Court grounds PETA lawsuit over bird protections

McClatchy Washington BureauDecember 16, 2013 


A Great Gray Owl is shown near Askov, Minnesota, in February 2005.


The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals  made what a judge called "some strong arguments," but ultimately failed in a bid to force the Agriculture Department to start protecting the nation's birds.

In a 21-page decision, U.S. District Court James Boasberg dismissed a PETA complaint that had sought to compel the Agriculture Department to start enforcing Animal Welfare Act amendments adopted in 2002. At the same time, the judge offers some tough words aimed at USDA.

"With surprising regularity," Boasberg wrote, "the agency has repeatedly set, missed, and then rescheduled deadlines for the publication of proposed bird-specific regulations."

Judge Boasberg set the stage this way: Under the Act, dogs, cats, nonhuman primates, guinea pigs, hamsters, rabbits, and marine mammals are all governed by their own unique regulatory standards. Other animals are protected by a set of general standards. These rules ensure that the animals are treated humanely by setting minimum standards for matters such as veterinary care, potable water, housing, and lighting. 

USDA has not, so far, promulgated any regulations specific to birds.

Briefly put, Judge Boasberg concluded the Agriculture Department's action -- or, in this case, inaction -- is a matter of agency discretion. Case dismissed.

PETA subsequently released the following statement from the organization's director animal law, Jared Goodman, in part:

"PETA has uncovered and urged the U.S. Department of Agriculture to investigate indisputable violations of federal law, including the neglect at one facility alone that resulted in the deaths of hundreds of birds from starvation and parasite infestation, which it has refused. PETA will continue to work to ensure that these birds receive the legal protection to which they are entitled and will pressure the government until it does its job.



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