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October - November News

  China faces possible sanctions by U.S. over failure to stop trade in critically endangered pangolins. Secretary Deb Haaland of the U.S. Department of the Interior notified the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives of her finding that nationals of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) are diminishing the effectiveness of CITES by engaging in trade or taking of pangolin species, pursuant to the Pelly Amendment. Under the Pelly Amendment to the Fishermen’s Protective Act of 1967, when the Secretary of the Interior finds that “nationals of a foreign country . . . are engaging in trade or taking which diminishes the effectiveness of any international program for endangered or threatened species,” such as CITES, the Secretary must certify that finding to the President. Once a Pelly Certification has occurred, it is then up to the President to determine whether to take action to encourage other nations to comply with treaty obligations, typically by unilateral trade sanctions. Pangolins, scaley mammals indigenous to both Africa and Asia, are the most heavily trafficked animals in the world due, in large part, to their value in traditional Chinese medicine.

   Texas enacts law banning convicted animal abusers from owning pets for five years. With HB 598 (V.T.C.A., Penal Code § 42.107) signed into law, Texas joins approximately 39 other states that restrain or ban animal offenders from possessing pets after conviction. As of September 1, 2023, Texas makes it a Class C misdemeanor to own or possess an animal within five years if previously convicted of cruelty to livestock animals (§ 42.09), cruelty to non-livestock animals (§ 42.10), or dogfighting (§ 42.10). State possession bans vary, with half of those states mandating bans at sentencing and the remainder giving a judge discretion to impose restraints on ownership. Most states have a five-year ban, but California allows ten years for a felony conviction and Delaware expands this to fifteen years. Several states including Maine, Michigan, and Washington enable courts to impose permanent relinquishment of the ability to own or possess animals. Check out our Map to see what your state law says.

   New Jersey enacts law to end cruel confinement of veal calves and pregnant pigs. On July 26th, New Jersey governor Phil Murphy signed A1970/S1298 into law. The bill prohibits the confinement of breeding pigs and calves raised for veal in a manner that unduly restricts movement or provides inadequate space. Violation of the bill’s prohibitions constitutes a disorderly persons offense and would also be a civil violation of the animal cruelty laws subject to a civil penalty of not less than $250 or more than $1,000. A gestation crate is a metal cage so small that a mother pig is unable to turn around or move freely for virtually her entire life. Veal crates are small, individual cages used to confine newborn calves prior to slaughter preventing almost any natural behavior and social interaction. According to the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), the bill's enactment reflects a 13-year campaign to lessen animal suffering and protect consumers from zoonotic disease potential linked to extreme confinement of farm animals.

News archives


Colorado Supreme Court finds legislature intended prior animal cruelty convictions as sentence enhancer rather than element of felony cruelty charge. Caswell v. People, 536 P.3d 323 (Colo., 2023). This case concerns several charges of animal cruelty against petitioner Caswell. A welfare check was conducted in response to a report, resulting in the seizure of petitioner's sixty animals. These animals lacked sufficient food or water, were kept in enclosed spaces filled with feces and urine, and many of the animals were underweight or had untreated medical problems. Respondent charged Caswell with 43 class six counts of cruelty to animals, which were charged as felonies because Caswell had prior convictions of misdemeanor animal cruelty. The jury found Caswell guilty of all 43 counts and sentenced her to eight years of probation, 43 days in jail, and 47 days of in-home detention. After being affirmed on appeal, Petitioner filed for certiorari and the Supreme Court of Colorado granted. Here, petitioner argues that the use of her prior convictions for animal cruelty to enhance her charges to felonies violates the Sixth Amendment and the Colorado Constitution. After reviewing the factors, the court concluded that the legislature intended to designate the fact of prior convictions as a sentence enhancer rather than an element of the current crime. The court also concluded that the sentence did not violate the Sixth Amendment or article II of the Colorado Constitution, and affirmed the holding of the lower court.

Keeping terminally ill dog in state of suffering does not constitute "subjecting" a dog to harm under Massachusetts's anti-cruelty law, court finds. Commonwealth v. Russo, -- N.E.3d ----, 2023 WL 5962931 (Mass. App. Ct. Sept. 14, 2023). The owner of fourteen-year-old dog brought the dog to an animal hospital where veterinarians found a large mass that necessitated surgery. Defendant declined surgery and took the dog home. Three weeks later, defendant brought the dog back, where the staff noticed that his condition had worsened significantly, and the veterinarian recommended humane euthanasia to end the dog’s suffering. The owner then asked for surgery, but the vet indicated that the dog would not survive, so the owner again took the dog home. The veterinarian reported defendant to the Animal Rescue League of Boston, who conducted a welfare check on the dog and found it in very poor health. When the Animal Rescue League asked defendant to euthanize the dog or get him medical attention, defendant declined and insisted the dog would die at home. Defendant was charged with violating the animal cruelty statute, defendant’s motion to dismiss the complaint was granted, and this appeal followed. The question on appeal is whether defendant’s conduct in refusing to euthanize the dog constitutes animal cruelty under the statute. After examining case law, the court could not find a case in which a person's failure to euthanize an animal was interpreted as “subjecting” an animal to harm, and did not want to extend the statute that far. The court affirmed the holding of the lower court.

County had a mandatory duty to release dogs scheduled for euthanasia to qualified nonprofit animal rescue or adoption organizations. Santa Paula Animal Rescue Ctr., Inc. v. Cnty. of Los Angeles, 313 Cal. Rptr. 3d 566 (Cal. Ct. App. Sept. 18, 2023), reh'g denied (Oct. 16, 2023). Plaintiffs filed a petition for writ of mandate against defendant county seeking to compel the release of impounded dogs scheduled for euthanasia to plaintiffs. The court sustained defendant’s demurrer without leave to amend, and this appeal followed. Plaintiffs argue on appeal that the Hayden Act imposes a duty on defendant to release the dogs scheduled for euthanasia to plaintiffs. The court examined the relevant code, which stated that “any stray dog that is impounded pursuant to this division shall, before the euthanasia of that animal, be released to a nonprofit” and agreed with plaintiffs’ argument that the use of the word "shall" indicates that the legislature intended to impose a duty on defendant to release these dogs upon request to qualified nonprofit animal rescue or adoption agencies. The court also concluded that the demurrer was improperly granted as defendant lacked discretion to withhold and euthanize a dog based upon its determination that the animal has a behavioral problem or is not adoptable or treatable. The court agreed, however, that defendant had discretion to determine whether and how a non-profit organization qualifies as an animal adoption or rescue organization. The court reversed the judgment of the trial court, vacated the trial court’s order sustaining the demurrer without leave to amend, and remanded to the trial court.

Court finds LSU labs must produce veterinary records related to research animals, but other records like private communications between employees and trapping records were unduly burdensome. People for Ethical Treatment of Animals v. Bd. of Supervisors of Louisiana State Univ., --- So.3d ----, 2023 WL 6119352, 2022-0976 (La. App. 1 Cir. 9/19/23). Plaintiff-appellee PETA began this case by issuing eight public records requests to defendant-appellant Louisiana State University (LSU). PETA made these records seeking veterinary care and disposition records for birds used in LSU’s laboratories. For the first seven of these requests, LSU did not produce the records, so PETA filed a petition for a writ of mandamus, declaratory judgment, and injunctive relief pursuant to the Public Records Law. LSU denied PETA’s allegations and did not produce the records, so PETA made an eighth records request, which LSU responded to with an assertion that the requested records were exempt from disclosure. After a hearing, the trial court issued an oral ruling in favor of PETA and granted some of the records that PETA requested. LSU appealed. On appeal, the court considered whether the records sought by PETA were covered under the Public Records Law. The court first found that LSU qualifies as a research facility under the Animal Welfare Act, and needs to comply with federal law and maintain and produce records relating to research animals, so long as the records being sought would not be unduly burdensome to produce. The court held that the portions of the judgment ordering LSU to produce veterinary daily observation reports, veterinary daily health check records, and other veterinary records were affirmed. However, some of the information sought, including private communications between LSU employees, trapping records, and some videographic records, were considered unduly burdensome to compel LSU to produce.

Case Archives


Examining the Veterinary Client-Patient Relationship in the United States: Why the Abolition of the In-Person Examination Requirement is Warranted, Jeffrey P. Feldmann, 56 Suffolk U. L. Rev. 91 (2023).

Derechos de los animales en Colombia: una lectura crítica en perspectiva ambiental, Carlos Lozano, State Law Magazine, 54 (Nov. 2022), 345–380.

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).

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).