Harvard Law Fellow Files Brief Supporting Appeal of Tri-State Zoological Park 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 25, 2016

David Perle 202-483-7382

Cumberland, Md.

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. Tri-State Zoological Park in Cumberland is implicated in the lawsuit because the facility was cited nine times six months prior to its license renewal in April 2015.

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 exhibitor licenses allows hellholes like Tri-State Zoological Park 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 Tri-State Zoological Park has been cited for failing to remove feces from animal enclosures and for denying enrichment to an isolated, apparently stressed primate. In March 2015, the USDA issued an official warning to the zoo for its repeated violations of the AWA—and then renewed its license the following month.

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

For more information, please visit PETA.org.

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