At The HSUS, we don’t work only to pass laws but also to enforce them. And one of the best enforcement tools we have is our cadre of two dozen in-house lawyers who pursue a dizzying array of lawsuits and legal petitions in support of our major campaigns. The HSUS legal team also drafts state and federal animal protection bills and ballot measures 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. Today I continue my review of major accomplishments for The HSUS with a look at the top 10 legal victories of 2016 — as a small measure of the immense work our legal team does for animals. (I’ll soon have a detailed run-down of our major legislative and regulatory accomplishments as well).
California egg sales law upheld in the 9th Circuit
As I wrote a few weeks ago, our team notched a major win upholding California’s landmark farm animal protection law, which halted the cruel confinement of farm animals. The ruling marked a major loss for Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster, who tried to curry favor with Big Ag by attacking California’s animal welfare laws. The ruling affirming states’ rights to ban cruel farm practices and to protect animals and consumers came just days after voters in Massachusetts affirmed a ballot initiative we launched to replicate and then build on elements of California’s farm animal protection laws.
Michigan wolf hunting law overturned
The Michigan Court of Appeals unanimously struck down the state legislature’s efforts to force the opening of a wolf-hunting and -trapping season over the objection of voters. The court found the legislature acted unconstitutionally by combining desirable provisions for waiving fees for hunting licenses and combating the spread of Asian carp “while surreptitiously slipping inside” a legislative override of prior referenda votes against wolf hunting. State legislators have repeatedly thumbed their noses at Michigan citizens who resoundingly voted down pro-wolf-hunting measures in the general election in November 2014. The legislature recently acted again to override the will of the people, and this will be an ongoing battle as we go into 2017.
Downer veal calf ban
After years of work by our legal, legislative, and regulatory experts, the U.S. Department of Agriculture finally issued a long-awaited rule banning the slaughter of downed calves—those too sick, injured, or weak to stand on their own. Downed animals suffer immensely when they are forced through the slaughter process, and are more susceptible to diseases that threaten public health. Under the rule, far fewer suffering calves will be trucked to slaughter because they have no economic value.
California state court affirms state ivory trade law
The HSUS teamed up with California Attorney General and Senator-elect Kamala Harris to beat back an NRA-backed lawsuit that sought to overturn a new California state law banning intrastate trade of ivory and rhino horn. We pushed for enactment of that law and similar measures in Oregon, Washington, and other states as a means of drying up demand for the trade in ivory and other animal parts that is fueling the poaching and destruction of the world’s last remaining rhino and elephant populations.
USDA prohibits public contact with infant cubs
In response to a legal petition filed by The HSUS, the USDA issued a decision banning public contact with infant exotic cats (four weeks and under) because it violates Animal Welfare Act regulations. Public handling and photo opportunities with exotic cats fuel the pet trade and result in surplus animals languishing in poorly run private menageries. The USDA decision stated that infant tigers, lions, leopards, cheetahs, and jaguars should be “housed with their mother for as long as possible after birth to promote good health.” We hope this new rule will help bring an end to one of the most egregious practices of roadside zoos.
The USDA sanctions National Pork Board
In the course of our ongoing legal campaign to put an end to the misuse of federal “checkoff” commodity promotion money for illegal lobbying, we filed a complaint and won a USDA ruling sanctioning the Pork Board for illegal lobbying with government money. The USDA ordered reimbursement of all funds used in violation of law, a full accounting within 30 days, and recommended that “officers of the NPB, and any other critical staff attend a remedial training on the proper use of checkoff funds under the Pork Act.” A ruling on our lawsuit challenging the illegal diversion of $60 million in federal funds to the National Pork Producers Council is expected in 2017.
Endangered Species Act protections for all captive tigers
In response to an HSUS legal petition, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued a rule eliminating a loophole in the agency’s Endangered Species Act regulations that promoted the trade in endangered tigers. Now all tigers – regardless of their genetics – will be held to the same legal standard under the ESA. This new rule will help reduce tiger breeding and abuse of tigers at roadside zoos and other sub-standard facilities.
Ninth Circuit win protecting whales
The HSUS and co-plaintiffs won a major ruling from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, finding that the Navy’s use of low-frequency active sonar in Pacific Ocean training exercises violates the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act. The court held that the Navy failed to meet the MMPA’s mandate to avoid adverse impacts on imperiled whales and dolphins. This is one in a string of cases over the last several years that The HSUS and other groups have won to protect whales and other marine mammals from the dangers of sonar.
Import of captive-bred lion hunting trophies from South Africa banned
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued a decision declaring that it would no longer allow the import of captive-bred lion hunting trophies from South Africa—which has long been the primary source of lion trophies for U.S. hunters. The decision follows the 2015 listing of African lions as endangered in response to a legal petition filed by The HSUS and HSI.
Puppy mill pet store lawsuit victory
HSUS attorneys — working on behalf of consumers who unwittingly bought sick puppy mill puppies — won a major ruling and then leveraged it into a favorable settlement against Chicago-area pet store chain Furry Babies. The store agreed to stop buying puppies from disreputable breeders who violate the Animal Welfare Act.