Recently the Washington Post described the life and death of a 100 year old Aldabra tortoise at the National Zoo who had spent nearly a lifetime as an ambassador for tortoises, teaching visitors from around the world about this amazing species.  This reminded me of how impactful zoological gardens are to their visitors, providing education about the importance of the preservation of species, often facilitated by these institutions.


I was an extern at the National Zoo while I was a senior in veterinary school, after completing an externship at the Toronto Zoo and working with veterinarians at the San Diego Zoo, Oklahoma City Zoo and Royal Rotterdam Zoo.  One of the biggest differences between zoo animal medicine and traditional veterinary practice is the inability to examine and perform routine procedures on many zoo animals without sedating or anesthetizing them.

Sedation of Giant panda

However, there are some exceptions, depicted here:

Chute to examine bison
Chute to treat Fritz’ sarcoma
Treating Galapagos tortoise

Eventually, I decided to pursue a career in large animal ambulatory medicine, where I practiced theriogenology (reproduction), a field of veterinary medicine I loved.

Drawing by Purdue classmate Betsy Miller, DVM

As a result of my experience with multiple species, I was able to work with owners of all types of animals, including llama, deer, pot belly pigs, and emu in addition to traditional livestock species.  I consulted for a few zoological parks and have retained my interest in zoo and exotic animals.

As an attorney, I represent animal owners, veterinarians, all types of animal related businesses (e.g., pharmaceutical companies, farmers, breeders, zoos, aquaria, pet stores), universities, trade associations, processing plants and food-related businesses.  These businesses are often the targets of animal activists who want to eliminate animal ownership entirely.

As Stacey Ludlum, the Director of Zoo and Aquarium Planning and Design at PGAV Destinations in St. Louis, wrote:

In conversations with zoos and aquariums in recent years, it seems the (excuse me for this) elephant in the room has been the focused, laser-like attention on our community from anti-marine and zoological park activists. (See The power of partnership: could animal rights organisations and zoos/aquariums join forces).

Ms. Ludlum advocated for a partnership between animal rights organizations and those involved with zoos and aquaria to “unite over a common cause: working to protect the remaining non-captive animal populations from extinction,” certainly a laudable goal.  However, for those people and organizations who believe animals should never be owned by humans, the gap is simply too broad to bridge such a partnership.

I believe that people can continue to own, breed, raise, and sell animals, as companion animals, food-producing animals, service animals, in biomedical research, zoos and aquaria, as long as the animals are treated humanely.  We may argue about what standards of care are humane, but the standards should be based on objective, validated scientific research.  And we should expect those standards to change and evolve as animal scientists continue to study animal welfare.  See, i.e., Purdue’s Center for Animal Welfare Science, currently directed by Candace Croney, PhD.

The lawsuit filed against SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment, Inc. (SeaWorld) in the Northern District of California, styled Marc Anderson, et al. v. SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment, Inc. has been ongoing since May 14, 2015.

The Court recently ruled on SeaWorld’s Motion for Summary Judgment, which it granted in part and denied in part.  Marc Anderson, et al. v. SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment, Inc., No. 15-02172, slip op. (N.D. Cal. Feb. 20, 2018).

As a reminder, three plaintiffs brought individual and putative class claims for various alleged violations of California’s False Advertising Law and California’s Unfair Competition Law based on allegations that Plaintiffs relied on statements from SeaWorld about their care of animals before making certain purchases.

The Court denied SeaWorld’s Motion on the issue of standing which would have put an end to the litigation (unless the decision was appealed).  The Court stated, “[i]n a class action, standing is satisfied if at least one named plaintiff meets the requirements.”  Id. (citing Bates v. United Parcel Service, Inc., 511 F.3d 974, 985 (9th Cir. 2007).  The Court found that SeaWorld “failed to meet its burden on the question of whether [Plaintiff] Anderson has standing to seek injunctive relief . . . because the testimony . . .presented on this issue relates to whether Anderson would purchase tickets to SeaWorld in the future; not whether he would purchase SeaWorld merchandize if he could rely on its advertising.”  Id. (citations omitted).  Since Anderson purchased merchandize, the Court held the argument was faulty.  As to the other two Plaintiffs, the Court held that it “cannot make credibility determinations at this stage of the proceedings” which was the basis of SeaWorld’s evidence.

However, the Court granted, in part, SeaWorld’s Motion on [Plaintiff] Anderson’s claims, stating

[i]n order to survive SeaWorld’s motion, Anderson ‘must point to specific facts indicating that [he] actually saw the misrepresentations about which’ he complains, ‘and that those misrepresentations were ‘substantial factor[s]’ in’ his decision to purchase the Shamu toy.  Id. (citations omitted).

The Court concludes that, like the plaintiffs in In re iphone, Anderson has not met his burden to overcome Sea World’s motion to the extent his claims are premised on the mother-calf separation statement . . . Anderson has not shown that he saw the mother-calf separation statement and, therefore, he could not have relied on that statement when he purchased the Shamu toy.  Id. (citations omitted).

However, the Court held that, when considering the entirety of Anderson’s testimony, “the record is sufficient for a reasonable juror to find that if Anderson had known what he contends to be the truth about orca lifespans in captivity, in all reasonable probability he would not have purchased the Shamu toy,” thereby granting in part and denying in part SeaWorld’s motion on Anderson’s claims.

As to Plaintiff Nelson, the Court concluded that “Nelson has put forth sufficient evidence to create a triable issue of fact about whether she suffered an economic injury.”  The Court was “not willing to find as a matter of law that Nelson lacks standing simply because her husband turned over the funds that were used to purchase the tickets” and that therefore Nelson did not suffer an economic injury.

The Court found sufficient evidence, at this point, to deny SeaWorld’s motion claiming that Nelson did not rely on SeaWorld’s statements before her husband purchased tickets to SeaWorld, despite Nelson being unable to identify where or when she actually saw those statements.

Finally, the Court denied the motion claiming that Plaintiff Morizur had “abandoned her claim for restitution because she testified that she does not ‘care about the money’; is not ‘in this for the money’; and is asking the Court to give her ‘0.00 dollars.’”  Id.

The Court did invite SeaWorld to ‘“attempt to impeach [Plaintiffs] . . . at trial with prior statements’ it believes ‘are inconsistent . . .”  Id.

I am sure SeaWorld will do just that.

Journey on.

S1093 and A1923, the latest versions of Nosey’s law, a bill that originally would have prohibited the use of elephants in traveling animal acts, has now expanded its reach to “prohibit the use of [all] wild or exotic animal traveling animal acts.”

Why is this a concern?  There are many legitimate animal exhibitions that inform and educate the public about exotic and wild animals that would be prohibited if this bill were to become law.

The current version of this bill, originally introduced in 2016, attempts to but fails to address the flaws in its prior iteration, which Governor Christie vetoed as one of his last official functions.

The definitions and provisions in the proposed bill, described here in relevant part, demonstrate the problems with the law:

“Performance” means any animal . . .  display, exhibition, exposition, fair . . . petting zoo, presentation, public showing . . .  trade show, or similar undertaking in which animals . . . participate as accompaniments for the entertainment, amusement, or benefit of a live audience.

“Wild or exotic animal” means any non-domesticated species of mammal, bird, reptile, or amphibian.

In previous versions of this bill, the terms “wild” and “exotic” were not defined.  The proposed definition above does not correct the prior deficiencies.  First, there is a problem with the term “domesticated.”

The terms “domestic” and “domesticated” have been interpreted by courts where those terms were not defined in statutes or regulations in suit.  See, e.g., Commonwealth v. Comella, 735 A.2d 738 (Pa. Commw. Ct. 1999) (questioning whether a “dog” is a “domestic animal,” based on statutory analysis); Bueckner v. Hamel, 886 S.W.2d 368 (Tex. Ct. Appl. 1994) (affirming judgment based, in relevant part, on the exclusion of “deer” as “domestic animals”); City of Rolling Meadows v. Kyle, 494 N.E.2d 766 (Ill. App. Ct. 1986) (reversing holding that owner’s monkey was not a domesticated house pet); Turudic v. Stephens, 31 P.3d 465, 471 (Or. Ct. App. 2001) (concluding that “although the cougar may be more exotic than goldfish or hamsters, they are, nevertheless, indisputably family pets.”)

Instead of using the term “domesticated” the term “domestic” should be used.

“Domestic” should be defined as “domestic livestock” and “domestic companion animal” and “pet” should be defined as “domestic animal.”  Since these terms have been subject to court interpretation (see, e.g. People v. Garcia, 777 N.Y.S.2d 846 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. 2004) (asserting that the statutory definition of “companion animal” was unconstitutionally vague); Levine v. Connor, 540 F.Supp.2d 1113(N.D. Cal. 2008) (addressing the exclusion of poultry from the definition of “livestock” in the Humane Slaughter Act); State v. Nelson, 499 N.W.2d 512 (Minn. Ct. App. 1993) (reversing conviction for cruelty to a rooster, based on the definition of “livestock”), “domestic livestock” should be further defined pursuant to section 1 of P.L. 1995, c. 311 (C.4:22-16.1); “domestic companion animal” should be further defined pursuant to subsection u. of section 1 of 14 P.L. 1978 (C.2C:20-1).

It would be problematic to incorporate NJDEP’s definition of exotic mammal, bird, reptile or amphibian which means “any nongame species or mammal, bird, reptile or amphibian not indigenous to New Jersey,” since that would prohibit many animal exhibitions and fairs.  For example, domestic cattle are not indigenous to New Jersey.

Then, there is the issue with ferrets, which New York City has ruled are “wild” animals.

In addition to these issues with defined (or undefined terms) the proposed exemptions in the bill, presented below, do nothing to right size the problems with this bill.

This section shall not apply to:

(1)   exhibitions at a non-mobile, permanent institution or facility certified by the United States Department of Agriculture and accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries, the American Sanctuary Association, or a similar organization as determined by the Department of Environmental Protection;

(2)   outreach programs for educational or conservation purposes conducted by a facility accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries, the American Sanctuary Association, or a similar organization as determined by the Department of Environmental Protection;

(3)   an institution of higher education exhibiting wild or exotic animals for research or education purposes; or

(4)   outreach programs for educational or conservation purposes conducted by governmental entities.

First, there is a concern about the arbitrary deference to accreditation by third parties, without reference to any specific animal care standards required.

Second, there are a number of non-governmental entities that are not institutional of higher education that conduct educational and outreach programs that help the public understand the importance and beauty of certain species.

As others have suggested, the language of the originally proposed bill, which would have prohibited the use of elephants in traveling animal acts, was much more preferable than these current versions.


The Vancouver Aquarium filed suit against documentary filmmakers for alleged copyright infringement and breach of contract regarding at least some portions of a video entitled Vancouver Aquarium Uncovered, which purportedly exposes “the truth about whales and dolphins in captivity” at the Aquarium. In “Oral Reasons for Judgment” the Honorable Madam Justice Watchuk described the factual background of the case, in relevant part, as follows:

The Aquarium’s civil complaint alleged that the video contains some of the plaintiff’s copyrighted works, including from the aquarium website, the aquarium blog, and the aquarium’s posts on YouTube.

The Aquarium also submits that the use of film taken by the defendants at the aquarium was in breach of terms of a contract between it and the defendants dated April 24, 2015.

As to the copyright infringement claims, “the defendants submit that it is clear that the fair dealing provisions of the [Canadian] Copyright Act” provide a defense for their conduct,” which they claim was a non-commercial purpose for research and education or for criticism and review, citing the following provisions of the Act:

Research, private study, etc.

29 Fair dealing for the purpose of research, private study, education, parody or satire does not infringe copyright.

Criticism or review

29.1 Fair dealing for the purpose of criticism or review does not infringe copyright if the following are mentioned:

(a)the source; and

(b)if given in the source, the name of the

(i) author, in the case of a work,

(ii) performer, in the case of a performer’s performance,

(iii) maker, in the case of a sound recording, or

(iv) broadcaster, in the case of a communication signal.

Non-commercial user-generated content

29.21 (1) It is not an infringement of copyright for an individual to use an existing work or other subject-matter or copy of one, which has been published or otherwise made available to the public, in the creation of a new work or other subject-matter in which copyright subsists and for the individual — or, with the individual’s authorization, a member of their household — to use the new work or other subject-matter or to authorize an intermediary to disseminate it, if

(a) the use of, or the authorization to disseminate, the new work or other subject-matter is done solely for noncommercial purposes;

(b) the source — and, if given in the source, the name of the author, performer, maker or broadcaster — of the existing work or other subject-matter or copy of it are mentioned, if it is reasonable in the circumstances to do so;

(c) the individual had reasonable grounds to believe that the existing work or other subject-matter or copy of it, as the case may be, was not infringing copyright; and

(d) the use of, or the authorization to disseminate, the new work or other subject-matter does not have a substantial adverse effect, financial or otherwise, on the exploitation or potential exploitation of the existing work or other subject-matter — or copy of it — or on an existing or potential market for it, including that the new work or other subject-matter is not a substitute for the existing one.

The Court held that fair use and fair dealing were issues of fact to be determined by the trial court.

On the question of injunctive relief, the Court held that all 15 contested segments were to be removed from the video during the pendency of the trial, because their continued publication could not be remedied by damages, and would cause the Aquarium irreparable harm.


The Plaintiffs who sued SeaWorld “alleging misrepresentations about its treatment of orcas” will have survived SeaWorld’s motion to dismiss if they cure the defects the Court identified in the Order Granting, In Part, And Denying, In Part, Motion To Dismiss, With Leave To Amend And Setting Case Management Conference, entered August 1, 2016.

Plaintiffs assert[ed] claims for (1) violations of California’s false advertising law, Business and Professions Code sections 17500, et seq. (the “FAL claim”); (2) violations of California’s unfair competition law, Business and Professions Code sections 17200, et seq. (the “UCL claim”); and (3) violation of California’s Consumer Legal Remedies Act, California Civil Code section 1750, et seq. (the “CLRA claim”) based on their allegations that: SeaWorld’s advertisements:

“misleadingly creates the perception that orcas as a species are generally benefited by SeaWorld’s rehabilitative programs, scientific studies, and educational activities, and that the individual orcas it holds in captivity are as healthy and as stimulated as their wild counterparts . . .”

The Court accepted the factual allegations of the first amended complaint (the active pleading) as true, but in many instances found them inadequate to withstand SeaWorld’s motion.

The Court granted SeaWorld’s motion to dismiss in part but granted Plaintiffs liberal leave to amend the complaint finding that they could possibly correct the deficiencies noted.


  1. The Court dismissed the CLRA claim, with leave to amend.
  2. The Court granted the Motion to Dismiss the UCL and FAL claims for lack of Article III standing to seek injunctive relief, with leave to amend.
  3. The Court granted, in part, Sea World’s Motion to Dismiss for failure to comply with Rule 9(b), with leave to amend.
  4. The Court granted, in part, SeaWorld’s Motion to Dismiss for lack of statutory standing with leave to amend.

SeaWorld also argued that Plaintiff’s claims “are barred by the First Amendments, but the Court, permitting SeaWorld to “renew this argument at a later date” denied the motion in part.

Plaintiffs have until August 22, 2016 to file their Second Amended Complaint.

In a stunning announcement, SeaWorld’s President & CEO Joel Manby and the Humane Society of the United States CEO Wayne Pacelle, told TV viewers this morning that they had aligned in an effort to help rescue injured and threatened marine mammals in the wild and as part of their partnership, SeaWorld would end its captive orca breeding program.

SeaWorld provides more details on its website:

We’re making historic announcements at SeaWorld, including ending orca breeding, introducing new, inspiring and natural orca encounters, and launching new partnerships to protect oceans and marine animals. We’re creating a new vision for SeaWorld that will help us deliver on our mission that every guest who walks through our doors will be inspired to take action to help protect wild animals and wild places.

When SeaWorld opened its doors more than 50 years ago, killer whales were feared and even hunted. Now, they are among the most beloved marine mammals on the planet thanks, in part, to the inspirational encounters we’ve provided to more than 400 million guests.

The new vision for SeaWorld reflects changes in society and SeaWorld’s evolution with those changes, including ending killer whale breeding, new inspiring natural orca encounters, and new partnerships to protect oceans and marine animals.

Mr. Manby explained that the public has changed its point of view about the Orcas at SeaWorld, and the decision to end the decades-long breeding program reflected the publics concern about Orcas held in captivity.  Notably Mr. Manby pointed out that without the expertise of professionals, equipment, and state of the art facilities at SeaWorld, they would be unable to continue to rescue thousands of animals and nurse them back to health.

This will clearly be a centerpiece of the company moving forward and a benefit to everyone, including the animals both CEO’s admitted everyone cared about.

Laws governing animal ownership are swiftly changing across the country, affecting owners of all types of animals.  A proposed bill in Wisconsin, AB333. would change the laws relating to the possession of certain wild animals.

The captive wildlife law authorizes a city, village, town, or county to enact an ordinance that prohibits the possession of wild animals.

This bill generally prohibits the possession, propagation, and sale of dangerous exotic animals. Under the bill, dangerous exotic animals are nonnative big cats, including lions and tigers; nonnative bears, including brown bears and polar bears; apes, including gorillas, chimpanzees, and gibbons; and crocodilians, including alligators, crocodiles, and caimans. Certain entities are exempt from the prohibitions, including veterinarians, accredited zoos, municipal zoos, circuses, federally licensed research facilities, and wildlife sanctuaries. The bill authorizes a person who does not qualify for an exemption but who owns a dangerous exotic animal when the bill takes effect to continue to possess the animal if the person registers the animal with the municipality in which the person keeps the animal.

The bill prohibits a person from allowing a member of the public to come into direct contact with a dangerous exotic animal and requires the owner of a dangerous exotic animal to inform local law enforcement if the animal escapes. The bill also authorizes a city, village, town, or county to enact an ordinance relating to dangerous exotic animals if the ordinance is at least as strict as the provisions in the bill relating to dangerous exotic animals.

The Feline Conservation Federation (FCF),  a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization with a mission to conserve wild felines through preservation, education and research, submitted comments and proposed amendments because of its concern about the unintended consequences of the amended law including:

AB 333, as written, has the potential to create new public safety concerns by removing regulatory oversight from wildlife sanctuaries. Furthermore, prohibitions on direct contact with impacted species held by all organizations will reduce animal care options, adversely impacting animal welfare.

This bill as written will result in negative impact on and the possible eventual closure of federally licensed businesses, elimination of conservation and education programs, and it will cause economic consequences that have yet to be meaningfully calculated.

According to FCF the bill was proposed just after a news story about a lion in Milwaukee, which turned out to be fabricated.

The fear instilled by this falsehood was conveniently timed in the context of this proposed legislation, and it has made meaningful dialogue about this sensitive issue even more challenging. It would be a disturbing precedent if such impactful legislation is conceived and enacted based on a fabricated crisis.

To learn more about FCF visit this website.

The Court found that “each of the five named plaintiffs, on behalf of themselves and the three putative classes . . .[failed to allege with the specificity required for claims of fraud] that SeaWorld misled and deceived them and other consumers about the treatment and conditions of the killer whales in violation of various consumer statutes in California, Florida, and Texas.”1  The Court dismissed all claims, some with and others without prejudice, leaving the plaintiffs the opportunity to amend their claims for some of the counts.


The San Diego Plaintiffs assert four claims under California law: (1) violation of the California Unfair Competition Law (the ‘UCL’); (2) violation of the California False Advertising Law (the ‘FAL’); violation of the California Consumer Legal Remedies Act (the ‘CLRA’); and Deceit.

. . .

All four claims are premised on the same course of allegedly fraudulent conduct and based on the same alleged misrepresentations and omissions, meaning all of the claims are grounded in fraud and must be pled with particularity pursuant to the heightened pleading standards in Rule 9(b).

Before the Court considered the “whether Plaintiffs have pled any actionable misrepresentations or omissions with the requisite particularity under Rule 9(b),” the Court had to determine whether the plaintiffs actually relied on SeaWorld’s alleged misrepresentations about the orcas when purchasing tickets to the park. The Court held they failed to do so, stating:

[b]ecause the complaint does not allege (let alone with any specificity) that any of the named plaintiffs saw and relied on SeaWorld’s statements about its treatment of whales when purchasing their tickets, the named San Diego Plaintiffs lack standing to bring claims on behalf of the putative San Diego Class.

. . .

Accordingly, the San Diego Plaintiffs’ claims are dismissed without prejudice to the extent they are based on affirmative misrepresentations by SeaWorld.

The Court also found these plaintiffs “failed to plead with specificity that they relied on any omissions in purchasing their tickets and therefore lack standing to bring their claims based on purported omissions as well.”

The Court rejected plaintiffs assertion that SeaWorld had to provide information about the whales’ health that they did not disclose (whether actually true or not) finding that standard would expose any company to limitless legal liability since “any consumer would have standing to sue any company that fails to disclose product ingredients or component, or business practices that cause that consumer to regret patronizing that business.”

Moreover, although the FAC includes examples of alleged advertising and representations by SeaWorld, it does not allege that Plaintiffs viewed or relied on any this advertising or statements about orca conditions or treatment before they went to a SeaWorld park. Thus, the FAC fails to plead with specificity where any omitted information could have been revealed such that Plaintiffs would have seen it prior to purchasing their tickets. Lacking such allegations, the FAC fails to plead actionable fraud based on omissions with particularity as required by Rule 9(b). Accordingly, even if SeaWorld had a duty to disclose the allegedly omitted information about the health and conditions of the whales, the FAC fails to state a claim under the UCL, CLRA, FAL, or for deceit based on omissions by SeaWorld.

The Court also dismissed with prejudice (no chance to re-plead) plaintiffs’ claims based on the California Consumer Legal Remedies Act.

The Court dismissed the Orlando and San Antonio plaintiffs’ claims for similar reasons, based on Florida and Texas law.

Finally, while the Court also dismissed “all claims for injunctive relief” with prejudice, it noted that “[t]his holding may not preclude Plaintiffs from seeking an injunctive remedy in state court.”

While the result here is laudable, the Court’s comparison of SeaWorld’s whales as “analogous to a company’s employees” will likely be quoted in future cases to support claims that whales are “persons.”

1. All quotes from Hall v. Sea World Entm’t, Inc., Case No. 3:15-cv-00660, Slip Opinion (Order entered, entered December 23, 2015).


Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP) filed another petition for a writ of habeas corpus (available of NhRP’s website) to:

a) require Respondents to justify their detention of a chimpanzee named Tommy,

b) order Tommy’s immediate discharge, and

c) order Tommy’s transfer to an appropriate primate sanctuary, which the NhRP suggests is Save the Chimps.

This is not the first attempt by NhPR to “free” a chimpanzee from “illegal captivity.”

As disclosed in the Verified Petition filed in the County of New York on December 2, 2015, the NhRP filed a number of similar cases in courts throughout New York, including a previous petition to release Tommy, which, when denied, they unsuccessfully appealed.

One previous application for a writ of habeas corpus and order to show cause was filed by the NhRP on behalf of Tommy in the Supreme Court, Fulton County on December 2, 2013 (Index No. 02051).  An ex parte hearing on the record was held . . . before the Honorable Joseph M. Sise, Justice of the Supreme Court, at which time the application was denied . . .

On December 4, 2014, the Third Department affirmed the lower court’s dismissal of the NhRP’s petition for a writ of habeas corpus . . .

Verified Petition at ¶¶ 25, 27.

According to the NhRP, they are able to repeatedly re-file similar petitions because allegedly “neither issue preclusion nor claim preclusion apply to the common law writ of habeas corpus.”  Verified Petition at ¶ 32.

Likely anticipating an objection to their decision to file this petition in the County of New York (supposedly looking for a court more inclined to grant the petition), instead of Fulton County (the court where the first petition was filed and where Tommy’s owners reside) the petitioners allege:

This Court should issue the writ of habeas corpus and order to show cause . . . and make it returnable to New York County [because] . . . a writ must be returnable to the county in which it is issues except: . . . b) where the petition was made to a court outside of the county of detention, the court may make the writ returnable to such county.

Verified Petition at ¶ 12.  Petitioner made no plausible allegation for the retention of the petition in the County of New York, instead of Fulton County, over 200 miles and more than 3 hours away.

Interestingly, NhRP continues to rely on the inter vivos trust they manufactured based on New York Estates, Powers and Trusts law, section 7-8.1, which notably has no inter vivos provisions.

To support their position that they have new evidence to support their current petition, Petitioners, rely on “experts” including Jane Goodall, PhD, alleging that “chimpanzees can shoulder duties and responsibilities in their own societies and in human/chimpanzee societies,” (Verified Petition at ¶ 3) to overcome the courts’ prior denial of the writ because they concluded that chimps cannot shoulder such responsibilities, required for anyone receiving the benefit of such a writ.

NhRP continues to have significant challenges to their attempts to change policy by using, and arguably abusing the courts.  As they alleged, “[t]he New York Court of Appeals has stated that the determination of legal personhood is a policy question and not a biological one.”  Verified Petition at ¶ 3 (citing Byrn v. New York City Health & Hosps. Corp., 31 N.Y.2d 194 (1972)).

Courts are not the appropriate venue to address policy questions.

More to come on this continuing saga.



San Diego’s SeaWorld joins the Vancouver Aquarium in a category both would have preferred to avoid. The California Coastal Commission (Commission) recently “ordered SeaWorld San Diego to halt captive breeding of orcas as a condition of getting a permit to build a larger exhibit space for the 11 marine mammals,” as reported by Tony Perry at, a year after the breeding of cetaceans in captivity was banned at the Canadian aquarium.

The public record of the Commission’s deliberations, available online at, includes several letters from SeaWorld’s attorneys, providing their interpretation of federal and state laws governing the care of cetaceans, which preclude the Commission’s ban as preempted by federal law.

In a letter dated October 1, 2015,  SeaWorld’s ongoing breeding programs are described by SeaWorld’s Sr. Staff Veterinarian, Dr. Hendrik Nollens:

Breeding is a natural and important part of an animal’s life. It is a sign that they are socially compatible, in good health and thriving. Likewise, offspring are significant and enriching to groups of animals, especially for species that depend on extensive social contact and cooperation. Due to long gestation and nursing periods, cetacean populations do not grow rapidly. In fact, the SeaWorld killer whale population, spread throughout 4 parks, has only grown by ~3% per year over the last 15 years.

The scientific information gleaned from facilities like SeaWorld and the Vancouver Aquarium cannot be obtained from animals in the wild.  An impressive list of scientific publications resulting from research in Canada that are included on Vancouver Aquarium’s website.

Since 1956, Vancouver Aquarium researchers have been conducting original studies of marine mammals on site in order to advance our knowledge necessary to enhance environmental conservation. Much of our research would be impossible to perform in the wild and there are few opportunities for researchers, in academic or government research departments, to access captive animals.

With the ban on the breeding of captive cetaceans, these are just a few of the studies which will no longer be possible:

  • Vergara, V., Barrett-Lennard, L.G. 2008. Vocal development in a beluga calf. Aquatic Mammals 34(1):123-143
  • BCW Kot, L Dalton, N Fernando, M Haulena, IF Jen, R Kinoshita, P Martelli, J Ramer, W Van Bonn. Applications and limitations of marine mammal sonography: a radiographer’s perspective. Ultrasound in Medicine and Biology 2011; 37(8):S15
  • BCW Kot, L Dalton, N Fernando, M Haulena, IF Jen, R Kinoshita, P Martelli, J Ramer, W Van Bonn. Applications and limitations of marine mammal sonography: a radiographer’s perspective. 2012. Proceedings of the 40th Annual Conference of the International Marine Animal Trainers Association, Hong Kong SAR, China.

Zoos and aquaria have a rich history of researching exotic and endangered species in captivity to the benefit of other captive species as well as those in the wild.

Smithsonian’s National Zoological Park maintains a Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Virginia.

The Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal (formerly the Conservation and Research Center) started primarily as a breeding center for endangered birds and mammals. Today, the black-footed ferret, Eld’s deer, and several species of Pacific island birds are being bred to maintain genetic diversity and provide reserves for highly endangered species.

I remember performing reproductive examinations by rectal palpation of exotic hoof stock at Front Royal while I interned at the zoo during my senior year in veterinary school.

Zoos throughout the world participate in joint research projects to provide the most up-to-date and comprehensive care for the animals housed in their facilities.

I distinctly remember when Fritz, a giraffe at the Oklahoma City Zoo, died while I was researching blood parasites of birds as a Research Fellow at that zoo.  We received calls from around the globe requesting various tissues from Fritz for ongoing studies that would ultimately benefit other giraffes, including this 2013 newborn calf born at the very same zoo.

The humane care of animals is of paramount importance to everyone involved with animal care in every animal enterprise. Bans, promoted and adopted under the banner of humane care, often harm rather than help the very animals they are intended to benefit, along with their human caretakers.