At The HSUS, we throw the kitchen sink at animal cruelty. And one of the best tools we have is our cadre of two dozen in-house lawyers who pursue a dizzying array of cases, claims, petitions, and other legal campaigns and regulatory actions. The HSUS legal team also drafts hundreds of new state and federal animal protection proposals each year. They are aided in their efforts by a network of hundreds of lawyers throughout the country, including some of the best-known firms in the legal profession, from Latham & Watkins to Schiff Hardin, and many more. It’s not enough to pass laws – those laws must be enforced, and that’s part of the charge of our litigation unit. HSUS attorneys are working against factory farming, the fur trade, unnecessary experiments on chimps and other animals in laboratories, and exploitation of captive animals. They are also working to protect marine mammals and cracking down on puppy mills. Their victories in prior years – for example, helping forestall horse slaughter plants from opening and getting all the wolf populations in the Great Lakes region listed as threatened or endangered – have kept animals protected and kept significant animal protection issues in play, and many of those issues happen to be at the center of our current dealings in Congress to help animals.
Here is a look at some of the HSUS’s Animal Protection Litigation team’s achievements in 2015, as a small measure of the immense work the unit does for animals.
1. Endangered Species Act protection granted for chimps
In June, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service granted The HSUS’s legal petition and listed all chimpanzees as endangered under the ESA, ending a decades-long loophole that allowed their exploitation for biomedical research and the pet and entertainment trade. In practical terms, the listing helped bring about the end of invasive research on chimpanzees in the United States and banned the interstate trade in pet chimps.
2. California farm animal confinement ban upheld
In February, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the constitutionality of California Proposition 2, which bans extreme confinement of certain farm animals. The ruling marks the end of three different legal challenges to the law, which went into effect January 1, 2015.
3. Right whale critical habitat expansion
In response to an HSUS petition and multiple lawsuits over the agency’s unlawful delay, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Fisheries Service proposed an expansion of habitat protections for critically endangered whales in February. The proposal would protect 10 times the ocean habitat currently protected.
4. Federal animal crush law upheld
In March, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to review the decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit to reinstate the 2010 Animal Crush Video Prohibition Act, after a lower court declared it to be in violation of the First Amendment. After five years of litigation, the constitutionality of the federal ban on the creation and sale of obscene depictions of animal cruelty is no longer in doubt.
5. USDA proposes rule to ban slaughter of downer veal calves
In response to a legal petition filed by The HSUS, the USDA announced in May a proposal to ban the slaughter of downer calves—animals too sick, weak, or injured to stand on their own.
6. Fur false advertising settlements
In May, we secured a court-ordered settlement with apparel brand Andrew Marc after it was caught repeatedly selling garments containing raccoon dog fur despite committing over two years ago to phase out sales of the fur of this cruelly-treated and commonly misrepresented species. Andrew Marc paid The HSUS $25,000 in investigation costs and legal fees, certified that it will never again sell fur from raccoon dogs, and is obligated to pay damages for any future violations.
7. Precedent-setting ruling in lawsuit against National Pork Board
In August, The HSUS won a precedent-setting ruling from the D.C. Circuit in a suit challenging the unlawful diversion of government funds to fuel the political activities of the pork industry’s chief lobbying organization. The ruling cleared the way for a lawsuit that threatens to choke off a $60 million revenue stream to fund lobbying efforts opposing small farmers, environmentalists, and animal welfare groups.
8. California shark fin ban upheld
In July, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld California’s ban on the sale of shark fins against merchants’ claims that the law was unconstitutional. The HSUS intervened to defend the California law, which is one of close to a dozen state shark fin sales bans passed around the country.
9. Bid to import Beluga whales for public display rejected
In September, a federal court upheld the National Marine Fisheries Services’ denial of the Georgia Aquarium’s application to import 18 wild-caught beluga whales from Russia, relying on an amicus brief from The HSUS. The court agreed that the proposed import raised serious conservation and animal welfare concerns.
10. Puppy mill dog sales restrictions upheld in six jurisdictions
In November, a federal court dismissed a challenge to a New York City ordinance restricting the sale of puppy mill dogs in pet stores. This was the sixth federal court ruling upholding local restrictions on the sale of puppy mill dogs in 2015. More than 100 local ordinances have been enacted in the last few years concerning retail sales of puppy mill dogs. The HSUS legal team engaged in each of the six federal cases to defend these laws.
Other important legal outcomes loom, including The HSUS’s legal petition to list African lions under the ESA (the last big cat species to receive such protection). Rest assured, where there are claims to be made through the courts or before regulatory agencies – holding an agency accountable, drafting a rulemaking petition, or urging the prosecution of a perpetrator of abuse – our Animal Protection Litigation team will be all in. It’s remarkable that animals have a law firm at The HSUS, and the results in 2015 show how their often technical work has very practical implications for animals and for saving lives – millions of them.