Section 1983 to the Rescue
The No Kill Advocacy Center has become increasingly aware that some officials who oversee shelters are threatening volunteers and rescuers that if they speak publicly about conditions at the shelter, they will be banned from volunteering or rescuing animals. But in actually banning or threatening to ban volunteers and rescuers, these officials nationwide are not only holding the animals hostage by threatening to kill them as punishment, they are also violating the civil rights of volunteers.
In 2008, Los Angeles rescuers teamed up with the No Kill Advocacy Center to file a lawsuit which alleged that the civil rights of volunteers and rescuers were being violated as retaliation for going public with their observations of inhumane conditions and neglectful treatment at the shelter. The court agreed.
In applying a federal civil rights statute to this area, the court gave animal activists a powerful weapon to reform the nation’s broken animal shelter system. Volunteers and rescuers no longer have to choose between remaining silent about abuses or risk losing their ability to help some animals by volunteering or rescuing them from death row.
Attorney Sheldon Eisenberg, who brought the ground-breaking lawsuit, argues that “Section 1983,” which was enacted as part of the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871 “can now help extend the protection of laws to those individuals committed to safeguarding the welfare and rights of the animals entrusted to our care.”
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About the Author
Sheldon Eisenberg is a principal founding partner of the Los Angeles law firm of Eisenberg, Raizman, Thurston, and Wong LLP. For over 25 years, companies from all sectors of the Southern California economy have entrusted their most significant litigation problems to Mr. Eisenberg—from cutting edge technology and telecommunications companies to financial institutions and real estate developers, from Hollywood studios and other entertainment companies to software developers and publishers, and from literary and talent agencies to advertisers and national public relations firms.
He recently represented animal rescuers and animal protection organizations, including the No Kill Advocacy Center, to protect volunteer whistleblowers who document abuses from being fired, defend an animal's right to prompt and necessary veterinary care while in the shelter, and require that shelters offer animals to rescue groups or for adoption, rather than kill them. The case Nguyen vs. County of Los Angeles settled in plaintiffs’ favor.
Mr. Eisenberg will be leading a workshop on Litigating No Kill at the national No Kill Conference 2009 in Washington D.C.
To find out more, go to www.nokillconference.org.