Category Archives: General

Animal Rights Challenge to Fisheries Service Decision on Disclosure of Necropsies Dismissed by Federal District Court

By John M. Simpson.

On March 26, 2020, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia dismissed a lawsuit brought by certain animal rights advocates and organizations against several federal defendants challenging a decision of the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) declining to enforce a permit condition allegedly requiring a marine mammal park to submit a necropsy report concerning a killer whale obtained the permit. Marino, et al. v. Nat’l Oceanic and Atmospheric Admin., et al., No. 18-cv-2750 (DLF) (D.D.C. Mar. 26, 2020). Continue reading Animal Rights Challenge to Fisheries Service Decision on Disclosure of Necropsies Dismissed by Federal District Court

National Zoo Elephant’s Passing Underscores Longevity of Captive Elephants

by John M. Simpson.

On March 28, 2020, the National Zoo announced the passing of one of the oldest Asian elephants maintained in a zoological environment. The elephant Ambika, who had resided at the National Zoo for 59 years was estimated to be 72 years old at the time of death. Continue reading National Zoo Elephant’s Passing Underscores Longevity of Captive Elephants

During COVID-19 Pandemic, Our Zoos Need Our Support

by Michelle C. Pardo

The COVID pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our daily lives.  While the media has been rightly focused on the overwhelming effect on our health care system and impacts on hourly and tipped workers and small businesses, coverage of our country’s zoological institutions during this worldwide crisis has been largely absent.  But the impact on zoological facilities across our country is real and profound.  The loss of revenue from ticket and concession sales, special events, and donations will likely hamper zoo operations for the foreseeable future.  Cash-strapped Americans may have less available funds to donate to non-profit organizations.  But zoological institutions may have much more difficulty cutting costs and limiting operations than other types of businesses and face a much more severe financial impact from the pandemic.

Unlike businesses that can order all employees to work from home and shut their doors, zoos, aquariums, marine mammal and wildlife parks have much more complex operational challenges.  First and foremost, even during a pandemic, our zoological facilities must continue to provide their animals with daily care, including husbandry, veterinary care, and enrichment.  That means that animal caregivers, veterinarians, veterinary technicians, zoo management and personnel cannot just shelter in place at home and wait out the pandemic.  Maintaining zoo operations requires a healthy staff that can come to work, even if children and family members are home from school or sick.  Zoos are also struggling with supply chain issues.  The amount of food, products and supplies that zoos require to maintain their animal collection is staggering, and the impact on deliveries and product availability will likely continue to be a pressing issue.

Some zoos are turning to creative measures to engage with the public in a “virtual” way.  From posting animal videos on social media, to animal sponsorship (“adopting” an animal), these methods attempt to link the public with animals during this time of crisis and create avenues for sponsorship and donations.

What can we do to support our zoos, aquariums, marine mammal and wildlife parks during this difficult time?

  1.  Consider a donation, no matter how small.  Non-profit zoos have platforms to “donate” that are accessible online.  Visit their websites and search for the “donate” options.  Donations need not be sizeable — there is great power in $10 donations if thousands of people are making them.  For-profit zoological institutions often have non-profit partners that fund important animal rescue, conservation and research programs.  These programs need your help as well.
  2. Become a member.  Zoo memberships which often have additional perks like discounts at gift shops and concessions or free parking and access to VIP events.  Membership fees greatly assist with zoo operating expenses and zoos will be even more dependent on these funds during and post-pandemic.
  3. Make plans to visit!  When life returns to normal — and it will — make plans to visit your local zoos, aquariums, and marine mammal parks either as a daily visitor or attending special events.  Many zoological institutions offer creative and exciting programs — such as summer camps, special access and VIP programs, food and wine experiences and family sleepovers.  These are great ways to learn about a myriad of species and support our zoological institutions’ bottom line.
  4. Corporate sponsorship and donations.  Corporate sponsorship and in-kind donations are important to zoological institutions, even in normal operating times.  While many businesses may be suffering from loss of revenue, for those that get back on their feet and want to make meaningful contributions, reach out to zoological institutions and consider a sponsorship or donation of necessary products.  Zoos patrons and visitors will appreciate your generosity.

And, if you know someone who works with animals — from caregivers, to veterinary staff, to those who maintain their food supply and habitats, thank them for what they are doing and pledge your support.  We are, after all, in this together!


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