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Wildlife Legal News

Our society created a legal system to resolve disputes and declare rights. While the system is designed to give humans an opportunity to be heard, it often neglects the lives of animals, especially wildlife.  Friends of Animals seeks to utilize and develop laws in a way that offers animals representation too. Wildlife legal news covers stories from around the world about how the law is being used, or abused, to control the fate of human-wildlife interactions. It also contains updates on cases that Friends of Animals is pursuing. 

Wildlife Law Program Press Releases

Week of October 13, 2014

1) As ecotourism becomes more popular, our vigilance towards its environmental impacts must also increase (Friends of Animals, The Dodo)

As we pointed out in our autumn 2014 Action Line article,
“Safely Shooting Wildlife,” wildlife watching—and photography—have become ever-more popular for recreationists and vacation-goers. A 2011 US Fish and Wildlife Service survey reported that the amount of American wildlife-watchers has increased by almost 6 million since 2001, landing at 71.8 million partakers; this is compared to the only 13.7 million people that hunted and fished in 2011. Overall, hunting as an “American pastime” is far outpaced by wildlife watching. Read more from our article, here (

This trend points to the increasing enjoyment of Americans in viewing wildlife in their natural habitat. Many people now plan their vacations around biodiversity hotspots and wildlife-viewing events and areas. In some ways, ecotourism can help to educate people to stop exploitation of wildlife and their habitats—if done correctly.

However, while many rescues, tours, sanctuaries, centers, and the like do great work for animals, like our Primarily Primates sanctuary, there are some that are shams, promoting animal rights while still causing needless harm or exploitation to the animals they purport to help.

The Dodo provides a few tips you can follow while planning your next ecotourism trip (

 “As a responsible tourist there are several ways for you to avoid perpetuating or causing the mistreatment of animals in captivity. Researching the area you plan to go to and its involvement in conservation efforts if applicable is a great way to be informed before traveling. If a goal while traveling is to volunteer in conservation, this kind of research can lead to a far better organization to be involved with and ultimately a more genuine and enriching experience.”

2) Tensions rise over the targeting of wolf populations in several states (High Country News, Pioneer Press, abc 10 News)

Recently, following a struggle between state and federal management, Wyoming wolves were returned to federal management after a judge decided that Wyoming’s management plan for wolves was flawed ( The wolf hunting season in Wyoming has been suspended so far this season.

The fate of the wolves and their management in Wyoming remains uncertain, as well as in Wisconsin and Michigan.

Scientists in Wisconsin believe that the Wisconsin DNR has incorrect data about wolf population size and mortality rate in the state ( However, the US Fish and Wildlife Service is not disturbed by this and has left wolf management in Wisconsin to the DNR. The wolf hunt there begins on October 15th.

Michigan wolves are in store for a pivotal day on November 4th ( The elections bring votes on two proposals that could significantly affect wolves in that state. The proposals, if approved, could list gray wolves as a game species, expand wolf hunting, and give the Natural Resources Commission the authority to establish game species sans the legislature’s authorization.

These actions demonstrate the clear need for stricter protections for vulnerable wolf populations. Wolves play a vital role in balancing their ecosystems and are often targeted by humans due to untrue stereotypes about the species.

3) Protections are uncertain for species, but some are getting a hand (abc NEWS, The Dodo)

Two groups are suing the federal government over its alleged failure to provide protections for wolverines, whose snowy homes many be greatly impacted by climate change ( Wolverines, which were brought to low numbers due to trapping and poisoning, now live in much of the American West, but not in their historical habitat ranges. The two groups are arguing that the US Fish and Wildlife Service has failed to protect the wolverines from evident climate change threats; the US FWS backed away from its initial position that the wolverines merited the protection and now says that they cannot definitively determine whether the wolverines will be harmed by climate change.

Meanwhile, rhinos and elephants are getting another partner in protection: Interpol. The international police agency recently announced its creation of an anti-poaching team that will specifically work to stop rhino and elephant poaching (

4) India leads Asia with cosmetic animal-testing ban (The Dodo)


On October 13th, India announced that, in addition to its ban on animal testing on cosmetics within the country, it will now ban imports on said items, starting November 13th ( The Dodo article reports that comparable bans have already taken hold in the European Union and Israel, and that many other countries are making a shift away from cosmetic animal testing, including the US, which has previously tried to offer up a ban akin to that of India’s. Friends of Animals hopes that countries will realize that what is truly beautiful is supporting industries that produce and trade products that are free from animal cruelty. 


Week of October 6, 2014

1) Universities face scrutiny for mistreatment of animals (The Gainesville Sun, The Gazette, The Republic, Union-Bulletin)

Several American universities have faced recent controversy over their alleged poor treatment of animals used in research.

In September, Stop Animal Exploitation Now filed two complaints against the University of Florida for failing to follow proper care procedures for several animals, including two dozen anemic goats. The group has also taken on the University of Iowa, where, over the summer, four rabbits died. Stop Animal Exploitation Now is pressing for a full investigation in Iowa. If found at fault, the university could be fined $10,000 per animal.

In another incident, Washington University, in St. Louis, is under fire after information has surfaced about a lab technician that beat a dog in 2012. The technician is no longer working at the university, and a formal complaint has been filed with the USDA (also by Stop Animal Exploitation Now).

Another group, Don’t Expand UW Primate Testing, has sued the University of Washington for suspicious circumstances surrounding the approval of a new research facility where animals testing would be used. The group contends that the university’s board met in secret to discuss the plan, violating university procedures, before publically approving the facility the next day.

These events bring to light the shrouded climate around animal research and the need to secure protections for animals and find alternate ways of conducting research.

2) Massive walrus gathering highlights the plight of marine species (LA Times)

As you know, one of the Wildlife Law Program’s main goals is the protection of marine species. Over the past few months, we’ve seen many victories for marine species, including the listing of five sturgeon under the ESA; we also filed a petition over the summer to list the common thresher shark under the ESA and are writing comment letters to address federal plans that would have adverse impacts on marine species. As whaling and the Taiji dolphin hunt make international headlines, we stress that it is still vital to change the way that people view and interact with marine animals in order to best protect them.

One marine mammal that has made news lately is the walrus. Last week, 35,000 walruses congregated on an Alaskan beach in an unprecedented display. Unfortunately, the walruses were forced to gather on land due to a lack of sea ice for them to rest on. The walruses risk being trampled in these kinds of large group settings and can suffer from a lack of adequate food. Their usual feeding around their ice haul-outs provides a much superior food source. This walrus assembly highlights the effects of climate change on the lives of Arctic species and how human actions are altering wildlife behavior.

3) Animals carry stereotypes that often prevent them from receiving much-needed protections (FoA, The Dodo)

As we have seen in the case of the wild horses, peoples’ perceptions of animals often affect their value of them. Misguided perceptions can greatly injure wildlife protections. In the West, where the Wildlife Law Program is located, wolves and other predators are a hotly-contested issue. Many people support healthy predator populations in the western states, while others often favor curtailing predator populations in order to bolster big game numbers. To make matters worse, predators, and especially wolves, can be stigmatized as being viscous animals that are a danger to society. However, what FoA hopes to show people is that wolves and other large predators are important to ecosystems and are not dangerous to humans when human-wildlife interactions are properly conducted.

The Bureau of Land Management recently announced the possible approval of special recreation permits that would allow a predator hunt to take place on federal BLM lands in central Idaho this winter and in subsequent winters. Friends of Animals asks the BLM to consider the impacts to the natural balance of the ecosystem that result from targeting predators, as well as ethical reasons for not letting a private, hunting event take place on public, recreational lands. Just last week, the BLM released its Environmental Assessment for the hunt, which you can comment on. Read this article for more information.

Many people also have misconceptions about marine mammals, especially sharks. The media often portrays sharks as monsters, when, in fact, they are social and intelligent creatures. This article talks about shark personalities and how sharks have individual identities.

When we recognize and celebrate the distinctiveness and significance of wildlife, we realize their fundamental value as a part of this world.

4) Members of the mustelid family may be getting the second chances they deserve (The Dodo, US Fish and Wildlife Service)

Two species, the endangered black-footed ferret and the West Coast fisher, are both battling for survival.

In Arizona, twenty-five black-footed ferrets were recently released onto a private land as part of recovery attempts for the species. The ferrets were largely wiped out due to the plague and a lack of food, attributed in part to negative actions against prairie dog populations—the ferrets’ main food source. Many believe that the key to growing the ferret population is to protect prairie dogs.

In the Pacific Northwest, fishers, a relative of the black-footed ferrets, are facing threats from habitat loss and marijuana growing operations ( The fishers are known to eat the rat poison that is used on illegal marijuana farms. On Monday, the US Fish and Wildlife Service proposed to list the fisher on the Endangered Species Act and is accepting comments on the proposal.



Week of September 29, 2014

1) WWF Fund report shows startling trends in wildlife populations (Forbes and Huffington Post)

A new World Wildlife Fund report reveals that from 1970-2010, large percentages of wildlife have disappeared from the planet. .  Freshwater species populations declined by 76% during this timeframe, and marine and terrestrial species populations both declined by 39%. The report lists exploitation as the leading driving factor of this. Other causes include habitat loss, climate change, pollution, invasive species, and disease.

Released just a week after world leaders met in New York to discuss climate change, these numbers reaffirm the need for global action and immediate policies to protect wildlife and their habitat. 

2) International efforts show inspiring interest in animal welfare (Fox News Latino, The Dodo, CNN)

This week, we’d like to take a moment to discuss some international projects and victories for wildlife and wildlife law. It is only with the combined commitment of all countries that we can hope to make progress for wildlife, their legal protections, and their habitat.

One set of news stories we’ve been following recently is that of carriage horse bans. This week, we take a look at the drive to end the carriage industry in Cartagena, Colombia, a major tourism spot. . Four carriage horses have collapsed there so far this year. Many animal advocates believe that regulations for the industry, which were established last year, are not being imposed. As a result of the advocates’ efforts on behalf of the horses, the city prosecutor’s office has now asked the mayor to step in on the issue. We hope that actions to ban the carriage horse industry, both in the US and abroad, will continue to spark a wave of positive action against animal exploitation.

In another South American country, we learned this week that former circus lions are benefiting from the kindness of Animal Defenders International.  In Peru, which outlawed using wild animals in circuses in 2011, thirty rescued lions are waiting to head to their new homes at a sanctuary in Colorado. Transporting and coordinating the movements of the lions is no easy feat, but it is one that is well worth it in order for the animals to be able to lead lives free from human manipulation and cruelty. Peru’s groundbreaking ban on wild animals in circuses officially goes into effect this December, though preparations in anticipation of the ban have been long underway.

A few other international news stories this week include the defeat of an ag-gag law in South Australia which aimed to limit surveillance of and reporting on farm factories, and a profile of an animal sanctuary that is paving a path for animal rights in Malawi .

3) Updates on Japan and Iceland’s controversial marine capture programs (CNN, The Dodo)

One of the Wildlife Law Program’s key components is strengthening protections for marine species. This week, we submitted a comment letter to the federal government opposing the harassment of marine mammal species during exploratory gas and oil drilling in Cook Inlet, Alaska—an area that is also home to three endangered marine mammals: beluga whales, humpback whales, and Steller sea lions.

Last week, we brought you news about Japan’s insistence on continuing its “scientific” whaling program, despite enormous international backlash and a vote against Japan’s plans at a meeting of the International Whaling Commission. Not only does Japan participate in whaling, but it is also currently in the midst of its annual Taiji dolphin hunt.

In this cruel practice, dolphins are rounded up in a shallow cove and either killed for meat or taken into captivity to be sold to marine parks for thousands of dollars. The hunt was featured in the 2009 documentary, The Cove. The hunt runs from September to March, and the fisherman are allowed to take approximately 2,000 animals from seven species. The group Sea Shepherd approximates that, “850 dolphins were killed and 160 taken into captivity last season, 920 killed and 249 caught the previous season, and 820 killed and 54 caught the season before that.” Visit the preceding link to learn more about the hunt, its vicious killing practices, and what animal activists are doing to fight back.

The Dodo reports that the fisherman have just caught the first animals that will be sold to marine parks. A Risso’s dolphin and two pilot whales were captured; in addition, fifteen pilot whales were killed. The post provides a map of marine parks that buy captured animals from the hunt, as well as list of actions you can take to help stop the cruelty.

Lastly, controversy has also plagued Iceland in regards to its whaling program. Iceland’s official whaling season ended last week, claiming 137 whales. Earlier this month, 35 governments called on Iceland to end the practice. Reports note that the worldwide demand for whale meat has declined, yet the worrisome hunts still continue.

4) Law enforcement to report animal abuse to FBI database ( and My Fox Tampa Bay)


Instances of animal cruelty will soon be added to the FBI’s reporting system Law enforcement agencies will report cases of abuses to the system; no widespread database for animal abuse statistics currently exists. Data collection is slated to begin in January of 2016. Groups have often pointed to a link between animal abuse and violence towards humans.


Week of September 22, 2014

1) World Rhino Day aims to bring attention to the plight of the rhinos and other wildlife in today’s poaching crisis (The Huffington Post, The Dodo) 

Today is World Rhino Day, which celebrates the five species of rhinos throughout the world. Rhinos unfortunately face serious threats from poachers, due to a growing market for rhino horns. 

Three employees of Kruger National Park, in South Africa, were arrested recently after being discovered with a rifle and ammunition in an area of the park known for its rhino poaching problem. The three are suspected of poaching there. There is definitely concern about this case of corruption, but the alleged poachers do not detract from the efforts of the other employees that remain constantly dedicated to protecting the rhinos in the park. South Africa is trying to tackle its poaching crisis, but the cause to save rhinos and other targeted wildlife species is one that all countries must support.  

Countries that do not implement anti-poaching laws could soon find themselves at odds with the US. A bill was recently introduced here that could entail the US sanctioning uncooperative countries that do not have anti-poaching laws and enforcement mechanisms. The legislation, called the Targeted Use of Sanctions for Killing Elephants in their Range Act, was presented by Congressman Peter DeFazio. The legislation targets the ivory trade, as well as trade in other products. Potential targets of this legislation, according to The Dodo, could include China, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Uganda, the Philippines, Kenya, and Tanzania. 

2) While the fight to end the horse-drawn carriage industry in New York City rages on, Israel becomes the first country to impose a national ban on horse-drawn and donkey-drawn carts (The Dodo) 

Israel made waves as it enacted a national ban on horse-drawn and donkey-drawn carts on its city streets. While this is a victory for the animals, unfortunately, an unsavory provision for the industry still exists-- carts that are used for tourism purposes are still allowed to operate. 

With horse-drawn carriage bans already in place in many US cities (The Dodo reports that Biloxi, Mississippi, Key West and Treasure Island, Florida, and Palm Beach, Pompano, and Camden, New Jersey have banned the practice), our hope is that bans continue to take hold across the world and that exceptions for tourism or other activities are also eliminated. 

3) An update in the battle to end Japan’s whaling program (The Denver Post)

Last week, we brought you news about Japan’s plans to continue its whaling “research” despite strong international opposition and a lack of proven scientific reasons for the program’s continuance.

Last Thursday, an international whaling conference meeting in Slovenia voted down Japan’s whaling plans . However, even after the vote, Japan renewed its commitment to continue hunting whales in the Antarctic, resuming its program in 2015. Unfortunately, Japan is not required to have approval from the International Whaling Commission to continue its “scientific hunt.”  However, after capturing 252 minke whales in southern waters last year alone, it is unlikely that Japan’s whale hunts will cease to be contested on the international level anytime soon. 

4. Controversy stems from the possible end to a federal red wolf recovery program in North Carolina (Public News Service)

After a brush with near-extinction, North Carolina’s red wolves now number around 100. For the past three decades, a recovery program led by the US Fish and Wildlife Service has helped to protect the wolves and boost their numbers once again. 

Now, during a public comment period, USFWS is asking the public whether the program should continue. Without it, the fate of the red wolves is highly uncertain. 

Wolves are often stigmatized as being aggressive animals, and for this, actions towards them can often become very political. 

To comment on the proposed action to end the recovery program, e-mail



Week of September 15, 2014

1) Japan continues to hunt whales, while the international community offers tighter protections for marine life (The Denver Post, The Dodo)

Scientific research is one exception to the international ban on whaling, and Japan claims that its whaling activities fall within this realm of scientific purposes. However, the International Court of Justice does not agree. Earlier this year, it ruled that Japan's hunt is not scientific and kills large amount of whales for no real justifiable reason. Still, Japan continues to hunt. 

As Japan resists international calls to stop whaling, Australia, which is against commercial whaling, has recently stepped up its commitment to its great white sharks. A lack of knowledge about the potential negative impacts of the country’s great white shark cull means that the practice is likely to end. Australia’s Environmental Protection Authority itself has suggested that the cull should stop. 

Additionally, new regulations under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) provide increased measures to help protect seven marine species, including species of manta rays, hammerhead sharks, and the oceanic whitetip shark and porbeagle shark. 

Last month, FoA filed a petition to list the common thresher shark under the Endangered Species Act, and in June, FoA celebrated a landmark victory as the National Marine Fisheries Service listed four populations of scalloped hammerhead sharks and five species of sturgeon under the Endangered Species Act. The decisions came as a response to petitions filed by FoA and WildEarth Guardians in 2011 and 2012.

Providing protections for marine species is a main goal of the Wildlife Law Program, and we will continue to work for the betterment of the lives, living conditions, and legal protections of marine species. 

2) Small steps in rights for horses can add up to massive change (The Dodo)

As FoA battles to halt the horse-drawn carriage industry in New York City, some support comes in the form of recent developments in Utah. After the public there witnessed the suffering and eventual death of a 13-year-old horse named Jerry last year, the carriage industry has all but disappeared in Salt Lake City, with the last company recently closing. We hope that New York policymakers will take note of the growing public opinion against this oppressive industry. 

3) Reports warn of future obstacles for North American birds (The New York Times, The Denver Post)

Recent reports released by both the federal government (in conjunction with conservation groups) and the National Audubon Society point to possibly dire futures for many species of North American birds. The government report, The State of the Birds, cites one third of birds as being at risk for future woes. The report has faith, though, in the potential of conservation projects to better the fate of the birds. 

The National Audubon Society reports looks specifically at the effects of climate change on birds. An article from the Denver Post about the report notes that: “Over the next six decades or so, the critical ranges of more than half the 588 North American bird species will either shrink significantly or move into uncharted territory for the animal, according to Langham's analysis.” 

4) Friends of Animals intervenes on the side of prairie dogs in Utah (The Spectrum)

Wildlife Law Program Executive Director, Michael Harris, was interviewed regarding FoA’s recent lawsuit against the US Fish and Wildlife Service for its “low-effect” Habitat Conservation Plan for prairie dogs, arguing that it is anything but. Read the full story, here.


Week of September 8, 2014

1) Justice for sharks (The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette)

Friends of Animals has been calling for an end to NBC’s shark hunting television show. The show awards money for killing vulnerable shark species, such as the thresher shark. We recently filed a petition to list the common thresher shark under the Endangered Species Act. A central Indiana man created a petition to cancel the show and has already drawn immense support. 

You can join Friends of Animals and sign the petition, here.


2) USDA Wildlife Services in Idaho is under fire from conservation groups (The Center for Biological Diversity): 

Four conservation groups have initiated a lawsuit against the USDA’s Wildlife Services for its colossal killings of wildlife in Idaho. The groups say that the program often operates in a hidden fashion and uses brutal and ineffectual measures to kill wildlife, especially targeting predators and often killing innocent, non-target animals. 


3) Some good and bad news for whale populations (BBC News, The Dodo): 

The California blue whale population has rebounded to reach an estimated 2,200 in the eastern Pacific Ocean, making it the only blue whale population to recover from destructive whaling practices. While these California whales have managed to reach 97% of their previous historic populations, blue whales in Antarctica are only at 1% of their historic populations. Blue whales are the largest animals on Earth and face danger from ship collisions.  

Just up the coast from California, a newborn orca whale was discovered off of the Washington coast. This is a success to for the orca population, which is endangered.  

Unfortunately, whaling is still practiced today, threatening the stability of whale populations and marine ecosystems. Japanese whalers are currently hunting minke whales in the Pacific Ocean. Japan’s dolphin hunt also began in Taiji last week and was met with activists ready to intervene on behalf of the dolphins. 


4) California plastic bag ban likely to become a reality (Mashable):

California Governor Jerry Brown is expected to sign legislation into law that will create a state-wide ban on plastic bags. Passing the ban will decease waste in the state and help protect marine life. 


Week of August 25, 2014

1) Celebrating the first California Condor to hatch in the Utah wilderness in 35 years (Source: Audubon Magazine): "Bird's Eye View: California Condors Soar Back from the Brink"

"For your average Joe bird, hatching an egg doesn't make the news. But when a pair of California Condors in Zion National Park welcomed a chick to their 1,000-foot-high nest cavity, biologists and reporters alike celebrated a milestone...."Read more.  


2) On stricter animal abuse laws in Massachusetts (Source: The Dodo): "State Ramps Up Punishment For Animal Abusers "

"The penalties for abusing animals in Massachusetts just got a lot tougher. On Tuesday, Gov. Deval Patrick signed into law a bill that increases sentences for cruelty convictions." Read more


3) Tracking the ivory trade (Source: The Dodo): "From Tusks To Trinkets: Tracing The Illicit Ivory Trade Back To Its Source "

"Today, the ivory trade is at an all-time high since the commercial ivory ban was implemented in 1989. The problem is global in scale, with approximately 229,729 elephants killed and trafficked in the past six years. But where does all of this ivory come from — and who’s buying it?" Read more


4) Trying to find habitat for the world’s rarest bird, the Madagascar pochard (Source: BBC): "Madagascar pochard, world's rarest bird, needs new home"

"The Madagascar pochard, the world's rarest bird, will not be able to thrive without a new wetland home. This is according to a study revealing that 96% of the chicks are dying at two to three weeks old." Read more.