New York Court Denies Habeas Petition for Bronx Zoo Elephant

by John M. Simpson.

On February 18, 2020, a trial court in Bronx County, New York, denied a habeas corpus petition filed by the Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP) on behalf of “Happy,” a 48-year old Asian elephant residing in the Bronx Zoo.  Nonhuman Rights Project v. Breheny, No. 260441/19 (N.Y. Sup. Ct., Bronx Cty. Feb. 18, 2020). The court ruled, based on binding New York precedent, that “Happy” is not a “person” for purposes of habeas corpus relief. Continue reading New York Court Denies Habeas Petition for Bronx Zoo Elephant

D.C. District Court Rejects Challenge to BLM Wild Horse Removal Decisions

by John M. Simpson.

The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia recently rejected claims challenging actions by the U.S. Department of Interior, acting through the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), to remove wild horses from an area of federal land in Nevada known as the Caliente Complex. In 2008, BLM issued a resource management plan (RMP) for the area that, due to wild hors e overpopulation and the ecological effects that stemmed therefrom, effectively set an appropriate management level of wild horses as zero for the entire Complex.  BLM thereupon removed horses from the Complex, but due to overpopulation and ecological imbalance, BLM determined in 2018 that all wild horses be removed (2018 Gather Decision).  Plaintiffs challenged both actions as contrary to the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act (WHBA) and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The court granted summary judgment for the federal defendants and dismissed all claims.   American Wild Horse Campaign v. Bernhardt, No. 18-1529 (BAH) (D.D.C. Feb. 13, 2020). Continue reading D.C. District Court Rejects Challenge to BLM Wild Horse Removal Decisions

D.C. District Court Dismisses Endangered Species Act Case for Lack of Article III Standing

by John M. Simpson.

A U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia recently dismissed a lawsuit brought under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and the federal Administrative Procedure Act by the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) against the Secretary of the Interior and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS).  Center for Biological Diversity v. Bernhardt, No. 18-2576 (RC) (D.D.C. Feb. 12, 2020).  CBD asserted that FWS’s guidelines for species-specific species status assessments (SSA’s) were issued without the requisite notice and comment.  The guidelines for species-specific SSA’s provide an analytical framework for the agency’s listing and critical habitat decisions under the ESA.  The court dismissed the case for lack of Article III standing. Continue reading D.C. District Court Dismisses Endangered Species Act Case for Lack of Article III Standing

Mental Health Service Dog Bill For Veterans Passes House

by John M. Simpson.

On February 5, 2020, the U.S. House of Representatives passed, by voice vote, H.R. 4305, entitled the “Puppies Assisting Wounded Servicemembers for Veterans Therapy Act” or “PAWS for Veterans Therapy Act.”  If the bill becomes law it would establish a pilot program in which grants from the Department of Veterans Affairs would be made to assess the “effectiveness of addressing post-deployment mental health and post-traumatic stress disorder … symptoms through a therapeutic medium of training service dogs for veterans with disabilities.”  Among other things, grantee organizations would ensure that participating veterans would receive “training from certified service dog training instructors for a period of time determined appropriate … including service skills to address or alleviate symptoms unique to veterans’ needs.” Continue reading Mental Health Service Dog Bill For Veterans Passes House

PETA Animal “Shelter” Continues to Show High Euthanization Rate

by John M. Simpson.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is well known for its publicity-seeking tactics.  Over the past Super Bowl weekend, PETA generated controversy with a commercial that it claims was rejected by the Fox Network which depicted cartoon animals “taking a knee” during the National Anthem.  The social media response was not positive.  Some critics saw this as trivializing and misappropriating Colin Kaepernick’s protest activities or trivializing the civil rights movement in general.  During this same period, PETA’s founder, Ingrid Newkirk, went on record claiming that calling a pet a “pet” is offensive and disrespectful and tantamount to calling a woman “honey” or “sweetie,” drawing another offensive comparison — this time between dog or cat ownership and sexual discrimination and harassment. Continue reading PETA Animal “Shelter” Continues to Show High Euthanization Rate

CA, IL, NV Ban Animal-Tested Cosmetics

by Jessica Linse

Beginning January 1, 2020, California, Illinois, and Nevada became the first states to ban the sale of cosmetic products and ingredients that have been tested on animals.

On September 28, 2018, Governor Jerry Brown signed the California Cruelty-Free Cosmetics Act (SB 1259), which became the first state law to prohibit the sale of any cosmetic or ingredient tested on animals. Continue reading CA, IL, NV Ban Animal-Tested Cosmetics

Federal Legislation Requiring “Petfax” Aims to Improve Pet Buying Process

by Michelle C. Pardo

This week, Congressmen Charlie Crist (D-FL) and Guy Reschenthaler (R-PA) introduced the Petfax Act (H.R. 5715), legislation designed to bring more transparency to the condition of pets being sold by sellers and breeders.

The term “Petfax,” which appears to be a take on the trademarked name and service “Carfax” that aids automobile buyers in providing a vehicle’s history, such as ownership, accidents, and repairs, is described as mandating “honesty and transparency in the commercial sale of dogs and cats.”  The legislation is the third in a series of “anti-puppy mill” bills introduced in this Congress.  The divisive term “puppy mill” has been used as to refer to dogs bred in large-scale, commercial dog breeding operations. Continue reading Federal Legislation Requiring “Petfax” Aims to Improve Pet Buying Process

Is It Time for Animal Welfare Act Bird Regulations To Come Home to Roost?

In 2002 Congress made clear that the Animal Welfare Act (“AWA”) protects birds, but the USDA has not issued bird-specific Animal Welfare Act regulations in the ensuing 18 years, much to the chagrin of animal rights groups.  But their luck may be changing.

Continue reading Is It Time for Animal Welfare Act Bird Regulations To Come Home to Roost?

Ninth Circuit Rejects Kids’ Climate Case

by Michelle C. Pardo

Back in 2015, the case of Juliana v. U.S., brought by 21 young people and various environmental groups in federal court in Oregon, grabbed many headlines.  The issue: plaintiffs alleged that the U.S. government was violating their constitutional rights by contributing to climate change, despite knowing of its significant and catastrophic consequences.  The lawsuit highlighted the impact of fossil fuels on the Earth’s climate and alleged that the federal government has long understood the risk of fossil fuel use and increasing carbon emissions, and has deprived plaintiffs of the right to “a climate system capable of sustaining human life.”  Frustrated with the lack of action from the political process, this group of young plaintiffs, with a hefty backing of environmental activists, tried to get the federal courts to take action.  The relief requested: a court order to compel the government to end fossil-fuel subsidies and adopt policies that would reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. Continue reading Ninth Circuit Rejects Kids’ Climate Case