ALDF's mission is to protect the lives and advance the interests of animals through the legal system.
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Mr. Steve Wells
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Animal Rights, Animal Protection, Animal Welfare, Legal Protection for Animals, Animal Law, Animal rights law, animal advocacy
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Also Known As
170 East Cotati Avenue
Cotati, CA 94931 USA
Animal Protection and Welfare (includes Humane Societies and SPCAs) (D20)
Alliance/Advocacy Organizations (D01)
Wildlife Preservation/Protection (D30)
IRS Filing Requirement
This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.
How does this organization make a difference?
Lasting change can only come when the law reflects what most of us already know – that abusing any animal is wrong and that animals are not merely property, but living beings capable of suffering and a wide range of emotions. As the only organization specifically focused on animal law, the Animal Legal Defense Fund brings unparalleled legal expertise to the struggle for animal rights. U.S. state and federal laws relegate animals to the status of property, despite what we know about animal intelligence and the rich emotional lives they lead. ALDF envisions a world where the lives and interests of animals are fully safeguarded by the legal system. For more than 35 years, ALDF has been fighting to protect the lives and advance the interests. Unlike many other animal protection groups, ALDF focuses on helping all animals through the legal system.
What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?
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Animal Law Program
As part of its focus on animal law, the Animal Legal Defense Fund works to cultivate the next generation of animal lawyers. We do this through our Animal Law Program (ALP), which works closely with law students and law professionals to advance the emerging field of animal law. Moving toward the day when animal law is part of the curriculum at each and every law school, the Animal Law Program collaborates with students, faculty, and school administrations to facilitate the development of animal law courses and assists students in forming Student Animal Legal Defense Fund (SALDF) chapters.
A secondary goal of having animal law taught throughout the country is ensuring all lawyers have a strong understanding of the field, which will inform their practice in whatever area of law they build a career.
Long-term success means arriving at a day when animal law is part of the curriculum at each and every law school.
We measure program success by monitoring the numbers of animal law courses taught at law schools and keeping track of how many Student Animal Legal Defense Fund (SALDF) chapters have been established.
We continue to exceed our expectaions for new animal law courses and Student Animal Legal Defense Fund (SALDF) chapters. There are now over 200 US SALDF chapters and 7 Canadian SALDF chapters.
The Animal Legal Defense Fund's (ALDF) Litigation Program ensures the filing of, and where appropriate the appearance of ALDF as a litigant in, civil cases in primarily domestic venues that develop – rather than simply apply – the law to significantly (1) improve animal welfare, (2) ensure greater animal autonomy, (3) generate the legal recognition of animals as interest-bearing entities who generate duties on humans, and (4) eradicate specific practices involving animals (e.g., the mutilation of farmed animals).
The Litigation Program has ongoing efforts to achieve judgments, settlements, and set precedent that among other things replace negligent management at public shelters, end systematic abuses at factory farms and hunting facilities, require pet store retailers to disclose the truth about their puppy mill suppliers, move wildlife from ramshackle roadside zoos into sanctuaries, halt false advertising of animal products, strike down unconstitutional laws targeting animal advocates, add and expand categories of standing for animal advocates, and create new causes of action.
We monitor our achieving the four goals set out in our program description based on specific internal metrics, which include the development of appellate precedent. For example, we recently litigated a case that created state precedent expanding standing for animal advocates, and we counted that towards our achieving our annual goals.
In February 2016 ALDF won the first major victory in an Endangered Species Act (ESA) lawsuit brought on behalf of endangered animals in captivity, as opposed to those living in the wild, based on the conditions of those animals’ confinement and neglect.
In August 2015 the U.S. District Court for the District of Idaho ruled that the state’s Ag-Gag law (which prohibit documentation within factory farms), Idaho Code sec. 18-7042, violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution—the first time a court has declared an Ag-Gag statute unconstitutional.
In February 2015, ALDF settled its public nuisance lawsuit against Jim Mack’s Ice Cream to secure the release of a female black bear named Ricky from her 16-year confinement at the ice cream shop to the Colorado-based Wild Animal Sanctuary.
In July 2014, at the urging of ALDF, the Department of Transportation expanded the rule that requires airlines to report incidents involving the loss, injury, or death of certain animals during air transport to include all cats and dogs, rather than merely those who are already household pets.
In August 2012 a North Carolina judge granted Ben the Bear permanent sanctuary at the Performing Animal Welfare Society as a result of a lawsuit against Jambbas Ranch—ALDF attorneys worked to represent the plaintiffs. Ben had languished for years on cement in a chain-link kennel–he now has the chance to live like a bear should, with plenty of space to roam, play, and forage in his new habitat
Criminal Justice Program
Animal Legal Defense Fund’s Criminal Justice Program (CJP) is staffed by attorneys, including former prosecutors, with substantial practical experience in prosecuting animal crimes. Our attorneys provide free legal assistance to prosecutors and law enforcement agencies to ensure that state criminal anti-cruelty statutes are vigorously enforced and that those convicted of animal cruelty and neglect receive appropriate sentences.
In 1993, only seven states had felony provisions in their anti-cruelty laws to address the most egregious forms of animal abuse. Further, law enforcement and prosecutors’ offices frequently relegated animal cruelty cases to low priority. Recognizing a dire need for professional legal advocacy on behalf of abused animals, Animal Legal Defense Fund launched the Criminal Justice Program (CJP). The primary purpose of this program is to prevent and combat animal cruelty by ensuring successful prosecutions of animal cruelty crimes. We provide direct assistance to investigators and prosecutors throughout the life of the case, from the initial investigation through the exhaustion of all appeals. CJP has helped secure justice in thousands of animal cruelty cases, and all 50 states and three U.S. territories now have felony provisions in their anti-cruelty laws, most of which were shepherded through their legislatures with the assistance and support of CJP.
CJP measures success by both qualitative and quantitative criteria.
We work to ensure that local officials achieve the best possible outcomes in animal cruelty cases by providing direct assistance to prosecutors and law enforcement officers approximately 100 cases annually. For many of those cases, we provide written materials which are tailored specifically to both the facts of the case and the laws of the jurisdiction. CJP considers animal cruelty prosecutions to be successful when surviving victims are rescued; when courts hold animal abusers accountable for their crimes, resulting in convictions and meaningful sentences for abusers; and when abusers are prevented from victimizing animals in the future.
We present at least 10 trainings and one academic law course annually on various animal law topics, educating hundreds of law professionals, law students, and veterinarians on topics pertinent to investigating and prosecuting animal cruelty cases.
CJP prevents animal cruelty by drafting and supporting passage of robust laws that will be invulnerable to court challenges while advancing legal protections for animals. Annually we assist legislators and animal advocates with improving animal protection laws in various jurisdictions. Countless other legislators use our annually-updated resources, including our compendium of animal protection laws and analytical reports that compare and rank animal protection laws of various jurisdictions. ALDF receives frequent feedback from legislators discussing how their place in the rankings motivates improvements in their laws.
FBI will track animal cruelty in their national crime statistics: CJP participated in a multi-year, multi-agency effort to convince the FBI to track animal cruelty in their national crime statistics. CJP – working in concert with professional and animal protection organizations – helped persuade the United States Department of Justice to amend its Uniform Crime Reporting regulations to require local, state, tribal, and federal agencies to include animal cruelty cases in the mandated reporting of crime statistics, a significant step toward the investigation and prevention of these crimes.
Animal torture is not free speech: Agreeing with our amicus curiae brief, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled in U.S. v. Richards/Justice that the “Animal Crush Video Prohibition Act of 2010” is Constitutional, meaning that animal torture videos are not protected free speech.
Rescue of animal cruelty victims: In two cases, we submitted amicus curiae briefs outlining factors for the Courts to consider in determining the circumstances under which the warrantless rescue of an animal would be justified. The Oregon Supreme Court ruled in State v. Fessenden/Dicke that law enforcement authorities with probable cause may seize animal cruelty victims without a warrant to prevent imminent harm. Similarly, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled in Commonwealth v. Duncan that the emergency-aid exception to warrant requirements could be applied to animals.
Animal abuser convicted: A CJP attorney conferred with a local prosecutor in Michigan about a case of violent abuse of a dog. ALDF provided financial assistance for lab fees, DNA analysis, and expert witness fees. After the defendant was convicted of animal cruelty, the prosecutor emailed us to say, “The judge said that ‘the bottom line for me is that the DNA match is significant.’ A HUGE thank you to ALDF for your support, without which, we would not have gotten this conviction.”
Collaborations with professional organizations: CJP has forged working relationships with many professional organizations to advance legal protections for animals. In partnership with the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys (APA), we host the National Animal Cruelty Prosecution Conference. We work with the National District Attorneys Association (NDAA) and the ASPCA to educate and train prosecutors and law enforcement professionals on the effective handling of animal cruelty cases. CJP partnered with the National Sheriffs’ Association (NSA) to launch the National Law Enforcement Center on Animal Abuse, a clearinghouse and forum for law enforcement nationwide who seek assistance with animal cruelty prevention and investigation strategies. We collaborate with the Center for Animal Law Studies (CALS) to develop and provide world class academic programs and services in the burgeoning field of animal law.
Five powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.
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The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.
Mr. Steve Wells
Stephen Wells is the executive director of the Animal Legal Defense Fund. For six years (until 2006), Steve founded and served as the director of ALDF's successful Animal Law Program, which provides support and resources to ALDF's law professional and law student members and pro bono opportunities for attorneys and firms to assist ALDF with its mission.
At the Animal Legal Defense Fund, Steve saw an opportunity to expand into law schools and involve attorneys directly, providing additional resources and pro bono connections. He helped stop wild animal trainers in Los Angeles from abusing primates in a landmark lawsuit. He helped to set up a sanctuary for hundreds of animals in the infamous North Carolina Woodley hoarding case. Steve has also raised significant funds to create the ALDF Fellowship program and helps ALDF fund an expanding vision for the Center for Animal Law Studies at Lewis & Clark Law School.
When Steve started, ALDF had no litigation staff–so he created an in-house litigation program which, with the help of his new litigation director, Carter Dillard, allowed ALDF to quadruple its caseload. Steve expanded the Animal Law Program and helped to exponentially expand the student chapters (SALDF) of the Animal Legal Defense Fund.
As the leader at ALDF, Steve has been interviewed by CNN, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and ESPN.
Steve has created a highly efficient, passionate, and talented team at ALDF. As he says, it is his job to create an environment where egos are out the door and everyone works together for one end–to end the exploitation and suffering of animals. And that is just what he has done. He lives in the western woodlands of Sonoma County, California with his dog, Eve.
Massachusetts state Administrative Law Judge
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Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations?
Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year?
Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year?
Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership?
Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years?