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January News

  The Big Cat Public Safety Act signed into law by President Biden. On December 20, 2022, Pres. Biden signed H.R. 263 into law, prohibiting the breeding of big cats for private possession. The law adds several provisions to the Lacey Act Amendments Act of 1981. Notably, the law prohibits licensed exhibitors from hands-on experiences with the public, closing lucrative bottle-feeding of cubs and "tiger selfies" which are said to drive the rapid breeding and disposal of big cats to keep cubs on hand. While exhibitors may continue to exhibit their animals, no further breeding or acquisition of animals is allowed. Private owners must register their animals with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service within 180 days of the law’s passage. Violation incurs substantial civil and criminal penalties.

  New York Governor Kathy Hochul signs Cruelty Free Cosmetics Act into law. Gov. Hochul signed A.5653B/S.4839B into law on December 15, 2022. The new section of the General Business code prohibits the manufacture and sale of cosmetics in New York State that have been tested on animals and takes effect in January, 2023. The attorney general may bring an action or special proceeding in the supreme court for a judgment enjoining such a violation and for a civil penalty of not more than $5,000 for the first violation and not more than $1,000 per day if the violation continues. New York joins several other states that have enacted similar laws in recent years such as California, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Nevada, New Jersey, and Virginia.

  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


Livestock not excluded from neglect portion of WV anti-cruelty law. Beasley v. Sorsaia, 880 S.E.2d 875 (W. Va. 2022). Petitioner was charged with animal cruelty in West Virginia. The incident stemmed from 2020 where humane officers in Putnam County seized several horses and a donkey that were denied “basic animal husbandry and adequate nutrition[.]”  After the seizure, petitioner claimed the magistrate lacked jurisdiction to dispose of the case because farm animals are excluded under the Code. That motion was granted by the magistrate and the animals were returned to the petitioner. After a short period of time, petitioner was charged with six counts of criminal animal cruelty and again the magistrate dismissed the complaint. However, the magistrate stayed the dismissal on the State's motion so that the circuit court could determine whether § 61-8-19(f) excludes livestock. The circuit court agreed that the section encompasses livestock from inhumane treatment and the magistrate was prohibited from dismissing the complaint. Petitioner now appeals that decision here. This court first examined the anti-cruelty statute finding that the structure of the exception under subsection (f) refers back to the conditional phrase that ends in "standards" for keeping the listed categories of animals. The court disagreed with the petitioner's claim of a "blanket exclusion" for livestock since the Commissioner of Agriculture has promulgated rules that govern the care of livestock animals that includes equines. The court held that § 61-8-19(f) establishes an exclusion for farm livestock only when they are “kept and maintained according to usual and accepted standards of livestock ... production and management." The circuit court's writ of prohibition was affirmed and the matter was remanded.

CHIMP Act requires NIH to transfer all chimps to Chimp Haven. Humane Soc'y of the United States v. Nat'l Institutes of Health, Slip Copy, No. 21-CV-00121-LKG, 2022 WL 17619232 (D. Md. Dec. 13, 2022). Plaintiff animal welfare advocates sued the National Institute of Health (NIH) for failing to transfer all chimpanzees housed at the Alamogordo Primate Facility to a retirement sanctuary known as “Chimp Haven." In 2015, NIH officially announced that it would cease biomedical research on chimpanzees and establish a working group to transfer all 288 surplus chimpanzees owned by NIH to Chimp Haven. In 2019, the NIH announced that not all chimpanzees would be transferred to Chimp Haven because 44 of those individuals were too frail for transfer due to medical conditions. After cross-motions for summary judgment, this court considers whether transfer is legally required. On appeal, Plaintiffs contend that the plain language of the CHIMP Act requires the transfer of all chimps and the court owes no deference to agency interpretation. In contrast, the Government argues that the decision is consistent with the CHIMP Act because the plain language of the act only requires that surplus chimpanzees offered by NIH be "accepted" into CHIMP Haven. The court found that the plain and unambiguous language, and use of the word "shall," in the CHIMP Act requires the NIH to transfer ALL chimpanzees to the federal sanctuary system. In addition, the legislative history of the CHIMP Act reinforces that reading of the statute. While the court recognized NIH's concern toward the frailest chimpanzees, the proper avenue is within the legislative branch. Plaintiffs' motion for partial summary judgment was granted and the Government's cross motion was denied as was the motion to dismiss. The court directed the parties to file a joint status report with views on the relief Plaintiff seeks and how the matter should proceed in light of the instant opinion.

Board minutes and testimony from village board members in motion to dismiss concerning ordinance violation for keeping excess pets was impermissible. Vill. of Orion v. Hardi, --- N.E.3d ----, 2022 WL 17256761 (Ill. App. Ct. 2022). The plaintiff, the Village of Orion (Village), sued defendants to enjoin them from keeping more than three cats in violation of a Village ordinance. After a dismissal and amended complaint by the Village, the trial court granted defendants' amended motion to dismiss, finding that the Village had previously voted to allow defendants to keep more than three cats. Here, the Village appeals this decision. By way of background, the defendants lived together in the Village since 1998, and one defendant served as the animal control officer for about 15 years. In 2013, the Village enacted an ordinance making it unlawful to keep more than three dogs or cats over the age of six months (except for licensed kennels or veterinarian clinics). The trial court's order found that the Board's language at the 2014 meeting revealed "unambiguous" language that defendants could keep the cats in their possession. After remand, the Village filed its second amended complaint in 2022 and defendants against filed a motion to dismiss. After a hearing with testimony from Board members and others, the trial court found there was a motion to allow the keeping of the excess cats and this negated the ability of the Village to proceed with an ordinance violation. On appeal here, this court finds the 2014 board minutes are insufficient to support a motion to dismiss. The submission of the board minutes together with and a defense witness, followed by the Village's presentation of another board member's testimony to refute that, amounted to the court "improperly allow[ing] the parties to conduct a mini-trial on the veracity of the essential allegations of the complaint." Thus, the trial court's order granting the dismissal was reversed and the matter was remanded.

Case Archives


Forgotten Victims of War: Animals and the International Law of Armed Conflict, Saba Pipia, 28 Animal L. 175 (2022).

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).