In 2019, HSUS legal team secured crucial wins against trophy hunting, fur, puppy mills and farm animal suffering
Our Animal Protection Litigation team plays a critical role at the Humane Society of the United States, filing lawsuits and legal petitions to support our major campaigns, drafting language for state and federal animal protection bills and ballot measures, and defending animal protection laws once they are enacted.
In 2019, among many victories, this amazing group of attorneys helped secure three major wins for farm animals in the Supreme Court; they helped draft language for crucial laws to protect egg-laying hens in three states, a successful law banning fur in California, and the Preventing Animal and Cruelty Torture (PACT) Act, recently signed into law.
Here is a review of our top legal victories of 2019:
Our 2019 litigation program began with three huge victories in the U.S. Supreme Court.
- The court rejected two separate challenges—each filed by multiple states, led by Missouri and Indiana—to landmark laws in California and Massachusetts banning the cruel confinement of egg-laying hens, mother pigs and baby veal calves, as well as the sale of products from these animals who are cruelly confined.
- At nearly the same time, the Supreme Court rejected an appeal of a lawsuit filed by foie gras producers seeking to overturn California’s law banning the sale of products resulting from the cruel force-feeding of birds.
- Building on this momentum, even more laws banning the production and sale of eggs from caged laying hens were passed through state legislatures in Michigan, Washington and Oregon.
- In November we secured a victory against the most recent legal challenge to California’s historic farm animal law, when a federal court declined a meat industry trade group’s attempt to halt implementation of Proposition 12, our successful California ballot measure that provided clear minimum space standards for farm animal confinement.
- Our legal team also won a victory against Pilgrim’s Pride, which agreed to discontinue false claims about the humane treatment of its chickens. The Federal Trade Commission will also now closely monitor the company’s claims moving forward.
APL’s victories for wildlife this year included key wins against trophy hunting as well as against commercial operations that exploit wild animals.
- After New Mexico decided to authorize trapping of cougars for the first time in 50 years, APL filed suit to protect these majestic cats as well as endangered wolves who could be caught in traps. In September, the New Mexico Game Commission reversed course and eliminated the cougar trapping program. The agency also significantly restricted trophy hunting of cougars.
- There is now a moratorium on bobcat hunting and trapping in California after a bill we drafted was signed into law in October.
- A federal court ruling rejected the administration’s efforts to dismiss our legal challenge to the International Wildlife Conservation Council—a deceptively named government advisory panel stacked with members of the trophy hunting industry.
- Our legal team also successfully pressed the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to announce that giraffes may qualify for protection under the Endangered Species Act. We sued when the agency failed to respond to a legal petition we submitted.
- We secured a long-term injunction against the Forest Service’s attempt to sell wild horses gathered from national forest land to kill buyers for commercial slaughter.
- Our legal team drafted a first of its kind statewide ban on the sale of fur in California, which was signed into law in October.
- We secured legal rulings affirming dismissal of claims against our California and New York elephant ivory and rhino horn trade bans, and a new ban in Minnesota was signed into law in May.
Companion animals and animal research
In 2019, APL made great strides in the protection of companion animals and captive animals in research and exhibition. Our team provided crucial assistance to law enforcement agencies in multiple significant animal abuse and neglect cases.
- Responding to our lawsuit focusing on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s new policy to refuse access to key Animal Welfare Act enforcement data, a federal court ruled that the USDA must release the content of its AWA inspections of puppy breeders, research facilities, and zoos and other exhibitors.
- We won a major ruling against PuppyFind.com—an online marketplace in which puppy mill operators sell puppy mill dogs to unsuspecting consumers—that forced the company to release evidence of its practices in responding to consumer complaints and promoting unscrupulous breeders.
- Several new laws to protect companion animals and animals used in research passed this year, including the federal Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture (PACT) Act—which provides federal law enforcement agencies with tools to prosecute certain crimes of extreme animal cruelty within their jurisdictions.
- Laws prohibiting animal sexual abuse in Maryland and animal fighting in Tennessee passed.
- Additional ordinances restricting sales of puppies in retail pet stores passed in cities around the country.
- In Louisiana we supported passage of a unique legal limitation on pound seizure, to prevent the sales of animals at shelters to research facilities.
- We assisted several law enforcement agencies across the country, including assistance relating to the seizure and rescue of 125 farmed animals in Prince George’s County, Maryland. Last month, the state’s attorney filed 51 criminal cruelty charges, including felony and misdemeanors, against the owner.
Fifteen years after its creation, our Animal Protection Litigation department has forged an outstanding legacy of achievement, one that continues to inspire all of us at the HSUS and our affiliates. With the help of an extensive network of hundreds of lawyers throughout the country, including some of the best-known firms in the legal profession, they’ve magnified our impact beyond any expectation. In 2020, their work – and ours – will forge ahead full-steam, as we continue with our pursuit of still more historic protections for animals.