Great article about two of my animal heroes, veterinarian Dr. Jenny Conrad of The Paw Project and animal rights attorney David Casselman. They are interviewed by actor and animal rights activist Ken Wahl. Below is part of David Casselman’s interview. I’ve known him for ten years and he is an amazing animal lover and fantastic attorney. He’s gotten pro-animal legislation passed in California and has worked on some major animal cases such as the LA Zoo elephant lawsuit. Here’s the LA Times article about the Judge’s opinion in that case.
So, what kinds of things have you been doing as a lawyer, helping animals?
Gosh, over thirty years, I have been fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to work on cases involving almost every kind of animal, from dolphins to horses, feral cats to birds, kittens and puppies being abused and sold, dogs, pot bellied pigs and of course, elephants being kept in zoos under horrific conditions. I have helped draft legislation in Sacramento, testified for and against other legislation, written letters, negotiated settlements, taken cases to trial and on appeal.
All in all, I am proud to say that not one animal has ever complained about my work and I have never billed anyone a single dime for any of my animal efforts.
So how much time are we talking about, how do you stay in business?
It really depends on the case. Over thirty years, it adds up pretty quickly. My work on the Billy case, to free the elephants from the LA Zoo has been through trial and the Court of Appeal once already. It is on its second trip to the Court of Appeal now. On that case alone, I have spent over $5 million in billable time. But, it feels right to me and that is all that matters. My family has always been very supportive and I have been fortunate in that my work for people has been sufficiently lucrative that I have the luxury of being able to spend my free time working on animal cases and issues.
So, what happened in the L.A. Zoo elephant trial and where are things in that case now?
The City built a $42 million exhibit, supposedly to provide a world-class environment for their elephants. But, the truth was, the new exhibit spruced up the spectator areas, but did nothing to improve the horrific living conditions for the elephants.
So, we went to trial and proved that the elephants were not healthy, happy or thriving, as claimed. They are surrounded by hot wire in tiny enclosures. Historically, they were disciplined with electric shock devices and bull hooks. The ground is as hard as concrete because it is never roto-tilled. They often stand in their own urine and feces and they are forced to live in near isolation in spaces of approximately a quarter of an acre in size. They compact the ground quickly, and then develop arthritis, abscesses and foot cracks. In a few years, the current elephants will develop serious foot problems and die like the other 14 elephants that lived in this zoo.
After hearing the evidence, the trial court entered judgment in our favor, banning any further use of bull hooks or electric shock on LA zoo elephants. He also ordered the space roto-tilled on a regular basis and further ordered that the zoo exercise its elephants for two hours daily. Rather than comply with the judgment, the City has appealed. The case is now working its way through the appellate court system. We hope to convince the Court of Appeal that the only solution is to close the exhibit to elephants, period.
Mary Cummins of Animal Advocates is a wildlife rehabilitator licensed by the California Department of Fish and Game and the USDA. Mary Cummins is also a licensed real estate appraiser in Los Angeles, California.