Written by: Melinda Meade Meyers
Do you exhibit wildlife to the public? Are you considering opening a new zoological or aquarium facility or expanding your existing collection of animals and birds? Do you have questions about your possession and exhibition permitting or licensing requirements? Birch Horton’s experienced team of animal and wildlife law practitioners can assist you in navigating this unique area of law.
Our team has a deep understanding of the complexities of federal laws, regulations, and policies governing the exhibition of wildlife to the public, including the Animal Welfare Act (AWA), Endangered Species Act (ESA), Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA), and Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), as well as various state and local exhibition laws and regulations. We have successfully used this knowledge to help our clients obtain various transfer and possession permits, arrange for purchase and sale of regulated animals, and persuade both our clients’ regulators and judges if these issues come before a court. We understand the importance of having a good working relationship with your regulators, and we help our clients build and maintain these contacts.
Although we seek to keep our clients out of the courtroom, we aggressively defend our clients through administrative appeals and litigation if necessary. Some of our recent animal law litigation victories include:
- Animal Legal Def. Fund v. U.S. Dep’t of Agric., 789 F.3d 1206 (11th Cir. 2015) (representing aquarium exhibiting orca as defendant-intervenor in defending challenge by activist group to USDA’s licensing of aquarium)
- People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Inc. v. Miami Seaquarium, 189 F. Supp. 3d 1327 (S.D. Fla. 2016) (representing aquarium exhibiting ESA-protected orca); aff’d sub nom. People for Ethical Treatment of Animals, Inc. v. Miami Seaquarium, No. 16-14814, 2018 WL 385682 (11th Cir. Jan. 12, 2018).
- New England Anti-Vivisection Society v. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 208 F. Supp. 3d 142 (D.D.C. 2016) (representing animal research facility as defendant-intervenor in defending challenge by activist group to FWS’s grant of a permit allowing transfer of ESA-listed chimpanzees to a zoo in England)
Our team also utilizes the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) – the equivalent of running your name through Google occasionally to make sure there are no surprises out there – to help our clients stay on top of any potential regulatory issues. We have used information obtained through FOIA requests to successfully defend our clients in litigation brought by third parties.
We stand ready to help our clients deal with the complexities of animal law. If you need assistance with permitting, administrative rulemaking, enforcement actions, or dealing with your applicable regulating agency, please contact James H. Lister or Melinda L. Meade Meyers.