Justia Animal / Dog Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
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The Grand Cayman Blue Iguana is protected by the Endangered Species Act, 16 U.S.C. 1531, and by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, which ban their collection, trade, and export. The Secretary of the Interior may permit “any” otherwise prohibited conduct “to enhance the propagation or survival” of a protected species. The nonprofit Phoenix Herpetological Society applied for permits to export four blue iguanas to a Danish zoo and continue its captive-bred wildlife program at its Arizona facility. For export, the Fish and Wildlife Service must find that “proposed export would not be detrimental to the survival of the species.” The Service also evaluates—under Endangered Species Act criteria—whether a permit “would be likely to reduce the threat of extinction facing the species.” The applicant bears the burden of showing that its specimens were lawfully acquired, including lawful importation of the ancestors of specimens it has bred.The D.C. Circuit affirmed the denial of the permits. The agency determined that exporting the iguanas would not be “detrimental” to the species but that exporting them would not “reduce the threat of extinction” for the species. The court concluded that its reasoning was not inconsistent. The Service appropriately acknowledged the prior permits and explained that inconsistent assertions about the parental stock raised new questions about lawful acquisition. View "Phoenix Herpetological Society, Inc. v. Fish and Wildlife Service" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit reversed the district court's grant of the USDA's motion to dismiss, based on failure to state a claim, an action brought under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) by two animal-rights groups, alleging that the agency's failure to issue standards governing the humane handling and care of birds not bred for use in research amounted to arbitrary and capricious action.The court held that the Coalition has alleged facts sufficient to establish Article III standing, and thus the court need not consider whether the Anti-Vivisection Society too has standing. On the merits, the court held that the Coalition has adequately alleged that USDA has failed to take a discrete agency action that it is required to take. In this case, the Animal Welfare Act was amended eighteen years ago to require USDA to issue standards governing the humane treatment, not of animals generally, but of animals as a defined category of creatures including birds not bred for use in research. USDA has conceded that its general animal-welfare standards are inadequate to ensure the humane treatment of birds, and USDA has yet to fulfill its statutory responsibility to issue standards regarding the humane treatment of birds. Because the issue of whether such action has been unreasonably delayed has been unbriefed, the court remanded for the district court to consider it in the first instance. View "American Anti-Vivisection Society v. United States Department of Agriculture" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's decision to uphold HHS's redaction of certain types of information in response to PETA's request for information about the importation of nonhuman primates under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The court noted that it would have little difficulty concluding that the market for importing nonhuman primates was competitive even without PETA's waiver. The court held that releasing shipment-by-shipment quantity, crate size, and airline carrier information would cause substantial harm to the competitive position of each importer. Therefore, such information was confidential and protected from disclosure by FOIA Exemption 4. Finally, the court held that the district court did not err by granting HHS's Rule 60(b)(6) motion for reconsideration of the judgment regarding three importers, which the district court had mistakenly assumed their silence was intentional. View "People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals v. HHS" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit affirmed the Service's 2014 and 2015 findings that information concerning the size of the Zimbabwean elephant population and status of conservation efforts in Zimbabwe did not support a conclusion that killing the animal would enhance the survival of the species. The court rejected appellants' contention that the Service erred because it applied a standard that was more stringent than the "enhance" standard in the Service's regulation. However, the court reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the Service on a claim under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), 5 U.S.C. 553, because the Service erred in adopting the findings without first following the notice-and-comment rulemaking requirements of the APA. The court remanded with instructions. View "Safari Club International v. Zinke" on Justia Law

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The Animal Welfare Act's (AWA), 7 U.S.C. 2133, compliance demonstration requirement does not unambiguously preclude USDA's license renewal scheme and the scheme is not facially unreasonable. In this case, plaintiffs filed suit challenging the USDA's most recent renewal of a license for animal exhibitors (Cricket Hollow Zoo), alleging that, at the time of the renewal, the agency was aware that Cricket Hollow was in violation of numerous animal welfare requirements under the Act and its implementing regulations. The DC Circuit held that the agency's renewal scheme was consistent with the demonstration requirement in section 2133. Because the agency's decision to renew the Cricket Hollow Zoo license was made in compliance with that regulatory scheme, it was not inconsistent with the Act. Therefore, the court affirmed the district court's judgment on the statutory claim; vacated the district court's order granting the Government's motion to dismiss plaintiffs' arbitrary and capricious claim; and remanded to the district court with instructions to remand the record to the agency for further proceedings. View "Animal Legal Defense Fund v. Perdue" on Justia Law