Animal Law Legal Center home page

December News


  Did you know that about 28 states have laws that allow courts to restrain the future ownership of animals by defendants convicted of animal cruelty offenses? As state legislatures and courts learn more about animal abusers and serial neglectors, more laws have been enacted that address the repeating, or recidivist, nature of these crimes. Previously, laws only addressed the animal victims of a particular case by allowing the forfeiture of mistreated animals. More recent laws allow courts to prohibit defendants from owning/possessing animals for 5 years, 10 years, 15 years (Delaware), or even permanently in states like Maine, Michigan, and Washington. A majority of states give sentencing courts wide discretion in imposing reasonable terms of restricted ownership. Interested in seeing whether your state has such a law? Check out our new Map.

  Bipartisan team of House lawmakers pushes forward new anti-animal fighting legislation to close loophole in federal law. The Parity in Animal Cruelty Enforcement (PACE) Act seeks to extend the federal ban on animal fighting to U.S. territories. U.S. Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL) introduced the measure, which he hopes will “close[] the loophole that, until now, has allowed this despicable practice to continue throughout our U.S. territories.” Supporters of the bill also cite health risks that are particularly involved in cockfighting. Illegally imported game fowl was responsible for an outbreak of exotic Newcastle disease in the United States in the early 2000s, which ultimately spread to commercial poultry. Other backers of the bill include  Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., Rodney Davis, R-Ill., Rick Nolan, D-Minn., Kevin Yoder, R-Kan., Tony Cárdenas, D-Calif., Steve Knight, R-Calif., Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Calif., and Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla. Read the bill H.R. 4202.

  Robots are helping scientists understand changing whale migration patterns to avoid deadly whale-ship strikes. NOAA Fisheries reports that the collaborative “Robots4whales” involves the Passive Acoustics Group at NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center (NEFSC) and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI). The project uses moored buoys to autonomous underwater vehicles to detect whales by the sounds they emit using underwater microphones called “hydrophones.” The project is underway in the North Atlantic off the east coast and is directed as protecting baleen whales, like critically endangered right whales. Not only does the information collected help scientists understand migration patterns that have changed in the last decade, but it also enables the Coast Guard to avoid ship strikes and possibly change training exercises that might adversely impact the whales.

 California becomes the first state to enact a ban on the sale of non-rescue pets at pet stores. AB 485 was signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown on Friday, October 13th. The law goes into effect on January 1, 2019 and prohibits a pet store operator from selling a cat, dog, or rabbit in a retail pet store unless it was obtained from a public animal control agency or shelter or rescue group. It also requires each pet store to maintain records sufficient to document the source of each dog, cat, or rabbit the pet store sells for at least one year, and to post, in a conspicuous location on the cage or enclosure, a sign listing the name of the entity from which each animal was obtained. Violators of any provision are subject to a $500 civil penalty. Read the new law:

New archives


"Serious bodily harm" provision in youthful offender law in MA does not apply to animalsCommonwealth v. J.A., --- N.E.3d ----2017 WL 5586666 (Mass. Nov. 20, 2017). A juvenile brutally attacked her friend's dog causing serious internal injuries. The Commonwealth elected to proceed against the juvenile under the state's youthful offender statute. The juvenile contends that the youthful offender indictments are not supported because "serious bodily harm" described in the law only relates to human beings and not animals. On appeal of the motion to dismiss, this court first examined the phrase "serious bodily harm" by looking at its plain meaning and other related statutes. In doing so, the court held that Legislature did not intend "serious bodily harm" language of the youthful offender law to apply to animal victims. When looking at the legislative history, the court found that the inclusion of the language reflected a growing concern about juveniles committing violent crimes (specifically, murder) and did not touch upon animals. The court noted while the crime here raises "grave concerns about the juvenile's mental health," the juvenile's conduct toward an animal did not meet the statutory requirements. 

OK Cruelty to Animals law addresses separate animal victimsState v. Gilchrist, --- P.3d ---- 2017 WL 5196712 (Okla., 2017). The Appellant State of Oklahoma appeals the granting of defendant's motion to quash counts 2-13 of Cruelty to Animals. Evidence at the preliminary hearing showed no dogs had adequate water and rotting carcasses were found within reach of the dogs. According to responding veterinarians, all dogs were extremely dehydrated and in need of immediate medical care, and most of the dogs were malnourished and poorly conditioned with parasite-infested wounds. At district court, defendant argued that he could only be charged with a single count of Cruelty to Animals because the dogs were found all in one location and had been abandoned for approximately the same time period. The district granted defendant's motion to quash. On appeal, the Supreme Court found the district court's interpretation wrong as a matter of law. The section repeatedly use the phrase "any animal" to show that the intent to address acts of abuse against any particular animal. "Gilchrist deprived all thirteen dogs of the food, water and shelter necessary to avoid the grotesque suffering observed at the scene." Thus, the Court found the district court abused its discretion in granting defendant's motion to quash.

Plain view evidence of dogfighting, including wounded dogs, sufficient to support NY dogfighting convictions - People v. Richardson, --- N.Y.S.3d ---- 2017 WL 5183187. In this New York case, defendant appeals from a three-county felony animal fighting conviction. Defendant's dog fighting activities came to light when police were dispatched to defendant's residence after defendant's wife reported a burglary in progress. Upon entry by consent, police found, in plain view, a wounded dog in a cage, several modified treadmills for use by dogs, blood on a water heater, and apparent dogfighting paraphernalia. After seeking a search warrant, the items were photographed and other evidence (supplements, training sticks, etc.) was collected. On appeal, the court rejected defendant's argument that the trial court erred by refusing to suppress all of the physical evidence as fruit of the poisonous tree. The court noted that the dogfighting paraphernalia were observed in plain view by responding policy officers. Additionally, police officers remaining at the house after the protective sweep to prevent the destruction of evidence while the search warrant was issued did not render the search unlawful. Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution, the court concluded that the evidence was sufficient to establish that defendant intended to engage in dogfighting and that the dogs were deprived of medical treatment. In addition to the paraphernalia and collection of literature on dogfighting, defendant's dogs had extensive scarring and healing consistent with dogfighting and inconsistent with defendant's proffered "cat-scratch" and "broken window" explanations. Defendant's convictions and judgment of sentence were affirmed. .

Case Archives


Courtney G. Lee, The Animal Welfare Act at Fifty: Problems and Possibilities in Animal Testing Regulation, 95 Neb. L. Rev. 194-247 (2016).

Randall S. Abate & Jonathan Crowe, From Inside the Cage to Outside the Box: Natural Resources as a Platform for Nonhuman Animal Personhood in the U.S. and Australia, 5 Global J. Animal L. 54 (2017).

David Mahoney, Zuchtvieh-Export Gmbh v. Stadt Kempten: The Tension Between Uniform, Cross-Border Regulation and Territorial Sovereignty, 40 B.C. Int'l & Comp. L. Rev. 363 (2017).

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: