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August News

  The SWIMS Act introduced in U.S. House would end import and export of certain marine mammals for public display. The Strengthening Welfare in Marine Settings Act of 2022, or SWIMS Act (HR 8514), was developed by advocacy organization the Nonhuman Rights Project. The act would amend the Marine Mammal Protection Act by banning the export or import of cetaceans like orcas, beluga whales, false killer whales, and pilot whales for public display in captivity. Only export and import for the purpose of bringing the animals to an approved marine mammal sanctuary would be allowed. In addition, the act amends the Animal Welfare Act by making it “unlawful for any person to breed or artificially inseminate any orca, beluga whale, false killer whale, or pilot whale for purposes of using the progeny of such species for public display.” If passed the SWIMS Act would be the first amendment to the MMPA in nearly 30 years. Want more on the MMPA? Check out our new article: Reviewing the Marine Mammal Protection Act Through a Modern Lens by Bradley Varner.

  California (AB 2606) and Delaware (HB 333) ponder cat “declawing” bans in 2022. In 2019, New York became the first state to ban this elective and painful surgery for cats (McKinney's Agriculture and Markets Law § 381). Maryland’s Governor Larry Hogan signed HB0022 in April of 2022 to become the second state to ban the procedure (which becomes effective on October 1, 2022). Amputation of a cat’s toes through onychectomy (the formal name for cat declawing) is not the only convenience surgery regularly performed on companion animals. States have begun to examine non-therapeutic tail docking and ear cropping in dogs as well, though no state bans those procedures outright. Curious to learn more about medically unnecessary surgeries in companion animals? Check out our new paper Detailed Discussion of Non-Therapeutic Procedures for Companion Animals by Asia Siev.

  Massachusetts becomes 12th state to enact a “Beagle Freedom Law.” On August 4, 2022, Governor Charlie Baker signed H. 901 into law. This new law mandates that “a research facility or product testing facility shall, after the completion of any testing or research involving a dog or cat that does not require euthanasia of the animal upon the termination of the study . .  . make a reasonable effort to offer the dog or cat for adoption to an individual, an animal shelter or an animal rescue organization for the purpose of facilitating the adoption of said dog or cat to a permanent adoptive home.” The research or animal testing facilities may also enter into cooperative agreements with animal rescue organizations to carry out the provisions of this new law. To see the states that have enacted these laws, please see our Map.

News archives


Incident involving dog and another resident and whether this was a "direct threat" raised genuine issue of material fact to preclude summary judgment in FHA housing discrimination case. Andrade v. Westlo Mgmt. LLC, --- A.3d ----, 2022 WL 2183604 (R.I. June 17, 2022). The defendants, Westlo Management LLC (Westlo) seek review of a Superior Court order granting partial summary judgment on several counts in favor of the plaintiffs, Curtis W. Andrade and The Rhode Island Commission for Human Rights (the commission). The defendants assert that the existence of genuine issues of material fact precluded partial summary judgment and that the commission did not have standing to intervene in this matter. The matter stems from a denial of plaintiff's request for a reasonable accommodation at Westlo's property. Prior to moving in to Westlo's low-income property, plaintiff was told by a leasing agent that he was not permitted to have his dog, Enzo, because the dog (a pit bull) was on the complex' restricted breed list. After cross-motions for summary judgment by both parties, the hearing justice granted plaintiffs motion for summary judgment finding that Westlo had discriminated against Andrade. However, she found there to be a genuine issue of material fact as to whether the dog had requisite training. The justice also acknowledged that she had misstated that the request for the reasonable accommodation had occurred before an aggressive incident with the other resident. As a result, she declined to make a finding of fact on that issue. On defendants' appeal of summary judgment, defendants argue that the issue of whether an accommodation is reasonable under the FHA is a factual one and thus it was error for the hearing justice to make those determinations. The Supreme Court looked at the similar language of both the federal FHA and the state FHPA. While the court found that plaintiff met the definition for disability under the laws and that defendant was made aware of plaintiff's need for reasonable accommodation, it was troubled by the "direct threat" posed by the dog. Specifically, the court found issue with the date mix-up in the initial hearing for the incident with the dog and another resident. Therefore, due to the highly fact-specific nature of the assessment of an assistance animal as well as the conflicting evidence presented, this court disagreed with the hearing justice and concluded summary judgment was not appropriate. The record was remanded to the Superior Court for further proceedings in accordance with this opinion..

New York holds that animals cannot be the subject of habeas corpus relief. Nonhuman Rts. Project, Inc. v. Breheny, --- N.E.3d ----, 2022 WL 2122141 (N.Y. June 14, 2022). This New York case centers on a petition of habeas corpus for an elephant named "Happy" who is housed at the Bronx Zoo. Petitioner Nonhuman Rights Project is a not-for-profit corporation with a mission of seeking to establish that “at least some nonhuman animals” are “legal persons” entitled to fundamental rights, including “bodily integrity and bodily liberty.” In 2018, petitioner commenced this habeas proceeding in Supreme Court against respondents. Petitioner sought a writ of habeas corpus “on behalf of Happy,” an Asian elephant that petitioner claimed was unlawfully confined at the Zoo in violation of her right to bodily liberty. Happy has resided at the Bronx Zoo for the last 45 years and has been held in captivity since she was approximately one year old. Petitioners request that she be transferred to an “appropriate sanctuary" where she could potentially be integrated with other elephants. Specifically, respondents argued that there was no legal basis for habeas relief and that Happy's living conditions comply with all relevant laws and accepted standards of care. The Supreme Court dismissed the petition on the ground “that animals are not ‘persons’ entitled to rights and protections afforded by the writ of habeas corpus” and that habeas relief is not available for an animal. On petitioner's appeal, the Appellate Division unanimously affirmed, reasoning that “the writ of habeas corpus is limited to human beings.” While the court acknowledged that the law recognizes that animals are not mere "things," and existing animal protection laws underscore this conclusion, the scope of habeas corpus does not include animals. As such, the order of the Appellate Division was affirmed.

Case Archives


From Factory Farming to A Sustainable Food System: A Legislative Approach, Michelle Johnson-Weider, 32 Geo. Envtl. L. Rev. 685 (2020).

Backyard Breeding: Regulatory Nuisance, Crime Precursor, Lisa Milot, 85 Tenn. L. Rev. 707 (2018).

When Fido is Family: How Landlord-Imposed Pet Bans Restrict Access to Housing, Kate O'Reilly-Jones, 52 Colum. J.L. & Soc. Probs. 427 (Spring, 2019).

Does Every Dog Really Have Its Day?: A Closer Look at the Inequity of Iowa's Breed-Specific Legislation, Olivia Slater, 66 Drake L. Rev. 975 (2018).