Friends of Animals (FoA) is a non-profit, international animal advocacy organization incorporated in the state of New York since 1957. Friends of Animals advocates for the rights of nonhuman animals, free-living and domestic. Our goal is to free animals from cruelty and institutionalized exploitation around the world.
The organization has grown from its beginnings as the most comprehensive low-cost spay neuter program in the country, facilitating more than 2.8 million spay/neuter procedures to date. It has evolved as well and now places critical habitat, wildlife protection and veganism at the core of animal advocacy. We also address the biggest contributors to climate change caused by human activity—deforestation, animal agriculture and fossil fuels.
Our advocacy work includes legal initiatives by our Wildlife Law Program as well as policy and legislative outreach on such issues as banning fur sales and prohibiting trophy imports of Africa’s Big 5.
FoA is on the frontlines of providing sanctuary for animals that were victims of exploitation in the exotic pet trade, research and entertainment industry, operating Primarily Primates in San Antonio, which cares for more than 300 animals including many chimps.
Our reach also extends overseas with two important projects in Africa: the Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Project in The Gambia and our work in Senegal where FoA has been instrumental in establishing and maintaining a recovery program for the Scimitar-horned Oryx and Dama Gazelle. FoA is also working to restore the critically endangered North African red-necked Ostrich (Struthio camelus camelus), the largest bird on earth. What’s more FoA has partnered with Senegal National Parks to establish water-efficient gardens as a new source of sustainable nutrition for local communities in the Ferlo area of northeast Senegal.
Latest Advocacy and Achievements
Your support enables us to continue to push for change on the frontlines. Below is a summary of our recent legal victories and other successes:
Spay/Neuter: Spay/neuter is the most effective way to prevent pet homelessness in America. Pet adoptions soared because of the pandemic, but many shelters were forced to suspend their spay and neuter programs. Our low-cost certificates have been a boon to families who had to get their pets altered on their own. During the pandemic, we have provided close to 14,000 certificates, a 30% hike from the prior year.
Wild Horses and Burros: A federal appeals court ruled May 17 that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wrongly refused to review Friends of Animals’ bid to include Montana’s Pryor Mountain wild horse herd—made famous by Cloud, a white palomino stallion featured in documentaries—on the country’s list of imperiled species because its refusal hinged on a rule that is inconsistent with the Endangered Species Act.
FoA is also in court fighting the Bureau of Land Management for issuing decisions that allow the agency unfettered discretion to round up wild horses for the next decade. These plans eliminate public input and oversight of how the BLM manages wild horses. We also filed a lawsuit in 2021 to suspend the agency’s $1,000-a-head Adoption Incentive Program because it creates a pipeline to slaughter for thousands of federally protected wild horses.
Most recently, FoA submitted a rulemaking petition to new Bureau of Land Management Director Tracy Stone-Manning to halt wild horse roundups and convene an independent panel of scientists to overhaul the agency’s controversial Wild Horse and Burro Program rules and policies. FoA wants the BLM to include the impact of cattle and sheep ranching on public land range assessments, and immediately reduce the number of cattle and sheep within wild horse herd management areas when any wild horse management is planned because of range deterioration, followed by a phaseout of all livestock as grazing permits expire.
Hunting: Friends of Animals succeeded in its effort to overturn a regulatory rule that illegally forced artists who entered the Federal Duck Stamp Contest to promote hunting. The inclusion of an element “celebrating our waterfowl hunting heritage” was added to the duck stamp art rules in 2020 by the Trump administration.
That year, Friends of Animals filed a lawsuit against U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over this rule, causing the agency to re-evaluate it. Two weeks into the Biden administration, attorneys for FWS told FoA that the agency was reconsidering the rule. Rather than defend the illegal rule in court, FWS decided to repeal it.
Following a lawsuit filed by Friends of Animals in January 2021, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service terminated its unethical and illegal agreement with the National Rifle Association to assist in the recruitment, education and retaining of hunters through NRA’s outreach programs. The agreement was signed by the former Trump administration just a week before President Biden’s inauguration.
Within days of the agreement, FoA filed a lawsuit and urged FWS to rescind the agreement. On May 5, the new director of FWS wrote to NRA cancelling the agreement and stating that the agreement had not been “adequately reviewed by staff or the Solicitor’s office” before being approved last year.
Big 5 African Trophies Act: Connecticut trophy hunters will no longer be able to sell the body parts of the African elephants, giraffes, leopards, lions and rhinos they kill because Governor Ned Lamont signed the Big 5 African Trophies Act into law. Friends of Animals helped draft the legislation, also known as ‘Cecil’s Law.’ This historic legislation makes CT the second state to do so in the country. We worked for five years to deliver this setback to the trophy hunting industry and to help protect these magnificent ecosystem engineers.
Protecting Threatened, Endangered Species: Friends of Animals filed a rulemaking petition with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to stop the importation of the sport-hunted “trophies” of threatened and endangered animals. If the agency denies the petition, then FoA can challenge it in court. The goal of the Endangered Species Act is conservation of species, so U.S. regulations should not grant a loophole legalizing the slaughter of the most vulnerable among them and then add insult to injury by permitting the glorification of the killing through the importation of their body parts. Banning the import of trophies into the United States will have a profound impact on threatened and endangered species since Americans kill far more animals than any other nation.
FoA filed a legal petition with the U.S. Department of the Interior to reinstate a policy that prohibits U.S. hunters from importing the trophies of elephants from Zimbabwe. Under the Trump administration, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reversed a ban that had been enacted in 2014.
FoA also submitted a FOIA request for information about the import of elephant parts to the U.S. Shockingly, FWS redacted the names of the importers from the information it turned over to FoA, claiming that those who choose to import the parts of elephants deserve privacy for their grotesque activities. FoA then sued to challenge the agency’s wrongful withholding of this information.
After the district court agreed with the government’s withholding of this information, FoA appealed this ruling to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals. In October, the court ruled for FoA, holding that the public’s interest in information about who imports the parts of threatened species like elephants outweighs any negligible privacy interest that these importers have. This ruling is a big win for transparency and the public’s right to information about the import of elephant parts.
Habitat loss, trophy hunting, poaching, climate change, mining and the bushmeat trade have placed giraffes in danger of extinction and they should be placed on the Endangered Species List, Friends of Animals said in comments it filed in 2021 with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Giraffes currently have no protection under U.S. law. The species has declined nearly 40 percent to just under 100,000 in the past three decades from more than 150,000.
“It is widely recognized that the U.S. market and American trophy hunting culture are driving factors contributing to both legally targeted hunting and illegal hunting of giraffes. More than 40,000 giraffe parts and products were imported into the U.S. over one decade’s time.” FoA said in comments filed by its Wildlife Law Program.
Primate Sanctuaries: The Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Project, an island sanctuary in the River Gambia National Park, is now home to 140 chimpanzees who live in four groups in relative freedom—without bars or cages—on three of the park’s five islands. In 2021, HBO released the documentary “Lucy the Human Chimp” chronicling the work of our program’s extraordinary director, Janis Carter.
Many of the refuge’s chimpanzees were confiscated as orphans of parents killed by hunters for bushmeat or parents who were taken for exploitive industries. Some were voluntarily relinquished by people who had unwisely tried to make them into pets. Friends of Animals’ support ensures that the chimpanzees receive supplemental food for a complete diet and helps prevent over stripping of the island vegetation by the chimpanzees. FoA’s support also makes possible the health monitoring that is vital to the survival of these great apes.
FoA also provides the essentials—healthcare, food and enrichment activities that stimulate wild behaviors and habitat maintenance—for the primates and birds who reside at Primarily Primates, the Texas-based, 78-acre sanctuary that FoA has managed since 2007. Primarily Primates is home to hundreds of animals—including 32 chimpanzees. We continue to rescue animals from the exotic pet trade, roadside zoos, animal experimentation and the entertainment industry.
Barred Owls: FoA won an important appeals court victory in our efforts to protect barred owls from a FWS experiment that was aimed at killing them to save spotted owls. A three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit appeals court overturned a district court dismissal of the case FoA brought against FWS concerning the killings.
Yellow-billed Cuckoo: In a legal victory for the yellow-billed cuckoo brought on by FoA legal action, the FWS was required to make a final critical habitat designation by 2021. The agency did so in April 2021, and designated some 300,000 acres throughout the West as critical habitat. There may be as few as 500 pairs left north of the U.S.-Mexico border.
Scarlet Macaw: Friends of Animals filed a lawsuit in August 2021 against U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in the D.C. district court because the agency failed to list a distinct population of scarlet macaws as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. A species clearly on the brink of extinction, there are only about 25 of the Northern Distinct Population Segment (DPS) of the southern subspecies of scarlet macaws remaining in Panama and 1,000 in Costa Rica.
You can count on FoA for its continued integrity in its efforts to defend animals and the environment. Can we count on you to continue your support? You can make a donation here.
Priscilla Feral, President
Bob Orabona, Director of Operations
Dustin Rhodes, Vice President of Development
Michelle Hopson, Director of Administration
Jane Seymour, Creative Director
Bob Bock, Accountant
Donna Thigpen, Assistant to President
Shelly Scott, Secretary to President
Belveley Russell, Bookkeeper
Keysi Flores, Membership Advisor
Meghan McIntire, Digital Content Director
Nicole Rivard, Editor/Correspondent
Scott Smith, Communications Director
Dana Visi, Receptionist
Jennifer Best, WLP Director
Rob Huss, Senior Attorney
Stephen Hernick, Senior Attorney
Andreia Marcuccio, Staff Attorney
Adam Kreger, Associate Attorney
Kira Abramovitz, Administrator/Conservation Coordinator
Friends of Animals Board of Directors:
Priscilla Feral, President
Sally Malanga, Secretary/Treasurer
Pamela McKenna, Chairperson
Elizabeth Forel, Director
Teresa D’Amico, Director
Phyllis Hawkins, Director
Barbara Sitomer, Director