Standing on Their Own Four Legs: The Future of Animal Welfare Litigation after Animal Legal Defense Fund, Inc. V. Glickman

By Smith, Rob Roy | Environmental Law, Winter 1999 | Go to article overview

Standing on Their Own Four Legs: The Future of Animal Welfare Litigation after Animal Legal Defense Fund, Inc. V. Glickman


Smith, Rob Roy, Environmental Law


I. INTRODUCTION

Marc Jurnove could not believe what he saw at the Long Island Game Park Farm and Zoo. Having spent the majority of his adult life working for various human and animal relief and rescue organizations,(1) Mr. Jurnove knew inhumane treatment when he saw it. This was certainly inhumane treatment. Primates, inherently social creatures, were kept in cages isolated from other primates, often not in view of the other cages.(2) Squirrel monkeys were kept in a cage next to adult bears, causing the monkeys fright and agitation.(3) Deprived of their psychological needs, the twenty-two primates(4) housed at the Game Farm were in need of assistance.

Because of his familiarity with and love for exotic animals,(5) Mr. Jurnove was deeply affected by his observations. After the first of his nine visits to the Game Farm, Mr. Jurnove contacted the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to secure help for these animals, but help never came. On repeated occasions, USDA failed to find any violations of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA)(6) at the Game Farm,(7) prompting Mr. Jurnove and three other individuals to seek legal action against USDA.

In 1996, in Animal Legal Defense Fund, Inc. v. Glickman (ALDF v. Glickman),(8) the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) successfully sued USDA on behalf of Mr. Jurnove for failing to adopt minimum standards for a physical environment adequate to promote the psychological well-being of animals at research facilities and roadside zoos.(9) However, the victory was short lived. There was still something keeping the primates from getting the help they needed--a legal fiction known as standing.

"Standing involves only one question: Who can obtain judicial review of an otherwise reviewable government action? Yet, standing law suffers from inconsistency, unreliability, and inordinate complexity."(10) In the first appellate review of ALDF v. Glickman,(11) a three judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia returned the type of decision that was known all too well by animal welfare activists and their attorneys. Without reaching the merits of the case, Judge David Sentelle, writing for the majority of the panel, held that the plaintiffs lacked the constitutional standing needed to challenge USDA's regulations.(12) Framing the issue as "the latest chapter in the ongoing saga of [ALDF's] effort to enlist the courts in its campaign to influence USDA's administration of the [AWA],"(13) the majority found that Marc Jurnove failed to meet two of the three requirements of standing under Article III of the United States Constitution--causation and redressability.(14) The decision was different from previous holdings, however. In a scathing dissent,(15) Judge Patricia Wald laid the groundwork for a rehearing en banc(16) that ultimately reversed the panel's ruling. In a seven to four decision, the court found Mr. Jurnove had proven that he suffered direct harm when he witnessed the living conditions of the primates at the Game Farm,(17) thereby opening a door to judicial review previously closed to animal welfare plaintiffs.

This Note examines the future of animal rights litigation after this groundbreaking decision. ALDF v. Glickman represents more than the first time individual plaintiffs were able to challenge USDA regulations for primate dealers, exhibitors, and research facilities. The ALDF v. Glickman case is important because it lays a foundation for animal welfare litigation to follow. A primary reason for the ineffectiveness of the AWA has been the inability of animal welfare plaintiffs and organizations to litigate under the statute. This does not result from deficient claims, but rather from jurisdictional challenges to third-party standing. By documenting the facts necessary to achieve standing, ALDF v. Glickman will enable other third-party plaintiffs to clear a once insurmountable hurdle. Further, the decision will result in renewed political pressure to improve enforcement of the AWA by adding a citizen suit provision to afford concerned citizens such as Mr. …

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