After we joined forces with The Fund for Animals in January 2005, The HSUS formed an in-house Animal Protection Litigation unit—which now boasts more than a dozen full-time attorneys who do nothing but offensive litigation.
I wanted a vibrant legal team focused on enforcing animal and environmental protection laws on the books. Indeed, we have that now.
With the largest animal litigation program in the country, and nearly 40 cases pending in state and federal courts, the arrival of a court decision is hardly unexpected here at The HSUS.
But in the last half of July, we saw a total of seven major court decisions in our cases, roughly one ruling every 48 hours. That’s a lot of legal action for a fortnight, and not all of the rulings went our way. But I wanted to give you the news, and share some thoughts about the results.
Things started to heat up on July 15th, when the Massachusetts Supreme Court rejected a lawsuit seeking to strike the anti-greyhound racing ballot initiative we are supporting in Massachusetts. Dog track owners used the courts to block a similar measure in 2006, but this time our legal team came back and secured a unanimous decision clearing the way for Question #3 to appear on the November ballot.
Two days later, the New York Court of Appeals issued a ruling ordering the release of documents describing outbreaks of avian flu at the country’s largest Foie Gras factory farm.
On Friday the 18th, the Courts issue three major rulings in a single day.
First, the federal court of appeals in D.C. issued a major decision ordering the Coast Guard to review commercial shipping lanes to reduce ship strikes, the leading cause of mortalities for critically endangered right whales.
That same afternoon, a federal court in Montana reinstated Endangered Species Act protections for wolves, a ruling that blocks the hunting of wolves in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming.
But our celebration was cut short later that evening by a controversial split decision declaring unconstitutional the federal depictions of cruelty law. The ruling is a setback, but our legal team is already working on an appeal, as well as new legislation for Congress.
Two more major rulings arrived this past week, both concerning farm animals.
On July 30, the New Jersey Supreme Court released a major decision striking down the state’s humane farming regulations for declaring that factory farming practices are "humane" simply because they are widely used by farmers.
The decision, the first of its kind from a state Supreme Court, also rejected the regulations’ allowance of tail docking, castration, de-beaking and de-toeing, but stopped short of disallowing gestation and veal crates, and the transport of downed cattle.
Finally, on July 31, the Court of Appeals in New York issued a ruling in our suit challenging the illegal use of taxpayer funds to subsidize foie gras factory farms. The court ordered the state to turn over critical information concerning such funding, but did not block the use of taxpayer funds to prop up the Foie Gras industry. Here too, an appeal is already well underway.
Working together, we will pass a better, stronger federal depictions of cruelty law in the wake of last week’s decision, challenge adverse rulings, and ultimately convince New Jersey policymakers that veal and gestation crates have no place in a humane society.
I am grateful to all of our in-house attorneys, and the hundreds of lawyers in firms throughout the nation who do remarkable pro bono work for us.
Every day, in the courts, our attorneys and those aligned with The HSUS are making the case for the protection of animals. It’s an enhanced capability for the organization, and it’s one more powerful tool in our advocacy work here at The HSUS.
To learn more about our efforts to protect animals in the courts or join our legal team, visit humanesociety.org/litigation. You can also sign up to receive Animal Protection Litigation’s online newsletter with important updates about our legal actions and victories.