Harvard Law Fellow Files Brief Supporting Appeal of Animal-Exhibitor Licensing Case

Amicus Brief Supports PETA’s Push for Federal Appeals Court to Halt Rubberstamping Policy That Undermines Animal Welfare Act

For Immediate Release:
October 26, 2016

David Perle 202-483-7382

Kaufman, Texas

Delcianna Winders, the academic fellow of Harvard Law School’s Animal Law & Policy Program, whose research specializes in the administration of the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA), has just lent her expert opinion in support of PETA’s appeal of a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). PETA’s lawsuit challenges the automatic renewal, or “rubberstamping,” of AWA licenses to exhibitors who are in chronic violation of the statute. Kaufman-based animal-exhibitor Michael Todd is implicated in the lawsuit because his license has continually been renewed despite his repeated citations for failing to bring his facility up to AWA standards and despite his employment of Marcus Cook—a notorious exhibitor whose USDA license was permanently revoked after he was charged with nearly 100 violations of the AWA.

In an amicus curiae or “friend of the court” brief, filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, Winders writes that halting the rubberstamping policy is consistent with the AWA’s purpose—to ensure that exhibited animals receive humane care and treatment—and would save the USDA resources, as there would be fewer law-violating exhibitors to regulate. Winders also notes that the USDA has the power to deny renewal licenses to applicants that operate in flagrant violation of the AWA.

“The rubberstamping of animal-exhibitor licenses allows hellish exhibitions like Michael Todd’s ‘All Things Wild’ to remain in business despite well-documented repeat violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act,” says general counsel to PETA Jeffrey Kerr. “PETA won’t give up until serial violators are held accountable and are no longer allowed to condemn animals to suffer for years on end in filthy cages without wholesome food, clean water, or proper veterinary care.”

PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment”—notes that in April 2016, Todd was cited for deficiencies in his program of veterinary care and for feeding tigers an inadequate diet. He has also been cited for refusing to allow the USDA to conduct inspections. In 2012, he purchased white tigers from Cook, which violated the Endangered Species Act. Cook also trained Todd’s employees, who participate in many of the same illegal practices that Cook was cited for—including allowing members of the public to feed tigers with tongs, reach over barriers, and get dangerously close to the animals.

Other facilities implicated in PETA’s lawsuit include exhibitors in Alabama, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, North Carolina, and Ohio.

For more information, please visit PETA.org.

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