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The Bar Bulletin
Jax Daily Record Thursday, Oct. 4, 201809:40 AM EST

Protecting the innocent: Animal law is hitting its stride

Proposed amendment would end the practice of racing greyhound dogs.

By Kelly Karstaedt, Bar Bulletin Editor in Chief

There are so many amazing attorneys in this city fighting to protect the rights of the innocent, the injured, the damaged and others.

But there also are those who can say all their clients are innocent and aren’t able to speak for themselves.

Those are the attorneys who fight for the welfare of animals. I was honored to recently spend the day learning from some animal law practitioners from around the country when I attended the Florida Animal Law Update at Florida A&M University College of Law in Orlando.

The event, the first of its kind in the U.S., was conceived by the Animal Legal Defense Fund, a national organization dedicated to protecting the lives and advancing the interests of animals through the legal system.

The ALDF, in conjunction with the Animal Law Section of The Florida Bar, put on a full-day CLE event highlighting current legislative initiatives, recent and pending litigation, environmental factors and other issues affecting the welfare of animals in Florida.

In November, Constitutional Amendment 13 will be on the ballot, which deals with the welfare of animals by proposing a permanent ban on greyhound racing in the state beginning in 2021.

This proposed amendment, an initiative 10 years in the making, would end the brutal practice of racing greyhound dogs for gambling purposes as well as ban wagering on greyhound races in the state.

As a life-long advocate for the welfare of animals and a dog owner, I am thrilled to see a decade of hard work by so many individuals come to this.

The Florida Orca Protection Act is another animal welfare legal initiative.

Introduced in the 2018 legislative session but ultimately failing to make it out of subcommittee, this legislation would end the captive orca trade in Florida.

Assistant State Attorney Cyrus Zomorodian presented on the intersectionality of animal law and criminal law at the Florida Animal Law Update in Orlando.

SeaWorld announced in 2016 it would end its orca breeding program, a policy that includes not collecting orcas from the wild and phasing out the theatrical shows for more natural orca encounters. The act seeks to codify SeaWorld’s policy into law, making it illegal to breed orcas in captivity, transport them into Florida or out of North America, or hold them in captivity, except for those already captive in the state.

It is important to note that SeaWorld is not the only organization holding captive orcas in Florida. An orca named Lolita has been on display at the Miami Seaquarium since 1970 after being captured in the wild.

The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, along with the ALDF and others, filed suit, claiming Lolita has been subjected to undue harm and harassment from her living conditions and forced performances and seeking to have her relocated to a sanctuary.

The action was dismissed by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District and affirmed on appeal by the 11th Circuit Appeals Court. Currently, the case is up for review again.

There are many other legal actions pending that seek to protect animals from harm. Some are criminal proceedings that are tied to human abuse cases or were found through investigating other criminal activities.

Fourth Judicial Circuit Assistant State Attorney Cyrus Zomorodian presented at the meeting on the convergence of animal law and criminal law. He stated that “there is a great correlation between animal abuse and human physical abuse.”

However, animal neglect and abuse cases often go without punishment because there are limited resources to prosecute animal cases, he said.

Other topics of interest presented were protecting the rights of service animal owners, civil actions involving animal custody issues, the growing problem of prosecuting dog fighting rings and how environmental laws affect animal protection.

The meeting was a fascinating look into how legal practitioners are encountering and handling animal law issues in their practices.

Fighting for the welfare of animals, and the humans they live and work with every day, is a passion and a lifelong career for many attorneys in Florida and I applaud the amazing work they are doing.


Kelly Karstaedt is a shareholder in the firm of Karstaedt & Stanko, P.A. and the Executive Director of the Jacksonville Justice Association.

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