San Francisco — Yesterday, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a ruling representing the final chapter in the long-running litigation over Proposition 4, which was adopted by California voters in 1998 to protect pets and wildlife from cruel traps and poisons. The National Trappers Association had challenged the legality of Proposition 4 and had claimed that the state measure is preempted by federal laws. The Court of Appeals has dismissed those claims, affirming the district court’s ruling that the trappers do not have standing to sue, and that Proposition 4 should stand.
“We are delighted that the court saw through the delaying tactics and flimsy legal arguments of the trappers and finally confirmed the legality of a ballot measure approved by California voters more than seven years ago,” said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO for The Humane Society of the United States. “Californians said no to animal cruelty, and said yes to protecting pets and wildlife.”
Since the trappers could not prove they were financially harmed by Proposition 4, they instead argued that they were harmed by having to change their conduct, no longer using “preferred” devices such as steel-jawed leghold traps or M-44 explosives. The Court of Appeals rejected that argument in a brief opinion.
“This ruling reaffirms the will of California citizens who overwhelmingly voted to ban cruel traps and poisons and sends a clear message to the National Trappers Association that they cannot override the will of the people,” said Michelle Thew, chief executive of the Sacramento, California-based Animal Protection Institute.
The trappers claimed that Proposition 4 is preempted by the Animal Damage Control Act — a federal law that authorizes government trappers to capture and kill animals to protect ranching and livestock interests — an argument that the district court called a “meritless claim.” The Ninth Circuit has now affirmed the district court’s conclusion that “Congress’s expressed intent is that, under the ADCA, Wildlife Services shall continue its longstanding practice of administering its program in a manner consistent with state trapping laws.”
“We are pleased that the court recognized the baseless nature of the trappers’ claimed injuries, and preserved the important role that state and local governments play in protecting our wildlife,” said Jonathan Lovvorn, vice president of animal protection litigation for The HSUS and lead counsel for the sponsors of Proposition 4 in the case. “The HSUS is grateful that such a large coalition of animal protection groups worked together on this critical effort to preserve this citizen initiative.”
The sponsors of Proposition 4 included The Fund for Animals, The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), Animal Protection Institute (API), International Fund for Animal Welfare, American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and the Doris Day Animal League. The groups were also represented by Eric Glitzenstein of the public interest firm Meyer Glitzenstein & Crystal.
Tracey McIntire, HSUS, 301-548-7793
Zibby Wilder, API, 916-447-3085 x205