All Volunteer Military? Not If You’re a Dolphin

Spencer Lo

Does the United States still conscript people into the military? Yes—the case of military dolphins

Both from a strategic and moral standpoint, it is no surprise that when military action is contemplated, governments tend to favor effective tactics involving the least risk to human lives. Even better are effective tactics involving low risk to all human lives. If the goal of the military action is justified, what could be morally problematic with using such means? These widely held notions likely motivated the U.S. Navy’s recent contemplated use of military dolphins in the ongoing conflict between Iran and United States.

As reported in the New York Times, Iran has threatened to block the Strait of Hormuz, a crucially strategic waterway where 16 million barrels of oil flow through every day, and it can do so in relatively short time by deploying mines. U.S. governmental officials warned that Iran’s threat, if carried out, would cross a “red line” provoking a military response. Should the situation escalate to that point, the U.S. military would need to deal with the problem of how to detect (and then destroy) the mines, for which there is a time tested solution: mine-detecting dolphins. Once detected, the job of destroying the mines falls to human divers. Nonetheless, even though military dolphins operate only in a secondary role, the risk of harm to them is very real; they could accidentally set off live mines and, more seriously, prompt the Iranians to intentionally target them and other dolphins in the area. Still, is there a moral problem here? In addition to the strategic merits of the tactic, wouldn’t the very low risk to humans fully justify using dolphins in this way? Continue reading

An Animal Cruelty Offender Registry in Maryland?

In a brilliantly progressive attempt at curbing animal cruelty, Maryland Senator Ron Young has introduced a bill to create the equivalent of the sex offender registry, but for those convicted of animal abuse.  The bill seeks to create a record of repeat offenders, to identify those with tendencies for violence, to prevent convicted animal abusers from purchasing or adopting new animals, and to inform the community to not allow pets to roam free.

The Animal Abuse Registry is coined “Heidi’s Law” in honor of a young pup who was shot while playing in a field on her own farm.  Heidi’s owner Lynette, from Frederick County Maryland, traveled to Annapolis to support Senator Ron Young as he planned to introduce the bill.  Just this month Lynette searched her property when Heidi did not return, only to find her tiny body in the field riddled with bullets from a small caliber handgun. Continue reading

Sentient animals: we’re all on the same team, right?

Kathleen Stachowski   Other Nations

Grizzlies and bobcats are more than just native wildlife here in Montana. The University of Montana Grizzly football team (go Griz!) takes on the Montana State University Bobcats (grrrr) in the Brawl of the Wild every year–the state’s biggest, most ferocious rivalry. This past year, when both teams were heading to the FCS quarterfinals, ESPN didn’t offer television coverage and the scat hit the fan.

In less than a week, the outrage spread to 90,000 Facebook users. More than 23,000 signed a petition. ESPN was bombarded with messages. A university system regent sent a plea. One fan contacted a law firm. Montana’s congressional delegation intervened, and finally, a pay-per-view solution materialized. Wrote one protester on his Facebook page: “You just don’t push a Bobcat and a Grizzly into a corner without someone getting hurt…and it ain’t gonna be the wild critters.”

This got me to thinking about the real wild critters–the ones whose admirable qualities we love to appropriate as our own–and how the reverse is true: the wild ones do get hurt when they pursue their interests too close to human concerns, prejudices, and appetites. When they are intentionally killed for their behavior (“euthanized,” we like to call it) or their fur, petitions seldom circulate and viral protests don’t materialize. Continue reading

Existence Value Introduced as an Argument for Standing in ESA Lawsuit

David Cassuto

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has construed the Endangered Species Act to exclude captive populations of  the endangered Southern Resident killer whale population.  This means that these endangered orcas  are deprived of the protections of the statute and can be exploited for profit by commercial operations.  A number of individuals and animal advocacy organizations including the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), on whose board I sit, brought suit in the Western District of Washington to challenge this interpretation.

To wit:

SHELBY PROIE; KAREN MUNRO;                              Case #3:11-05955-BHS
DEFENSE FUND, a non-profit
corporation; and PEOPLE FOR THE
INC., a non-profit corporation,
official capacity as Assistant Administrator
for Fisheries of the National Marine
Fisheries Service; and REBECCA M.
BLANK, in her official capacity as the
Acting Secretary of the United States
Department of Commerce,
____ _______________

Last week, ALDF amended its complaint to include a standing claim based on “existence value.”  It declared:

16. ALDF also brings this case on behalf of its members who, on information and belief, place significant and particularized value on the continued existence of Southern Resident killer whales, and whose interests in ensuring that the species continues to exist are injured by
NMFS’s decision to exclude the captive members of the population from the list of endangered species because protecting captive members of a listed species is necessary to ensure that it will not become extinct in the future and can eventually be recovered.

and   Continue reading

Valuing Non-Human Law Enforcers

Sarah Markham

Recently, a “Frosty the Snow Man” kicked a police dog and assaulted a human police officer in Maryland.  This made me wonder how violence towards dogs or other animals on a police force may differ in terms of legal treatment compared with a dog who is a domestic companion of a human.

Ohio Code 2921.321 states that “no person shall . . . knowingly cause or attempt to cause physical harm to a police dog or horse in [certain] circumstances.” The circumstances are limited in scope to:  (1) when the police dog or horse is assisting a police officer in police duties; or (2) when the dog or horse is not assisting the police, but the perpetrator actually knows the animal is a police dog or horse.  The circumstances seem to put an emphasis on not letting perpetrator assault the police by way of the animal and not concentrate on any one animal’s specific wellbeing.  The law goes further to state that police dogs and horses are not to be interfered with in any manner that, “(a) inhibits or restricts the law enforcement officer’s control of the police dog or horse; (b) deprives the law enforcement officer of control of the police dog or horse; (c) releases the police dog or horse from its area of control . . .”  It is clear that the main point of the law is to protect the police and police work, with the protection of the animal as a secondary goal.  However, the law does prohibit any person from recklessly engaging in any conduct that is likely to cause serious physical injury or death to a police dog or horse.  The previous mentioned Ohio Code 2921.321 also prohibits assaults on handicap assistance dogs.  Similarly, that law seems to aim more at protecting the humans the dogs assist, than the dogs for the dogs sake.  Moreover, Ohio’s laws prohibiting offenses relating to domestic animals also put an emphasis on the animal’s worth as human property.
People who violate the above laws knowingly are guilty of assault on police dog (horse), which is a second-degree misdemeanor.  While people who violate the prohibition of reckless interference with the animals are deemed to merely harass the animal, which is also a misdemeanor in the second degree.  The law further provides that should the animal die or suffer serious harm from the human’s behavior, then the harassment offense is elevated to a third or fourth degree felony respectively.  This shows that while there is a great concern for maintaining the police and assistance animals for the security and help that they provide humans, the animals themselves are also of great concern.  Continue reading

Banning Invasive Species — A Congressional Failure to Lead

Sarah Markham

Congress has been consistently asked to ban the importation of pythons into the United States, which Congress has failed to do.  This is an error on Congress part; as recently as October 17, 2011 a 16 ft. long Burmese python was discovered in Florida with a 76-lb. adult female deer inside.  This is an example of the long drawn out debate regarding native versus exotic (invasive) species.  Unfortunately this illustration is not rare or unheard of; in 2005, a python burst in the Everglades after attempting to swallow a live 6-ft. alligator.  It was not the fist documented event, and unfortunately not the last.  Both Flora and fauna exotic species can be considered pests.

Attributing the titles of native, non-native or invasive species must be questioned before asserted.  These titles have implications for mankind as well.  Additionally, a species being non-indigenous is not necessarily indicative of environmental harm.  Some species of plants that are not native to the ecosystem where they are found have provided great environmental benefits.  While another significant portion are considered invasive, especially if they: have rapid growth; asexual reproduction; can live off a variety of sustenance sources; have a tolerance of wide range of environmental conditions; or have an association with humansContinue reading

Livestock, Antibiotics & You

Adrianne Doll

United States livestock, mainly those animals raised for meat, are fed 28.8 million pounds of antibiotics each year.  This translates to 80% of all antibiotics in the country, including those for human use.  The consequence of consistently feeding antibiotics to livestock is antibiotic resistant bacteria.  Humans come in contact with these bacteria through eating food from industrial livestock facilities, living in environments contaminated with waste from such facilities, or by direct contact with animals that are over medicated.  Illnesses, in humans, caused by these bacteria do not react to antibiotics as they are supposed to, and instead become “super bugs” that require much stronger and heavier dosages of antibiotics.  Some infections have been found to not even react to these stronger antibiotics, for example staphylococcus.      Continue reading

Link Between Domestic Violence and Animal Abuse?

Ciara Smyth

On November 26th, 2011, Chicago police officers responded to a call and found little Christopher Valdez dead had been beaten to death in his home, as his family prepared to celebrate his fourth birthday.  The boy was found to have died from multiple blunt force trauma and his death was ruled a child abuse homicide Saturday.  Police were alerted to the house after he was discovered by his aunt and uncle, who had come to investigate after a neighbor told them that Christopher was sporting a black eye when he attended Thanksgiving at their home the previous day.  Police charged the mother’s live-in boyfriend, Cesar Ruiz, with first degree murder, concealment of a homicidal death, and for having a suspended driver’s license.   The mother of the toddler was originally charged with concealment of a homicidal death and with endangering the life of a child.  However, after it was revealed through police questioning that she observed Ruiz beating her son earlier in the week he was murdered, and had joined in by spanking the toddler herself, the charges against the mother were upgraded to include first-degree murder.  Steven Valdez, the boy’s great uncle, previously described Ruiz, as anti-social and violent.  He said that two weeks before the boy’s death, Ruiz beat a dog severely after it relieved itself in his home.

Family members want to know why Christopher was allowed to stay with his mother and Ruiz following her conviction in October for domestic battery after she admitted to punching Christopher in July “because she was angry” and to using make-up to cover his injuries.  She was sentenced to parenting classes, given a conditional discharge, and was not sentenced to jail. Following the incident, but prior to her conviction, the Department of Children and Family Services determined that that there was “no credible evidence” of abuse and allowed the boy to remain in the home. The toddler’s death this month has naturally raised a lot of discussion and commentators to ask questions on DCFS’s oversight in allowing the child to remain at home. Continue reading