Thursday, August 12, 2010

2010 Pending Federal Legislation Affecting Animals

The Global Conservation Act—(H.R. 4959/S. 3508)—SUPPORT—if passed this bill would create an international conservation strategy for the U.S. government and provide the resources needed to turn the tide on the biodiversity crisis. It would make U.S. efforts to conserve biodiversity more effective and help coordinate those efforts across the federal government.

Refuge from Cruel Trapping Act—H.R. 3710—SUPPORT—if passed, this bill would ban all body-gripping traps, including snare, Conibear, and steel-jaw leghold, from being used on National Wildlife Refuges. This bill would make it illegal to trap on National Wildlife Refuges, thereby creating a safe haven for wildlife to dwell without unnatural and cruel threats. These traps kill indiscriminately—including pets and endangered species—whatever comes into their path. Steel jaw leg-hold traps clamp shut with bone-crushing force on an animal’s leg; the pain is so intense that an animal may chew off his or her own limb to escape on three legs. Conibear traps are designed to crush the animal’s spinal column for a quick kill. However, the trap often misses and clamps down on the chest or pelvis, crushing but not immediately killing the animal who suffers horribly. Snares are among the oldest form of trap, a simple noose made of thin wire, which tightens around an animal’s neck or body as he struggles to get away. For more information about trapping and the fur trade, please visit

Pet Safety and Protection Act—H.R. 3907 & S. 1834—SUPPORT—would prohibit Class B dealers (also called random source dealers) from selling dogs and cats for use in experimentation. Class B dealers sell non-purpose-bred dogs and cats for research. They are supposed to acquire the animals they sell only from other dealers, pounds and individuals who have bred and raised animals. However, they routinely fraudulently acquire pets, such as responding to “free to a good home” and even stealing pets to sell to laboratories. For more information about Class B dealers, please visit

Great Ape Protection Act—H.R. 1326/S. 3694—SUPPORT—If passed, this bill would end invasive research on chimpanzees and would require the release of approximately 600 federally owned chimpanzees to permanent sanctuaries where they would be allowed to live out their lives in peace. There are currently more than 1,000 chimpanzees in U.S. laboratories. For more information on the Great Ape Protection Act, please visit

The Truth in Fur Labeling Act—H.R. 2480/S. 1076—SUPPORT—This bill passed the U.S. House in June, 2010. However, the Senate still needs to approve S. 1076. This bill would require accurate labeling in all fur-trimmed apparel. Many fur-trimmed items are labeled “faux fur” despite the fact that they may contain small amounts of “real” fur. Since the 1950s, any fur garment sold in the U.S. has had to include a label indicating the species of animal used and the country of origin, but there’s a gaping loophole in the current law that excludes fur-trimmed garments if the value of the fur is $150 or less. At current pelt prices, that means a jacket could have fur on its collar or cuffs from 30 rabbits ($5 each), nine chinchillas ($16 each), three foxes ($50 each), or three raccoon dogs ($45 each), and be sold without a label. The Federal Trade Commission estimates that one in every eight fur garments doesn’t require labeling. If this bill is passed, all items containing fur must be labeled as such.

Great Cats & Rare Canids Act—H.R. 411/S. 529—SUPPORT--This bill has passed the U.S. House and is waiting to be voted on in the Senate. If passed, this bill would assist in the conservation of great cat and wild dog populations around the world, which have significantly declined. Financial resources would be provided to conservation programs in nations within the range of these animals' populations, and funding would be provided to those with demonstrated expertise in protecting these animals.

Shark Conservation Act—H.R. 81/S. 850—SUPPORT—This bill has passed the U.S. House but is still pending in the Senate. The purpose of this bill is to protect sharks from the cruel practice of shark finning (cutting off sharks' fins and throwing the sharks back in the water, often while still alive). Many shark populations have sharply declined and are labeled as threatened or endangered. Up to 73 million sharks are killed annually for their fins, which are used in shark fin soup, an Asian delicacy. Congress banned the practice of shark finning in 2000, but enforcement is complex and the law left open a huge loophole. To circumvent this law, sharks are often finned at sea, and the fins then loaded on another vessel for transport. Surprisingly, it is legal under the 2000 law to separate the shark fins from the carcasses at sea as long as the fins weigh 5% or less of the weight of the shark. This legislation closes a loophole that currently permits a vessel to transport fins obtained illegally as long as the sharks were not finned aboard that vessel. If the bill passes, the shark must be brought back to port with the fin and carcass intact and fins cannot be transferred to another vessel. For more information about shark finning, please visit For information about shark conservation, please visit

Friday, June 25, 2010

Search Warrants and Animal Cruelty

A California Appellate Court recently joined several other jurisdictions throughout the United States by ruling that the "exigent circumstances" doctrine, which creates an exception to the Fourth Amendment requirement that a search warrant must be obtained before police officers can enter the property of another, applies to cases in which animals are suffering. An exigent circumstance is a legal doctrine which provides an exception to the search warrant requirement guaranteed in the Fourth Amendment and allows a police officer to enter the property of another without a search warrant in order to preserve life or property when swift action must be taken to prevent imminent danger to life or serious damage to property. Without "exigent circumstances" or some other exception to the Fourth Amendment search warrant requirement, a police officer must have probable cause to believe a crime has been committed and must obtain a search warrant from a judge to enter a person's property. Obtaining a search warrant is obviously a relatively slow process which is why the exigent circumstances exception was established. An example of an exigent circumstance would be if an individual robbed someone with a weapon and ran into his/her house. Law enforcement would be able to enter the house to apprehend the suspect because the police officers would have a reasonable belief based upon the circumstances that the suspect would attempt to destroy the weapon and/or any evidence linking him to the crime, thus hindering the investigation of a serious offense. Exigent circumstances would also exist if an officer was called to investigate a domestic disturbance, arrived at the door and heard screaming and yelling, thus believing that someone was about to be injured. Exigent circumstances is a doctrine that is hard to define and must be examined on a case by case basis.

In the California Appellate Court case People vs. Keith Chung, the neighbor of the defendant (Mr. Chung) testified that she called the police after hearing what sounded like a dog whining in pain. The police arrived at Mr. Chung's door, Mr. Chung stated through the door that he had no dogs, but police officers heard a dog whine as though it was in pain. Based on this, the police officers believed that exigent circumstances existed and immediately entered the house without a search warrant and found a dog badly beaten on the patio and a dead dog in the freezer. Both had suffered severe head injuries. The dog found on the patio was so severely injured that he had to be euthanized. The Court stated that the whining of the dog as though it was in pain created an exigent circumstance justifying the officers entering Mr. Chung's home without a search warrant to save the dogs and prevent them from further danger. Mr. Chung, however, still has the option to appeal the case further.

While there are at least two other cases in the U.S. that I know of that are very similar to this, to my knowledge there has been no such decision made by the appellate courts in Florida. I will do further research to confirm this. I hope that Florida Appellate Courts, if faced with this case, would follow the ruling of the California Appellate Court.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Devistating Consequences of the Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico

The Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill that occurred in the Gulf of Mexico on April 22, 2010 due to an explosion caused by the collapse of a drilling platform 50 miles off the coast of Louisiana and Mississippi has released thousands gallons of oil and continues to spill approximately 42,000 gallons of oil per day coming from a well nearly a mile deep. The U.S. Coast Guard has been using robot subs to try to stop the spill. The oil spill has spread approximately 1800 square feet and has decimated the marine ecosystem in the Gulf Coast possibly making this one of the biggest oil spill disasters in history.

As of May 3, 2010, scientists predict that the oil may continue to gush for another week or even longer. The oil is currently 20-30 miles offshore. Not only has the massive oil spill hurt the fishing industry and poses a tremendous threat to tourism, but thousands of marine animals, including sea turtles, many of which are endangered, are washing ashore. More than 400 species of wildlife are threatened by the spill, including birds, sea turtles, marine mammals, fish, oysters and other creatures. The animals threatened most by the spill are bluefin tuna, sea turtles, brown pelicans, shrimp and sharks. Bluefin tuna, which are currently in the middle of their spawning season, and some species of sea turtles and sharks are extremely endangered and were just discussed in detail at the most recent CITES meeting regarding the protection of endangered species (which did not end positively for marine animals).

Other animals besides marine animals are being affected because of the oil spill. The Gulf Coast is home to a vast variety of birds. According to Ocean Conservancy, one of the biggest disasters that have occurred because of the oil spills is the effect the spill has had on birds. As of April 30, 2010, the American Bird Conservancy released a list of bird sites most immediately threatened by the ongoing oil spill. The sites previously had been designated Globally Important Bird Areas by the organization, and they are directly in the path of the advancing oil slick. Due to the migratory habits of the birds, birds will be affected as far north as Canada and Alaska and as far south as South America. Several birds affected, injured and killed as a result of the oil spill are threatened, endangered and on the U.S. Watchlist of Birds of Conservation Concern, which can be found

Marine biologists and volunteers are finding birds on the shores covered with oil and are quickly trying to clean them and provide them with much needed medical attention. Spring is the worst time this catastrophe could have happened due in part to the face that certain songbirds are going through their peak migratory season and are in the Gulf Coast area and this is also the time that many other species of birds are nesting and laying eggs. Oil seeps into birds' feathers and impairs body insulation, exposing them to cold and making it difficult for them to move. They also wind up ingesting oil, which tears up their digestive tracks.

Manatees also face extreme risk. They are already listed as endangered species under the Endangered Species Act and are also protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Five hundred manatees were killed over this past winter due to incredibly low temperatures. At this time of year, manatees are widely spread thought the coasts of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. Manatees are also vegetarians, and seagrass beds and other vegetation can be extremely damaged by oil which would cause significant injury or death to the manatees that feed on this vegetation. For more information on Manatees, please visit Save the Manatee Club at

One of the most serious consequences of the oil spill is the impact it has had on sea turtles, which are coming close to shore this time of year to lay their eggs onshore. As of May 3, 2010, the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies in Gulfport, Mississippi have already collected 20 dead sea turtles just in the past two or three days. The necropsies of the sea turtles have began May 3, 2010. The world's most endangered sea turtle, the Kemp's Ridley, only nests in the western Gulf. One of their major feeding grounds is in the area of the oil spill, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

This is more than likely only the beginning of the devastation to the environment and thousands of species as a result of the oil spill. The complexity of the Gulf Coastline, with all of its bays, inlets, marshes, estuaries and creeks, will make the cleanup extremely difficult. Scientists say that the full extent of the damage to marine animals and wildlife caused by the spill won’t be realized until the oil washes ashore.

The problem now arising is where to house the marine animals and wildlife that were injured as a result of the oil spill. Obviously, scientists and veterinarians need to be on hand to ensure the animals are treated for medical conditions and are properly recovering. The biggest obstacles facing housing the recovering animals is finding facilities equipped and of sufficient size to accommodate the animals and how housing and recovery process will be funded.

On May 3, 2010, BP has publically stated that they will pay for the cost of the cleanup (which, of course, they should assume full responsibility); however, the taxpayers are still going to have to assist in funding the cleanup and the aid to the animals. As of May 2, 2010, three states (including Florida) have requested thousands of National Guard troops to assist with the cleanup. This disaster has obviously illustrated why drilling should not be allowed in the Gulf, or anywhere else close to shorelines among so many species.

Hopefully, this will be a lesson to politicians that oil drilling in our oceans isn’t worth the cost to the environment or the cost to taxpayers.

For up-to-date blogs on the oil spill disaster and for more detailed information, please visit the Greenpeace website at

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

U.S. Supreme Court Strikes Down Law Banning Dogfight Videos

The United States Supreme Court struck down a law banning videos of dog fighting and animal cruelty on the basis that it violated people's First Amendment right of free speech and that the law was vague and overly broad. I'm proud of Justice Alito that desented from the majority opinion and was in favor of the law. For more information on this dedcision please visit I will be posting the actual opinion of the Justices soon.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Wild Animals in Captivity (Circues, Zoos & Aquariums)

In July of 2009 , Bolivia passed the most comprehensive law banning the use of ALL animals in circuses. Bolivia, however, isn't the first county to adopt such laws. In 2005 Australia adopted a law banning wild animals in circuses. Many other countries have banned the use of wild animals in circuses, including Canada, Brazil, Columbia, Greece, Israel, Singapore, and Sweden. Earlier this month the UK issued a ban of the use of wild animals in circuses. A couple of states and municipalities in the US have banned cruel treatment of animals used in circuses (such as use of a bullhook--an iron stick with an iron hook on the end of it that is used to control elephants), however that doesn't go far enough. Another issue in the use of animals in circuses in the transportation. These large animals are shoved in trains without room to even turn around and forced to go hours without stopping for food, water or fresh air. Wild animals for the most part don't live in captivity as long as they do in the wild. Nor do they reproduce as frequently, if at all. More importantly, their quality of life is greatly diminished by being forced to perform tricks for human entertainment as opposed to roaming miles a day in the wild with their families (many wild animals, especially elephants, are highly social creatures). Due to their inability to act on their instincts, many wild animals suffer health problems. For example, elephants walk approximately 30 miles a day in the wild! Since they are unable to do this in captivity, they quickly get arthritis and other ailments in their legs and backs, not to mention it is extremely difficult to control their weight in captivity.

Although for reasons illogical to me, a federal court recently dismissed a lawsuit against Ringling Brothers for violating the Endangered Species Act. However hidden cameras show the trauma these animals face on a daily basis. Furthermore, Ringling Brothers has been cited and fined numerous times by the United States Department of Agriculture for violating the Animal Welfare Act by its mistreatment of animals, include failure to provide veterinarian care. For more information specifically on Ringling Brothers, please visit

A dilemma now is what should be done with the animals in countries that have banned circuses. For a recent article on this issue , please visit from Yahoo News. Frankly, I believe the owners and the government should play an major role in financing housing for these animals in retirement sanctuaries. Fortunately, however, there are many sanctuaries for abused and retired circus animals that will care for them for life through donations received by supporters. A local example of such a sanctuary is Big Cat Rescue (

The same issues arise in animals in zoos and marine animals kept in aquariums or marine parks. As recently illustrated by the recent death of a trainer by a orca (killer whale) at Sea World, wild animals are not meant to be in captivity. Many of the animals in zoos, circuses and marine aquariums are captured from the wild and often taken away from their mothers when they are only weeks or months old. To see a database of all of the marine animals in captivity and the manner in which they were acquired, please visit,0,5047535.htmlstory.

In 2003, Lowry Park Zoo imported 11 wild juvenile African Elephants from Swaziland under the guise that it was a "rescue" because Swaziland, a tiny country bordering South Africa, at the time didn't have the capacity to care for the orphaned elephants (orphaned because their parents had been murdered by poachers). Despite the fact that MANY reputable elephant sanctuaries in Africa were willing to take the elephants, Lowry Park Zoo received a permit under CITES to import the elephants. It's important to note than when a wild animal is taken from the wild and placed in captivity or a wild animal is born into captivity, it's almost impossible for that animal to be released back into the wild and to be able to survive.

Many people without much knowledge on the subject claim that keeping animals in captivity is "saving the species". However what's the purpose of the species being saved if it's not being saved in its natural habitat? While many animals used in circuses, zoos and aquariums are endangered, taking them from their habitat obviously hinders their ability to reproduce in the wild. There are several sanctuaries in Africa that take orphaned elephants, have experts work closely with the juveniles and adult elephants in their natural habitat, and enable them to eventually be released into the wild. The key to this, however, is that they are in their natural habitat and not kept in confinement.

I wonder every day why humans think that it's acceptable to force wild animals to live in unnatural environments for the purpose of human entertainment? Shouldn't the concern for the animals' well being and the world's interest in biodiversity out way human entertainment?

For more information regarding wild animals being kept in captivity, please visit one of many wonderful websites on the topic,

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

15 Reasons to Boycott the Circus

1. Government inspection reports reveal ongoing mistreatment of animals in circuses. Because of continued abuse of circus elephants, there is a pending lawsuit against Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus.

2. Many people claim that circuses are conservation programs for endangered species (such as the Asian elephant). However no circus animal has ever been released to the wild and the conservation claim is merely a way to justify the exploitation of animals for profit.

3. Sweden, Austria, Costa Rica, India, Finland and Singapore have all banned or restricted the use of animals in entertainment. However, the US lags behind.

4. Elephants are trained to perform unnatural acts by the use of a “bullhook”, which is a 2-3 foot long club or stick with a sharp metal hook attached to the top. It is repeatedly used to beat, hit and poke the animals, often leaving permanent scars. There are numerous undercover videos and testimony from past circus employees corroborating this information.

5. Heavy, metal, and short chains are used to confine circus elephants. The elephants are chained by one front leg and one back leg, preventing them from laying down. The chaining of elephants also prevents them from interacting with other elephants, which is a natural behavior for elephants as they are very social creatures.

6. Ringling Brothers typically transport the elephants from city to city by train, chained by one front foot and one back foot and unable to lay down. They are also kept in cramped conditions for over eight hours without stopping for water. They are trained for 11 months and the one month they are not being trained, they are still confined in horrid conditions.

7. Elephant transportation vehicles lack climate control and are forced to stand for hours in their own waste.

8. In the wild, elephants live in large, sociable herds and walk up to 25 miles every day. In addition to the physical abuse of circus elephants, they are also deprived of their freedom to roam and engage in their instinctual behavior which includes socializing with other elephants.

9. Although minimum legal protections are provided in the Animal Welfare Act, the law does not provide adequate protection for circus animals. Often a veterinarian isn’t even on site and local vets are not knowledgeable about the unique medical needs of exotic animals. Circuses are frequently cited by the USDA, the agency responsible for enforcing the Animal Welfare Act, for failure to keep veterinary records, for providing moldy or rancid food and no water, for storing chemicals near the animals’ food supply, and for stocking expired medications.

10. Every major circus that uses animals has been cited for violating the Animal Welfare Act. These circuses are almost always given a slap on the wrist and forced to pay a minimal fine.

11. Enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act is very difficult because the USDA, the agency responsible for enforcement, only has 100 inspectors to monitor conditions at approximately 12,000 facilities.

12. Although poaching is a problem in Africa, there are wildlife conservation parks that are constantly patrolled to ensure the safety of animals. Elephant poaching has decreased since the highly enforced ban on the possession and sale of ivory. In recent years, the elephant population has significantly increased due to conservation efforts.

13. Although circuses claim that they are a form of educating the public about elephants, there is no education in watching the exploitation of elephants that are cruelly trained to perform unnatural acts. Circuses teach children that it is acceptable to exploit animals. No research has been shown that attending circuses increases public concern about the status of an endangered species.

14. Elephants in the circus, regardless of how much they are “trained”, are still wild animals capable of and have a history of lashing out, escaping, and thus posing a risk to public safety.

15. Elephants in the circus often carry diseases such as tuberculosis (aka “TB”) and can infect humans with this disease. Note that there is no cure for this disease in either elephants or humans.

2010 International Whaling Comission Conference

The International Whaling Commission (IWC), an international commission currently consisting of 88 member nations, was established under the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling (ICRW) in 1946 to regulate "whaling" (the hunting of whales) in order to ensure that whales were not being over-hunted and to provide for the conservation of whale stocks. The ICRW established specific time periods that whales could be hunted, established quotas, size limits on whales that can be taken, and designated certain areas as whale sanctuaries (currently there are whale sanctuaries in Indian Ocean and Southern Ocean off Antarctica in which whaling is prohibited). The ICRW was signed by member nations in response to overzealous whaling and the vast destruction of whale stocks. Prior to and during the 1940s, whales were harvested for oil, bone, and baleen for lighting, heating oil, corsets, umbrellas, and a variety of other issues.

Due to the fact that whale species were becoming threatened and even endangered, a moratorium on the commercial hunting of whales was signed in 1982 and went into effect in 1986. The moratorium remains in effect to date, as a three-forths majority vote is needed to overturn the moratorium.

A loophole in the moratorium allows member nations to hunt whales for the purpose of scientific research. Japan uses this loophole as a way of bypassing the moratorium and serves whale meat, which is considered a delicacy for the most part, in restaurants across Japan and other parts of Asia. Iceland and Norway, on the other hand, initially used the same loophole, but subsequently decided to flat out disregarded the moratorium and withdrew from the treaty. The only reason that Japan has not withdrawn from the treaty is for fear that it will face retaliation with fish embargos, mainly by the U.S. Japan, however, continues to hunt whales in the Southern Ocean despite the fact that it is a whale sanctuary.

Although native populations throughout parts of the world are allowed to continue whaling for subsistence, this is an extremely minute proportion of the whales being slaughtered.

Since the implementation of the commercial whaling moritorium in 1986, the United States has always opposed commercial whaling due to the fact that several species of whales are endangered. President Reagan championed the global ban on commercial whaling in the early 1980s. The Clinton Administration strongly supported the creation of the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary around Antarctica. The Bush administration held the line against commercial whaling.During his campaign, President Obama promised that the U.S. would provide leadership in "strengthening the international moratorium on commercial whaling" and that "allowing Japan to continue commercial whaling is unacceptable." However, in the most recent IWC conference which took place in March 2010 in St. Petersburg, Florida, the U.S., for the first time ever, is siding with Japan and advocating that the moratorium be overturned allowing commercial whaling to resume. The IWC conference is currently in recess until the beginning of June 2010, in which it willl resume in Morocco. With the U.S. now siding with Japan, there is now an excellent chance that other nations will change their positions to match that of the U.S., which may establish the three-fourths majority needed to overturn the commercial whaling moratorium. Not only would the moratorium be overturned, but hunting in the whale sanctuaries would be allowed.

Obama's reasoning behind the U.S's change in policy is that if the moratorium were overturned and commercial whaling were to resume, it could be regulated by quotas and whaling would be sustainable in the long-term. However, quotas aren't currently working. Japan is allowed to "take" 900 whales per year for research purposes and aside from the fact that the whales end up on the dinner plate, Japan exceeds that number every year without conquences. Obama's theory that allowing commercial whaling will conserve whaling (as opposed to whales) over a significant period of time is flawed in that all member nations will begin commercial whaling, which would be allowed in the whale sanctuaries, and the enforcement of quotas is almost impossible.

Many species of whales, which have existed long before humans have roamed the earth, such as the blue whale, are critically endangered and we don't have the luxury of allowing commercial whaling to resume in an illogical attempt to conserve whaling on a long term basis. If commercial whaling resumes, many species of whale will become extinct within years.

It's a tragedy that the Obama administration has reneged on its promise to strengthen the moratorium. Australia, on the other hand, has vowed to file suit against Japan in the International Court if Japan continues to violate the moratorium. Australia is currently the only country willing to stand up to Japan.

Hopefully, the three-fourths majority will not be reached to overturn the moratorium on commercial whaling, otherwise, several whale species will become even more endangered while other whale species will become extinct.