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March News


  USDA-APHIS begins to repost some materials removed from website in February. On March 3, 2017, USDA-APHIS announced that it has begun to repost inspection materials for certain breeders and exhibitors that it regulates under the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA). The entire database of AWA inspection and annual reports was removed in February because APHIS contended the agency planned to conduct a "comprehensive review" aimed at protecting privacy rights of suspected violators and others. APHIS now says on its website that "it may be several weeks before it will be prepared to issue its next update." The current search page allows users to search by type of licensee (i.e., breeder, exhibitor, research facility, etc.) within a particular state. The redacted inspection and compliance forms for each state then appear in .pdf format. To reach the new page, please see In addition, USDA-APHIS still maintains a link for reporting animal welfare complaints for violations of the Animal Welfare Act and Horse Protection Act.

  United Arab Emirates (UAE) bans the ownership of dangerous animals, including imperiled cheetahs. In early January, the government of the UAE formalized the law (2016 No. 22), which prohibits the private ownership of many dangerous wild animals, including hyenas, primates, bears, bats, wolves, zebras, giraffe, hippos, ostriches, vultures, crocodiles, snakes, spiders, scorpions, and big cats, like cheetahs. Violation of the law incurs a jail term, a fine of 10,000 AED ($2,723 USD) to 700,000 AED ($190,575 USD) or both. National Geographic reports that cheetahs have become a symbol of wealth in the country. The desire to own cheetahs has led to an increase in illegal wildlife trafficking from cheetahs' native countries in Africa to Arabian Peninsula countries and many other Western nations. Such trafficking concerns wildlife advocates since the population of wild cheetahs has dropped dramatically in the last 100 years, from an initial population of over 100,000 to only 7,100 now (for a study of the decline, see the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States (PNAS). The IUCN Red List current designates the species as "vulnerable," though conservationists are urging the organization to change the status to "endangered" based on the rapid decline in population.

  City of San Francisco passes ordinance prohibiting retail pet stores from selling dogs and cats not obtained from animal rescues or shelters. The measure, introduced by Supervisor Katy Tang in December of 2016, amends the San Francisco Health Code to prohibit the sale of domestic dogs and cats not obtained from animal rescue sources. The legislation will also prohibit the sale of puppies and kitties under 8 weeks of age. The ordinance does not affect the sale of dogs or cats directly from breeders, or the acquisition of dogs or cats from breed-specific organizations or shelters. In a press release from December, Supervisor Tang indicates the legislation is aimed at reducing overpopulation of dogs and cats that "costs taxpayers money," and also serves to discourage pets from being bred in commercial pet facilities. Tang states, "San Francisco is setting an example that this practice is not welcome here and that animals are members of our family and not commodities to be sold for profit.” According to city legislation updates, the measure was passed unanimously on February 28, 2017.

New archives


Service dog in school - Fry v. Napoleon Community Schools, --- S.Ct. ---- 2017 WL 685533 (U.S., 2017). The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) offers federal funds to states in exchange for “free appropriate public education” (FAPE) to children with certain disabilities. When trained service dog, Wonder, attempted to join Plaintiff E.F. in kindergarten, officials at Ezra Eby Elementary School refused. E.F.'s parents removed E.F. from the school and filed a complaint with the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) and eventually filed suit in federal court against the defendant school districts. Certiorari was granted, and the Supreme Court of the United States vacated and remanded. The court held that the Appeals Court should establish: (1) whether (or to what extent) the plaintiff parents invoked the IDEA's dispute resolution process before bringing this suit; and (2) whether Plaintiffs' actions reveal that the gravamen of their complaint is indeed the denial of FAPE. The court reasoned that Exhaustion of the IDEA's administrative procedures is unnecessary where the gravamen of the Plaintiffs' suit is something other than the denial of the IDEA's core guarantee of a FAPE.

Dog bite of animal shelter volunteer - Blake v. County of Wyoming, 46 N.Y.S.3d 753 (N.Y. App. Div. 2017). Plaintiff, a volunteer dog walker, sustained injuries from a dog bite at the Wyoming County Animal Shelter and filed suit against the City of Wyoming based on strict liability. The lower court denied the City's motion for summary judgement. In reversing the lower court's decision, the Court of Appeals held that the City did not have actual or constructive knowledge that the dog had vicious propensities despite plaintiff's argument the shelter was aware the dog had previously knocked over a four-year-old child. The Court of Appeals found that this behavior was not notice to the shelter that the dog had any propensity to bite and reversed the lower court’s decision.

Feral cats versus threatened birds - American Bird Conservancy v. Harvey, --- F.Supp.3d ---- 2017 WL 477968 (E.D.N.Y., 2017). American Bird Conservancy and individual bird-watcher plaintiffs sued the Commissioner of the New York State “Parks Office," asserting that the Commissioner failed to act while members of the public routinely fed, built shelters, and cared for the feral cats on Jones Beach. As the cat colonies flourished, the threatened Piping Plover bird population decreased due to attacks by the cats, in violation of the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA). The Commissioner moved to dismiss the complaint. In denying the Commissioner's motion to dismiss, the District Court, held that the plaintiffs had sufficient standing to bring action alleging violation of the Endangered Species Act.

BLM wild horse "gather" (removal) - Friends of Animals v. United States Bureau of Land Management, --- F.Supp.3d ---- 2017 WL 499882 (D.D.C., 2017). Friends of Animals sought a preliminary injunction against the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) after the BLM started organizing a new “gather” - a term used for the removal of wild horses. Friends of Animals asserted that the gather violated the environmental assessment (EA) requirement of NEPA and that the agency failed to make an excess population determination before authorizing the gather. The court held that plaintiff's challenges were not likely to succeed and there was not a sufficient irreparable harm to warrant a preliminary injunction. Additionally, the court found that the BLM had not violated the Wild Horses Act because the BLM had in fact previously conducted an excess population determination.

Fourth amendment issues in animal cruelty seizure - State v. Smith, --- N.E.3d ---- 2017 WL 422315 (Ohio Ct. App., 2017). Jane Smith was charged with 47 counts of animal cruelty after 47 dogs and other animals were seized from her property where she had a private "dog rescue." On appeal, Smith argued that her Fourth Amendment rights had been violated based on the information that led to the seizure of the dogs. However, the court noted that the information came from private citizens (people who were looking for their lost dog and observed the neglected animals on Smith's property), so the Fourth Amendment was not applicable. The Court of Appeals found that Smith had not provided enough evidence to establish that her due process and other constitutional rights had been violated during trial, so the Court of Appeals those arguments were dismissed as well. Ultimately, the Court of Appeals upheld the lower court’s decision and sentencing.

Right to intervene in AWA violation case - Animal Legal Defense Fund, Inc. v. Vilsack, Slip Copy 2017 WL 627379, (D.D.C., 2017). The Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) sought to intervene on a proceeding dealing with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and a family owned-zoo in Iowa for alleged violations of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA). The USDA was seeking enforcement of the AWA against the Iowa zoo and the ALDF sought to intervene because it has long criticized the zoo's care and handling of its animals. The ALDF was prevented from intervening by the administrative law judge (ALJ) that was presiding over the matter, finding that the “ALDF’s stated interests were beyond the scope of the proceeding.” On Appeal, the court found that the ALDF should have been allowed to intervene in the proceeding according to 555(b) because the ALDF’s "demonstrated interest in the welfare of the zoo's animals falls squarely within the scope of the USDA enforcement proceeding.”

Case Archives


Animal Rights Law Reporter, published by the Society for Animal Rights, Inc., edited by Professor Henry Mark Holzer, available issues from 1980 - 1983.

Trophy Hunting Contracts: Unenforceable for Reasons of Public Policy, Myanna Dellinger, 41 Colum. J. Envtl. L. 395 (2016).

Stevens, R.A.V., and Animal Cruelty Speech: Why Congress's New Statute Remains Constitutionally Problematic, J. Alexandra Bruce, 51 Gonz. L. Rev. 481 (2015-2016).

Animals as More Than 'Mere Things,' but Still Property: A Call for Continuing Evolution of the Animal Welfare Paradigm, Richard L. Cupp, Jr., University of Cincinnati Law Review, Forthcoming; Pepperdine University Legal Studies Research Paper No. 19 (available at SSRN:

Designing a Model Dog Park Law,  John J. Ensminger and Frances Breitkopf, Animal Legal & Historical Center (2016).

Take it to the Limit: The Illegal Regulation Prohibiting the Take of Any Threatened Species Under the Endangered Species Act, Jonathan Wood, 33 Pace Envtl. L. Rev. 23 (2015).