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ALDF describes itself as attorneys active in shaping the emerging field of animal law. They specialize in "filing groundbreaking lawsuits to stop animal abuse and expand the boundaries of animal law." ALDF advocates changing the legal status of animals from property to personhood.

ALDF states in their Brochure: "Our goal is to bring a case that will take these animals out of the realm of 'property' and grant them legal status of their own. We can achieve this goal of securing legal rights for animals and will no longer have to persuade impotent government agencies and uninterested public prosecutors to stand up for animals. Instead we can launch legal action on behalf of the animals themselves."

ALDF is a partner in The Great Ape Legal Project, a joint project between ALDF and the Great Ape Project International, working to establish legal rights for nonhuman great apes. The goal is to make to chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans members of a 'community of equals' with humans. Apes would have the same legal rights as children and mentally retarded adults and would no longer be objects, things, or chattel, but considered as persons. On their website, ALDF writes, "Sadly, the law has failed to keep up with science and common sense, and winning legal rights for nonhuman animals is a slow and arduous process. The Great Ape Legal Project is laying the groundwork by raising public awareness, and by bringing strategic court challenges which, if successful, will compel the judicial system to recognize our fellow apes not as "things," but in the words of Roger Fouts our "next of kin."

In April 2010 ALDF held its Future of Animal Law Conference at Harvard Law School. ALDF attorney, Dana Campbell, presented the panel discussion "Almost a Person" which analyzed issues in chimpanzee protection, domestic and foreign laws protecting chimpanzees in research, and the current status of the groundbreaking Nonhuman Rights Project, which hopes to establish legal rights for chimpanzees through litigation. The Nonhuan Rights Project seeks to prepare and litigate the first legal cases intended to knock down the wall that separates humans from nonhumans.

At the 2010 Australian Animal Law Conference sponsored by Voiceless, the keynote guest speaker was animal lawyer, co-founder and General Counsel for the Animal Legal Defense Fund, Joyce Tischler. According to the Voiceless website, Tischler is widely regarded as the "mother of the animal law movement". In her Voiceless 2010 Animal Law Lecture Series Keynote Address: Tischler covered what has been learned in the continuing US effort to protect animals through the law, how that shapes the current focus and how the American experience applies to the development of animal law in Australia. "The overwhelming majority of animals in your country and in mine are brought into this world solely and specifically to be exploited: for use as food, clothing and research subjects, as entertainment, and as targets for hunting. So how do we frame litigation aimed at convincing judges and courts that those same animals have interests, and that those interests ought to be protected and respected?" Tischler advises her audience that those in the movement must establish a foundation of winning law suits in order to build a solid foundation. She continues, "Along the same line, we need to understand the economic and other interests that are aligned against us - agribusiness, research, hunters, trappers, the entertainment industry."


ALDF has "hundreds of dedicated attorneys" that may bring suits themselves, or the organization may retain outside legal counsel. ALDF's lawyer volunteer network grew from 70 in 2002 to more than 650 in 2007. The ALDF also awards grants to attorneys involved in animal-related cases.

July 18, 2013. ALDF filed suit in Alameda County Superior Court against the California State Fair and the University of California Board of Regents over the confinement of pregnant and nursing pigs in a livestock exhibit. The complaint states that the stalls (farrowing crates) used at the fair to contain the pigs cause the animals needless suffering. In response, Cal Expo director of marketing said the safety and health of the animals is monitored 24 hours a day by a veterinarian. The Livestock Nursery Exhibit allows visitors to watch when pigs, cows and sheep give birth and interact with their young. Students and faculty from the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine answer questions at the exhibit and supervise the care of the livestock, according to the State Fair website. The exhibit continues to be one of the most popular exhibits at the State Fair. The ALDF complaint asserted section 526a action (taxpayer action) against defendants, premised on the theory that Cal Expo wasted taxpayer money and staff time by obtaining, transporting, and exhibiting pregnant pigs. Alameda County Superior Court dismissed the case and ALDF filed an appeal February 10, 2014. Justice James Richman ruled on August 27, 2015 that an Alameda Superior Court judge was correct in dismissing a suit by the Animal Legal Defense Fund and two individuals against California Exposition and State Fairs. In his opinion Richman said a taxpayer suit is not a permissible vehicle for enforcing state animal cruelty laws. Richman further ordered that defendants shall recover their costs on appeal.

August 23, 2012. ALDF sues FDA for information on hen housing and living conditions. ALDF believes records provided under Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) were censored and has filed suit for additional reports.

November 17, 2011. Federal Government Sued Over Orca Lolita's Illegal Exemption From Endangered Species Act
The Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), PETA, and three individuals filed a lawsuit against the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) for violating the Administrative Procedure Act by excluding Lolita, an orca at the Miami Seaquarium, from the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The ESA provides members of the wild Southern Resident orca population and other endangered animals with a host of protections, including protection against being harmed or harassed. Yet, despite being a member of the Southern Residents, Lolita has been denied all of these protections. The animal rights groups want Lolita set free in Northwest waters. Miami Seaquarium issued a statement saying Lolita is active, healthy, well-cared for and plays an important role in educating the public about the need to conserve the species. Lolita has learned to trust humans completely, the statement says, and "this longstanding behavioral trust would be dangerous for her if she were returned to Puget Sound, where commercial boat traffic and human activity are heavy, pollution is a serious issue and the killer whale population has been listed as an endangered species."
UPDATE In 2012 ALDF, PETA, and the Orca Network filed suit against the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) for renewing the license for Seaquarium. The animal rights groups claimed the tank housing Lolita was too small. In March 2014 a Florida federal judge tossed the case ruling that the agency had not abused its discretion. 2015 UPDATE NOAA Fisheries published a Federal Register notice that includes Lolita, a captive killer whale at the Miami Seaquarium, in the endangered species listing for the Southern Resident killer whales that spend much of the year in the inland waters of Washington State and British Columbia. While Lolita will now share the endangered listing status of the population she came from, the decision does not impact her residence at the Miami Seaquarium. Any future plans to move or release Lolita would require a permit from NOAA Fisheries and would undergo rigorous scientific review. Releasing a whale that has spent most of its life in captivity raises many concerns, including: disease transmission, the ability of released animals to adequately find food for themselves, difficulty in social integration, and that behavioral patterns developed in captivity could impact wild animals. Previous attempts to release captive killer whales and dolphins have often been unsuccessful and some have ended tragically with the death of the released animal. Full article and Federal Register links

May 10, 2011. Animal Legal Defense Fund, Project Coyote, Animal Welfare Institute Sue the Department of Natural Resources as State Debate Rages over the Practice of Penning
Case Name: Animal Legal Defense Fund, et al. v. Robert CarterContrary to the hysterical activist claims, these facilities are not "kill pens" but are simply a safe and controlled way to train hunting dogs. Indiana Natural Resources Commission voted 9-2 to create a permit and write regulations that would allow hunters to set up pens to train dogs. The regulation requires an escape opening for every 20 acres or for every fox or coyote living in the preserve. The regulation would also require all coyotes and foxes to be from Indiana, making trading across states illegal.

December 14, 2010. Doe v. Suehs ALDF represented three plaintiffs in an effort to stop alleged abuses to chickens and the human health risks posed by the Waelder, Texas egg production facility of Cal-Maine Foods, the nation's largest egg producer. The three plaintiffs, who eat eggs and are thus at risk for contracting diseases like salmonella that can be generated at improperly regulated egg production facilities, are suing the Texas Public Health Commissioner, the Texas Commissioner of Agriculture, and the Texas Animal Health Commission for their failure to protect public health, public safety, and animal welfare in accordance with Texas law. The suit was prompted by a controversial undercover video of the Waelder facility aired by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) in November 2010.

June 29, 2010. Sebek, Farnam v. the City of Seattle. Citizens represented by the Animal Legal Defense Fund filed a lawsuit against the City of Seattle to stop the City's unlawful use of taxpayer dollars to support the Woodland Park Zoo's treatment of its elephants. Judge Heavey dismissed the suit because the group had no standing to sue the city, and there was nothing illegal about the city's funding of the zoo.


Docket ID: FDA-2006-P-0338. September 22, 2013 FDA posted Denial of petition to revise requirements Animal Legal Defense Fund , Compassion Over Killing and Penn Law Animal Law Project Petition, University of PA Law School, filed a citizens petition September 21, 2010 requesting new labeling of shell eggs sold in the U.S. Petitioners claim that current labeling fails to reveal to consumers certain material facts that substantially influence their purchasing decisions. Petitioners further requested that FDA require shell eggs to bear one of three labels: Free Range Eggs, Cage Free Eggs, Eggs From Caged Hens and provided descriptions of production conditions that would be associated with each term.

The agency states in its decision summary, “After careful review of your citizen petition and for the reasons described below, FDA is denying your citizen petition in accordance with 21 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 10.30(e)(3) because you do not provide a sufficient basis for the agency to revise the current labeling requirements for shell eggs. Specifically, you have not provided evidence sufficient to show that eggs from caged hens are “nutritionally inferior” to eggs from free-range and cage-free hens. Therefore, nutritional properties cannot provide a basis to consider the method of production for eggs to be a material fact. Moreover, nutritional information regarding particular eggs is conveyed to consumers directly by placing the particular nutrient information on the label, not by identifying the method of production, which does not provide consumers with information as to nutritive content. Second, you have not provided sufficient evidence to show that eggs from caged hens have a greater risk of Salmonella contamination than eggs from the other two production methods you define; consequently, the risk of Salmonella cannot provide a basis to consider the method of production for eggs to be a material fact. Finally, even assuming the method of egg production may be of interest to some consumers, consumer interest alone is not a material fact. Therefore, FDA is not compelled under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act or it’s implementing regulations to require such labeling under the law. Finally, even if the agency could require such labeling, it would choose to use its limited resources on rulemakings of higher priority, such as those that are of greatest public health significance or are statutorily-mandated.

The Animal Legal Defense Fund along with several other groups and individuals filed a legal petition with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service calling on the agency to issue new regulations declaring foie gras a diseased product that is unfit for human food under the federal Poultry Products Inspection Act.

ALDF supported the suit by Northwest Animal Rights Network and one of its members against the State of Washington and King County. The suit contended that granting exemptions under the state's animal cruelty legislation for commercial food production, rodeo and fair events, veterinary practices, and university research was unconstitutional.


ALDF has also developed a package of Model Animal Protection Laws that includes definitions of terms; general prohibitions; termination of unfit guardian's interest in an animal; offender registration and community notification; and other provisions. The model animal law contains a provision to prohibit the sale or transfer of an animal, either directly or through a third party, to a research or educational facility. This clearly demonstrates ALDF's non-animal use agenda. Not only would this impact needed research, but would have devastating impact on animal science programs at universities. Land-grant universities and their Colleges of Agriculture are the leading schools for animal sciences. Animal science degree programs train students for careers in farming, veterinary science, livestock genetics and breeding, biotechnology or aspects of the meat industry. Many universities with animal science programs have farms to assist in learning specialized farming methods, animal breeding, and genetic testing.


ALDF's Animal Law Program works closely with law students and law professionals to advance the emerging field of animal law. The Animal Law Program also assists bar association members interested in forming animal law bar sections or committees and partners with pro bono coordinators interested in developing animal law volunteer opportunities at their firms. ALDF created the Center for Animal Law Studies at Lewis & Clark, a collaboration between the Animal Legal Defense Fund and the Lewis & Clark Law School of Portland, Oregon. Currently there are 131 law schools in the U.S. and Canada that have offered a course in animal law.

As of November 2013, ALDF has established 177 Student Animal Legal Defense Fund (SALDF) Chapters at Law Schools and Universities across the U.S. and 19 chapters internationally. Suggested projects outlined for SALDF include:

* Cage Free Eggs at University kitchens
* Meatless Mondays at school cafeterias
* hosting screenings for animal rights films

ALDF is the creator of the the Center for Animal Law Studies (the Center) at Lewis & Clark Law School which now houses the most extensive animal law program in the nation. ALDF continues to collaborate with the Center in the rapidly developing field of animal law through classes, conferences, scholarship and clinical opportunities. With the help of ALDF the Center brought its first visiting professor, activist and attorney Mariann Sullivan, to teach "Animals in Agriculture: Law and Policy" a course previously taught by ALDF founder Joyce Tischler. ALDF’s winter newsletter discusses the course noting, “These law students will one day change the way animals are protected by our legal system.” According to Sullivan, "Animal ag is going down and lawyers are going to be the ones to take it down."


"We have created a field of law. We've learned our trade, and now we are focusing on the next steps. My commitment, she said, is I don't eat my clients." Joyce Tischler, ALDF co-founder, Legal Pioneers Seek to Raise Lowly Status of Animals, New York Times 1999

"We know that animals are abused and exploited on a level that boggles the mind, that they are sentient, feel pain and pleasure, and have interests of their own that have nothing to do with being a mere resource for humans." Joyce Tischler, ALDF co-founder, Stanford Journal of Animal Law and Policy, Volume 1, 2008

"Everything we are doing lays the foundation for the one day when animals will have rights" ...."We need to get in their faces and sue the animal users so often they don't know which courtroom they're supposed to appear in next." Valerie Stanley, ALDF Attorney June, 1996

"I'm a former animal abuser. I used to own racehorses, raise roping steers, hunt and eat meat. I've probably done it all. But that's changed." Texas attorney Robert 'Skip' Trimble, chairman of ALDF's Board of Directors. "Abuser' to Animal Champion, the Animals Advocate - Quarterly newsletter of the Animal Legal Defense Fund.

"Animals need lawyers. Humans have lawyers to represent their interests. Why not the animals?" Joyce Tischler, ALDF co-founder, Stanford Journal of Animal Law and Policy, Volume 1, 2008

Regarding the HSUS/UEP agreement to seek federal regulation of the egg industry, Stephen Wells - ALDF Executive Director - comments: "For this agreement to truly improve the lives of farmed animals in the United States, the resulting law must have teeth. Existing federal animal protection laws, such as the Animal Welfare Act, have been rendered practically ineffective because of lax enforcement by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), a government agency closely tied to the agriculture industry. The ideal way to solve this problem would be the inclusion of a 'citizen suit provision' that would permit enforcement of the law by concerned citizens." ALDF Blog July 18, 2011


CARTER DILLARD: is the director of litigation for the Animal Legal Defense Fund. Carter served Compassion Over Killing as general counsel and the Humane Society of the United States as director of farm animal litigation. In addition to his work for animal rights, Dillard argues there should be a constitutional limit on having children. "The right to care, custody, and control of one`s children can be limited and even terminated by the state`s compelling interest in children not living beneath a certain minimum threshold level of well-being. All that is needed is a showing that parenting in the home is unfit, that is, that life within it falls below some set of statutorily defined guideposts that create a standard of 'minimally acceptable care', or circumstances which fall below 'minimally adequate standards' including whether 'there is a showing of parental unwillingness or inability to provide basic care for the child.' " Procreation, Harm, and the Constitution

STEPHEN WELLS: ALDF CEO, founder and director of ALDF Animal Law Program. According to Wells, there is no clear distinction between humans and other animal species. He claims any absolute differences relied on in the past have fallen one by one to scientific research. In The Animals' Advocate Wells argues that animals should be recognized by the courts as more than property, "Centuries of jurisprudence have shackled animals to the status of things, a status that conflicts with our modern understanding of animals and their capacity for thought, self-awareness, and suffering. Do animals have rights? ALDF thinks they do."


Animal Rights Activists Want to Put an End to Dodger Dogs.

Legal Counsel Tells Court That Her Clients Would Rather See Elephants Euthanized Than in a Zoo

ALDF Conference to bring together animal law experts from around the world

Broad Exemptions in Animal-Cruelty Statutes Unconstitutionally Deny Equal Protection of the Law, 70 Law & Contemp. Prob. 255 (2007), authored by Professor William Reppy-Duke University Animal Law, Director of Animal Legal Defense Fund's North Carolina Animal Cruelty Project 2004

Monkey Trial: Redefining a Jury of Their Peers
"This is going to be a very important case", said William A. Reppy Jr., a Duke University law professor. Note: this article was written in 1999 and states there are about a dozen law schools teaching animal law. Today that number exceeds 130.

ALDF new campaign to set up online pet abuser registries a bad idea

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