal matter, and a host of other toxins that can Continue reading

PUBLIC CAMPAIGNS IN CHINA LEAD TO AN IVORY BAN: How an NBA player helped end the sale of ivory in China

Keisha Sapphire Holgate

Between 1979 to 1987,illegal poaching of African elephants to obtain their ivory tusks caused a decline of their population from 1.3 million to only 600,000 individuals. Currently, tens of thousands of elephants are killed each year for their ivory. Elephant ivory is aesthetically valued due to certain attributes such as the “durability, the ease with which it can be carved, and its absence of splintering [making it] uniquely suited for a variety of uses”. These properties have made ivory an indicator of social status, with it being used in musical instruments such as piano keys, billiard pool balls, utensils, jewelry, ornamental carvings and other worked ivory items. Many legal sales of ivory include these worked ivory products under the classification as an antique. “Ivory” is often lumped together with materials such as jade, ebony or amber, in terms of the intricate and valued carvings or jewelry they help make. China is the biggest consumer market for jewelry and ornamental products carved from ivory.

After an 1989 international treaty banned ivory, China chose to permit domestic trade, with a licensing system that permitted the import of ivory tusks that were from natural deaths or seized by authorities.  Ivory in the legal Chinese market is also from pre-CITES ivory and includes the 2008 CITES-supported sale that brought in 60,000 metric tons to Continue reading

We Need the KITTEN Act: USDA’s Directive Doesn’t Go Far Enough

Robert Gordon

Toxoplasma gondiiis a parasite that is believed to effect 40 million people in the United States. The U.S. government has been researching it for more than 35 years. It is generally caused by eating undercooked meat that has been contaminated. Most people infected with it will never know that they are hosting a parasite. However, infected humans with weakened immune systems, such as infants, those with autoimmune disorders and the elderly may develop a serious and sometimes fatal sickness known as toxoplasmosis.

One unusual trait about toxoplasma gondiiis that the only known definitive hosts for purposes of sexual reproduction are felines (domestic cats and their relatives). Thus, scientific research often involves cats. In fact, beginning in 1982, the United States Department of Agriculture has infected hundreds of kittens each year with parasite-infected meat to harvest toxoplasma gondiieggs. Some of the cats were even fed dog and cat meat obtained from overseas markets prompting activists to dub the research “kitten cannibalism.” The kittens were then euthanized. Since the program began an estimated Continue reading


Amy O’Brien

We all remember that middle school biology class. The one where the teacher divided us up into pairs, instructed us to put on our safety goggles and plastic gloves, and emerged from the supply closet with bags of fetal pigs soaked in formaldehyde. At this point, some of us ran out of the room crying, while others enthusiastically embraced the opportunity to extract the organs from these lifeless creatures.

Unfortunately, this is not an isolated or uncommon scene. In fact, estimates suggest that as many as 10 to 12 million animals are bred and harvested every year for classroom dissections. Recently, animal rights advocates and lawmakers have fought back against the school systems and the scientific community, seeking to change state laws and policies pertaining to classroom dissection.

In response to animal cruelty concerns, some states have enacted “student choice” policies, giving students the option to opt out of dissection in exchange for another educational project. California is one of those states. Under current California law, students with “moral objections” to animal dissection can participate in an “alternative Continue reading

So what’s stopping us from eating our Pets? Cats, dogs, Guinea Pig, and horses.

Katy Alvarado

Well, you wouldn’t eat a member of your family, would you? We build silent bonds with our pets such that they become to form a part of our family. The act of killing our beloved friends and companions that just happen to be of a different species feels so wrong that most would not even think about doing it, let alone consuming the meat. This is because we tend to draw a line between those animals we keep as pets and those animals we consider only as sources of food. The association between animals and food helps to swallow any guilt about killing the animal and makes it a more a necessary process by which we continue to survive. But pets are animals just the same as chickens, cows, and sheep. So setting aside this emotional bias that we have towards our pets, what is stopping us from eating cats, dogs, guinea pigs and horse? As it turns out, very little.


While killing your pet and then eating it sounds like first degree murder, the truth of the matter is that up until the end of 2018 if you found yourself in one of the 44 states that only required you to humanely kill your cat or dog, then there was nothing else stopping Continue reading

The World’s Lovely Giants: Elephants in Entertainment Begin to Receive Legal Protection Through State Initiatives

Caitlin Ens

Elephants used for entertainment purposes often suffer physically and psychologically due to poor living conditions and treatment. Entertainment elephants live half as long as those found in the wild: they experience obesity from being chained up all day, arthritis from walking on hard concrete surfaces, starvation, dehydration, and many other fatal conditions. Today, the general public is more informed than ever about the animal abuse that occurs in circuses. Consequently, public concern for circus elephants has increased dramatically over the past decade. Videos were released showing the cruel and abusive conditions that circus elephants endure. In 2017, Ringling Brothers (Ringling Bros.), one of the largest circus corporations, closed its operations for good. Previously, the business had vowed to phase out their iconic elephant acts by 2018, but high operating costs and decline of ticket sales made the circus an “unsustainable business.” This was considered a victory for animal rights advocates even though circuses are still prevalent in the United States.


In response to campaigns against the use of wild animals in circuses, seven states and 149 localities have passed various restrictions or bans. In 2019, New Jersey and Hawaii Continue reading

CoK Animal Law Job

David Cassuto

From the email:

2019-2020 Legal Advocacy Fellowship
Compassion Over Killing (COK) is seeking a Legal Advocacy Fellow for a one-year paid position beginning in late summer 2019 (starting date flexible; possibility of moving into staff position post-fellowship). Compassion Over Killing is a national nonprofit 501(c)(3) animal advocacy organization. Working to end animal abuse since 1995, COK focuses on ending and preventing cruelty to animals in agriculture.
COK is offering its Legal Advocacy Fellowship out of its office in Washington, DC (with Continue reading

A “pugmatic” solution? Family dog seized for unpaid bills in Germany

Helena Villela Sette Câmara

On December 2018, police officer Michaela Jordan bought a pug on eBay for 750 euros, or what is roughly about 850 US dollars. Although the buying and selling of animals on the platform is itself highly contested by animal rights activists, when Ms. Jordan sued the seller for fraudulent advertisement, the story behind the transaction prompted an even wider outrage and international repercussion.

As it turns out, Ms. Jordan bought Edda from the city of Ahlen, in northwestern Germany. The animal had been seized by the city for unpaid bills, including the town’s dog tax of about 90 US dollars per year. Deeming Edda, a purebred pug, as the family’s most valuable possession, the debt collector confiscated the dog and sold it online so the money would go towards the family’s outstanding debt, making what a city spokesperson considered a “pragmatic solution within the scope of his discretion.” Ahlen officials insist that the seizure was legal under German foreclosure laws, but since then, have had to reassure the 57,000 people members of the community that seizing family pets is not a common solution and that owners who pay their dogs taxes should not be apprehensive after the incident. Continue reading

Higher Learning? : Animal Dissections in Classrooms Across America

Keisha Sapphire Holgate

In many ways, dissection of animals in schools has evolved tremendously, yet in other ways it has remained exactly the same as it was 100 years ago. Each year, an estimated 10-12 million animals are used for dissection in classrooms across America. Currently, in 18 states and counting, students in Kindergarten through the 12th grade have laws and policies that legally give them a choice about whether or not to participate in classroom activities harming animals. In New York state, New York Consolidated Law Article 17 § 809(4) allows a student to object on moral or religious grounds to participate, or even witness, an animal dissection without penalization of a failing grade in school. The law requires this objection to be in writing by the student’s parent or legal guardian. The NY state law ensures that an alternative is provided for the abstaining student to allow the Continue reading

Who Gets the Kitty?

Erika Kissh


For couples in the United States, the idea of growing one’s family can mean more than just having children, in many instances it can also mean the adoption of “fur-children.” According to the Insurance Information Institute in 2017/2018 there was a reported 85 million families that owned pets in the United States. While that number is heart-warming to think of, if one were to couple it with the fact that roughly 40% of marriages end in divorce, it begs the question “who gets the kitty?”

Pet custody has become a prevalent issue in recent years with the dissolution of marriages across the United States, however, Courts are divided on how best to answer the question of “who gets the kitty?” Some Courts have taken the approach that animals are property, and as such they should be treated like any other household item. While others have taken the approach of viewing the animal more like a child, or “fur-child”, and as such, they take the best interest of the pet/family into consideration when determining custody.

In the past, many Courts viewed pets as property, where the division of the pet was comparable to who would get the television, in more recent year some Courts, with the help of state legislation, have turned to view pets as more sentient creatures rather than objects. This makes sense when you consider that on average pets are often viewed as Continue reading

A Win For Free Speech Is Not A Win For Animals

Calli Norman

On January 9th, 2019 the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa held the State’s ag-gag law unconstitutional on First Amendment grounds. Iowa’s “Agricultural Production Facility Fraud”prohibits obtaining access to agricultural facilities under “false pretenses”. This includes making false statements or misrepresentations in employment agreements with agricultural facilities. The law was fueled by the agricultural industry’s concern for its security and reputation. According to The Associated Press, “no undercover investigations had taken place in Iowa since the law was approved”.

Animal activists, such as the Animal Legal Defense Fund, view this ruling as a “win for free speech and animal protection”. The State has since filed an appeal, seeking to protect the existing privacy and property rights. I think both parties miss the mark. How does this ruling actually further animal interests? To what extent is a judgment that protects lying a victory?

There are four Federal statutes that protect animal interests: the Animal Welfare Act, the Continue reading

Law 700: Animals used for Sacrifice in Bolivia and Religious Freedom

Alexandra Bueno

When walking down a mountain clearing in the streets of La Paz, Bolivia, one might find Kallawayas( medicine men) ,  curanderos (local healers or shamans), fortunetellers, and sorcerers crowding the cobblestone streets of an old quarter known for generations as the Witches’ Market. This witch market is known for selling traditional clothing’s, handbags, hats, jewelry, herbs, sacrificial animals and dried llamas for the use of witch craft and offerings to the Pachamama (Mother Earth).

By far the most sold product available at this market are the dried llama fetuses, which come in many shapes and sizes. Llama fetuses are buried in the foundations of new constructions or businesses as an offering to the goddess Pachamama. These sacrifices are thought to protect workers from accidents and bring good luck and flow of money to businesses. The fetuses are mostly used by the poor, wealthier Bolivians are expected to sacrifice a live llama to the Pachamama. Live sacrifices have long been a part of the indigenous Andean Culture, according to ancient traditions, sacrifices were Continue reading

Efficiency is the Cure for All Homelessness

Samantha A. Mumola

According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, over 550,000 homeless humans are living in the United States on any given night.  Of these people,  as many as one in four are pet owners. Many homeless pet owners cannot enter homeless shelters due to restrictions against pets.  In other words, these compassionate individuals are denied basic services because they refuse to abandon their dog on the streets.

Human homelessness is at its highest point in modern history. Without a place to live, it is exponentially harder to find a job and maintain a healthy life, let alone take care of a pet.  However, these pets are a source of comfort, security, warmth, and normalcy to the homeless.

Before condemning all homeless humans from owning pets, consider the following: there are high rates of drug use and physical and mental health issues amongst those living without a home.  In fact, scientific research is becoming increasingly supportive of the link between pets and human health.  As a result, when patients seek treatment for drug use and mental Continue reading