In 2018, HSUS legal team delivered crucial court victories for Yellowstone grizzly bears, Great Danes rescued from New Hampshire mansion
For more than a decade, our Animal Protection Litigation team, a talented group of attorneys who use the law to advance the cause of animal protection, has been one of our most effective divisions. Each year, they file lawsuits and legal petitions to support our advocacy campaigns, draft numerous state and federal animal protection bills and ballot measures, and defend animal protection laws once they are enacted.
In 2018, our lawyers, with the assistance of outstanding pro bono partners, celebrated a number of major wins. These included the exposure and elimination of partisan government support for factory farming interests, the protection of threatened and endangered species like grizzly bears and elephants, and judicious legal counsel to government authorities seeking to bring to justice and hold accountable the perpetrators of cruelty to animals.
Our legal team also played a crucial rule in two major ballot victories for animals in November: Proposition 12 in California, which prohibits products derived from cruelly confined farm animals from being produced or sold in the state, and Amendment 13 in Florida, which bans greyhound racing in that state.
Here are some of our top legal victories of 2018:
Court halts more than $20 million in illegal payments to pork industry lobbying group: In February, the U.S. district court for the District of Columbia issued a monumental ruling in favor of the HSUS in our efforts against federal checkoff program abuses. The USDA oversees checkoff programs, which mandate that producers collectively fund industry promotions beneficial to the entire industry. In this case, the USDA approved the transfer of more than $20 million in checkoff funds to the National Pork Producers Council, to fuel that lobbying group’s opposition efforts against our work. The sham deal was approved under the guise of being a purchase of the trademark for the “Pork: The Other White Meat” advertising slogan, even though federal checkoff program funds were used to develop the trademark in the first instance. The court enjoined these payments in early 2018, and then expanded its injunction in June after the USDA attempted to evade the court’s original ruling. This ruling will help us in future challenges to other improperly run federal checkoff programs.
State regulators revoke operating permit from Oregon mega-dairy: An Oregon state mega-dairy operated in violation of environmental laws, prompting the Oregon Department of Agriculture to issue the largest fine against any confined animal operation in the state’s history. Along with other organizations and individuals, the HSUS persuaded the state to fully revoke the dairy’s operating permits, noting that the facility — which was built to house 30,000 heifers and cows — failed to complete building necessary waste lagoons and storage facilities and inappropriately managed wastewater.
Endangered Species Act protections restored to Yellowstone grizzly bears: In September, the U.S. district court for the District of Montana rejected the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision to remove Endangered Species Act protection for grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. The HSUS sued to prevent premature removal of federal protections for the species, and to prevent the states of Wyoming and Idaho from opening hunting seasons on grizzly bears for the first time since the early 1970s. The court agreed with the HSUS that the Fish and Wildlife Service violated federal law by engaging in a piecemeal approach to grizzly bear conservation.
California ivory ban upheld: In November, the California Court of Appeals upheld a landmark law that makes it illegal to sell elephant ivory in California, with significant penalties of up to $50,000 or twice the value of the ivory sold, whichever is greater. Ivory dealers challenged the law, and the HSUS intervened in the litigation to defend the law. State restrictions on the sale of ivory are important tools in the effort to protect wild elephant populations—in fact, the California law has already resulted in the April 2018 conviction of an ivory seller, who was sentenced to 10 days in prison and a $5,000 fine.
Humane wild horse management option preserved: A judge in the U.S. district court for the Eastern District of Oregon ruled in favor of the HSUS in a challenge to the Environmental Protection Agency’s registration of Zonastat-H, an important wild horse and burro fertility control drug. The HSUS is the official registrant of Zonastat-H under federal law, and we rely on its availability in our work advocating for humane approaches to managing wild horse and burro populations.
Felony convictions in Alabama dog starvation case: In March, an Alabama court found a defendant guilty on six counts of felony animal cruelty and one misdemeanor. More than three years ago, the HSUS and local authorities rescued approximately 65 dogs in need of urgent care from his property. Once forfeited by the courts, the dogs were placed with our emergency placement partners as we continued to assist in the investigation and prosecution of this animal cruelty case.
New Hampshire conviction for neglect of more than 80 Great Danes: In March 2018, a jury found a New Hampshire breeder guilty on 17 counts of animal cruelty based on the deplorable conditions in which she kept 84 Great Danes. At her sentencing hearing three months later, the court ruled all dogs currently in the HSUS’s custody should be permanently forfeited to the state, and we were ordered to oversee the process of finding them suitable placement with shelter and rescue partners. In September, we completed the placement process and closed the temporary shelter, and since then all of the Great Danes have found loving foster or adoptive homes.
Forfeiture of cruelly treated French bulldog puppies: In July, HSUS lawyers assisted the City of Texarkana, Texas, with a civil forfeiture hearing for 27 French Bulldog puppies who were discovered when Texas state troopers pulled over a moving van for a traffic violation. More than two dozen puppies were found in various stages of heat exhaustion and dehydration in filthy, cramped cargo containers in the back of a moving van, which was not climate controlled. The temperature inside measured 121 degrees. The owner was found to have cruelly treated the animals at the forfeiture hearing and the surviving animals were forfeited and sent to one of our rescue partners.
The work our legal team does is integral to our many campaigns to protect animals, and we’re lucky to have them as colleagues. They are the best possible watchdogs in the field, always at the ready to defend animals and fight cruelty.