HSUS Top Legal Victories for 2014

By on December 17, 2014 with 0 Comments By Wayne Pacelle

The HSUS is the number one provider of direct care to animals. We work hard to educate the public about animal issues and cooperate with a wide range of corporations on their policies related to animals – whether they are cosmetics companies, food retailers, or fashion firms. We also work on public policy and enforcement of the law. We have a very skilled and seasoned Animal Protection Litigation unit, and that group of lawyers, working in tandem with pro bono lawyers throughout the nation, drives a pretty remarkable agenda of activities. Our successful legal strategies to protect seals and whales, to defend California’s laws to protect farm animals, to defend a federal rule to regulate Internet sellers of puppy mill dogs, and to shut down Wyoming wolf trophy hunting are among the major wins that we’ve achieved in 2014. Here is my review of some of our biggest gains in the courts.

Marine Mammals:

BNM16B_163133 (1)

Photo: Alamy

Seals: The World Trade Organization’s appellate body upheld the European Union's right to ban trade in commercial seal products. The HSUS and HSI submitted amicus briefs in the case, which marks the first time the WTO has recognized animal welfare as a legitimate basis for domestic legislation banning the import of inhumane products. 

End to Japanese Whaling in Southern Ocean: The International Court of Justice issued a landmark ruling that Japan’s whaling activities violate the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling's moratorium on commercial hunting. Attorneys for Humane Society International helped devise the legal theory that Australia used for its argument, that Japan’s so-called scientific whaling programs are disguised commercial whaling.

Right Whale Critical Habitat Settlement: The HSUS reached a settlement agreement with the National Marine Fisheries Service to expand critical habitat protections for the North Atlantic right whale — one of the world’s most endangered whales.  In 2009, we petitioned the agency to significantly expand habitat protections to include all of the whales’ nursery and breeding and feeding grounds.

Navy Sonar Victory: The HSUS won a lawsuit challenging approval of the Navy’s “low-frequency active” sonar training program in the Pacific Ocean.  Scientific evidence has documented that this sonar testing physically harms marine animals, disrupts their communications, and leads to coastal strandings.

Farm Animals:


Photo: The HSUS

Hens: In California, a federal court granted our motion to dismiss a lawsuit from the attorneys general of Missouri and other states challenging AB1437 - a bill that bans the sale of eggs from battery cages in California. The court found the attorneys general do not have standing to file their case, ordered that the case can never be refiled, and concluded that their theory for why the egg law will harm consumers is without merit.

Chickens Raised for Meat: Perdue Farms and The HSUS announced the settlement of two federal cases in New Jersey and Florida concerning Perdue’s “humanely raised” claim on its Harvestland chicken labels. The settlement required the plaintiffs to dismiss their claims with prejudice, in exchange for Perdue agreeing to remove the “Humanely Raised” label claim from its Harvestland chicken packaging.

Gestation Crates:  1) The HSUS and its rural resident supporters won their lawsuit against a massive gestation crate facility in Minnesota.  The court held that the state Department of Resources erred in authorizing the facility to suck up eight million gallons per year from the local groundwater. HSUS attorneys have filed a follow-up lawsuit on behalf of neighbors, alleging the horrible odors from the facility constitute a nuisance. 2) We obtained a favorable settlement in our lawsuit against the Raleigh Transit Authority for refusing to run advertisements that showed pigs in gestation crates. We originally had asked to run the ad on a single bus for six months, but the ad was rejected for being “too negative.” As part of the settlement, the ads were featured on two city buses for six months. 3) In response to an HSUS legal action, an Iowa agency fined a giant gestation crate pork facility for a massive animal waste spill at its facility near the Des Moines River that confines thousands of sows and produces 11 million gallons a year of liquefied manure.

Country of Origin Meat Labeling: In July, The HSUS joined with United Farm Workers and small farmers to help defeat industrial agriculture groups’ lawsuit challenging the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s country of origin labeling rule. The D.C. Circuit held that compelling labeling of meat products for non-health and safety reasons (including presumably humane labeling) does not violate the First Amendment.



Photo: Alamy

Wyoming Wolves Lawsuit Victory: The HSUS won its lawsuit challenging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision to remove Endangered Species Act protections for wolves in Wyoming. The ruling immediately reinstatefederal protection for the species, haltthe hunting of wolves, and cancels Wyoming's controversial policy of allowing wolves to be shot on sight in more than 85 percent of the state.

African Lion ESA Listing Granted: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service granted our legal petition to list African Lions as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.  Once finalized, this rule would severely limit imports of lion trophies, and require the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to take action to protect lions from extinction.

Ohio Exotics Victory: The HSUS convinced the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit to uphold Ohio’s Dangerous Wild Animals and Restricted Snakes Act –which The HSUS helped enact in the wake of tragic events in Zanesville Ohio in 2011. Several exotic pet owners and a roadside zoo brought a constitutional challenge, and The HSUS intervened to defend the law.

Roadside Zoo License Revocation: In response to an HSUS legal petition, a USDA Administrative Law Judge revoked the exhibitor license of Collins Zoo in Mississippi, which was the subject of an HSUS undercover investigation. The facility was also fined $39,375 for 22 AWA violations. Three tigers from the facility are at Black Beauty Ranch. 

West Hollywood Fur Ban Victory: The HSUS and the City of West Hollywood won dismissal of a constitutional challenge to West Hollywood's fur sales ban. The court held that West Hollywood’s intent to promote the City's identity as an "animal cruelty-free zone" was a legitimate basis for the legislation.

Puppy Mills and Animal Cruelty:


Photo: Jason Miczek/AP Images for The HSUS

USDA Puppy Mills Regulation Victory:  The U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia ruled in our favor in a lawsuit challenging new USDA regulations expanding the number of dogs protected by the Animal Welfare Act, and cracking down on internet sales of puppy mill dogs.  The HSUS intervened in the case to protect this major policy decision, which has been in the making for more than a decade.

Puppy Mill Disclosure Victory: The U.S. Court of Appeals ruled in our favor in a major FOIA case, holding that the USDA must release information contained in relicensing applications submitted by commercial dog breeders – including numbers of dogs sold and gross receipts from those sales.

Florida Puppy Dealer Settlement: With the help of Weil Gotshal & Manges, The HSUS moved to enforce the settlement agreement that was reached between the Wizard of Claws and the plaintiffs in our original consumer protection action for selling sick puppies. On the eve of trial, defendants agreed to a settlement requiring them to follow strict new requirements on what breeders they can purchase dogs from, and pay thousands of dollars to support HSUS puppy mill enforcement work.

Federal Crush Law Victory: The HSUS helped convince the Fifth Circuit to reinstate the 2010 Animal Crush Video Prohibition Act, after a lower court declared it in violation of the First Amendment.  HSUS pro bono partner Scott Ballenger of Latham & Watkins was cited in the opinion as a constitutional expert.



Photo: Vanessa Mignon

California Shark Fin Sales Ban Ruling: A federal court dismissed a lawsuit challenging California's shark fin law. The lawsuit by shark fin dealers sought to overturn recent legislation eliminating the demand for shark fins in California. This is the latest in a series of challenges to the law, all defeated by HSUS attorneys.

Porbeagle Shark ESA Listing Victory: The HSUS won its lawsuit challenging the National Marine Fisheries Service’s denial of an HSUS petition to list porbeagle sharks as endangered under the Endangered Species Act.  The court agreed with The HSUS that the agency had misread the scientific evidence, and improperly assumed a best-case scenario for the species.

Animal Research and Testing, Companion Animals, Farm Animals, Humane Society International, Public Policy (Legal/Legislative), Wildlife/Marine Mammals

Subscribe to the Blog

Enter your email address below to receive updates each time we publish new content.

Share a Comment

The HSUS encourages open discussion, and we invite you to share your opinion on our issues. By participating on this page, you are agreeing to our commenting policy.
Please enter your name and email address below before commenting. Your email address will not be published.