Wednesday, March 10, 2010

HSUS and the courts

Recently, a press release for HSUS legislative awards hit the media. HSUS, a nonprofit, and their lobbying affiliate the Humane Society Legislative Fund, “honored” 131 Congressional leaders for their work and/or votes on HSUS supported federal animal legislation.

To date 34 Federal bills have been introduced by legislators on behalf of HSUS. The most recent, HR 4733 Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act, introduced by Representatives Diane Watson (CA-33) and Elton Gallegly (CA-24), would require Federal agencies to procure food products from animals raised “cruelty free”.

Lawsuits filed by HSUS often attract less attention, although these maneuvers have great impact on animal use.

A four-year suit filed by HSUS against USDA came to an end last November when the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the HSUS case challenging the government’s long-held decision not to include poultry in the humane slaughter act. The suit was originally filed in 2005 claiming that “other livestock" cited in the Humane Slaughter Act of 1958 should be interpreted to include poultry. U.S. District Judge Marilyn Hall Patel ruled in favor of the USDA, saying Congressional intent to leave poultry out was clear. HSUS appealed and in November 2009 the appeals court panel ruled that HSUS did not have standing to sue in the first place.

In December, the nine year long HSUS battle alleging elephant cruelty against Ringling Brothers came to a close when Federal Court Judge Emmet Sullivan dismissed the suit. Discovering that the main witness against the circus had been paid nearly $200,000 by HSUS and other plaintiffs Judge Sullivan ruled, “The Court finds that Mr. Rider is essentially a paid plaintiff and fact witness who is not credible, and therefore affords no weight to his testimony.”

More recently, in January 2010, HSUS lost its suit against Petland charging that thousands of puppies sold by Petland were from substandard breeders. HSUS maintained it had investigated 32,000 purchases, yet in court could only present 31 claimants in a five year period. The United States District Court in Arizona dismissed 29 of the claims leaving only 2 claimants who purchased dogs from stores now closed. The Court also rejected the broad claims relating to the sale of pets from substandard breeders, referred to by HSUS as "puppy mills."

According to the HSUS website, “The Animal Protection Litigation section conducts precedent-setting legal campaigns on behalf of animals in state and federal courts around the country. With a staff of 13 lawyers located in Washington D.C., New York, San Francisco and Seattle, a network of over 1,000 pro bono attorneys and dozens of active cases, The HSUS has the largest Animal Protection Litigation program in the country.” The full litigation list of 85 cases filed by HSUS, the Fund For Animals, and their animal rights allies can be found here

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