For the first time in the United States, the Animal Legal Defense Fund announced that the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio has recognized animals as legal people.
The Animal Legal Defense Fund filed an application for the plaintiffs in legal action against the Colombian government over a proposal to slaughter about 100 hippos descended from animals brought in by legendary drug lord Pablo Escobar.
The plaintiffs are the Magdelena River's "community of hippopotamuses." Animals in Colombia have legal standing to file cases to safeguard their rights. The court recognized the hippos as legal persons under the legislation when it granted the motion to undertake discovery for use in international proceedings under 28 U.S.C. 1782.
This United States Act permits anybody who is an "interested person" in a foreign lawsuit to ask a federal court for authorization to conduct confirmations in the United States in support of their overseas case.
Someone who is a party to the foreign case "no doubt" qualifies as an "interested person" under this provision, according to the United States Supreme Court. The Animal Legal Defense Fund argued that the hippos qualified as "interested persons" under this provision since they are plaintiffs in the Colombian case.
The Court Order
In a statement, Animal Legal Defense Fund Executive Director Stephen Wells stated, animals have the right to be free from cruelty and exploitation, and the inability of US courts to recognize their rights impedes the capacity to implement current legal safeguards.
The command issued from the court which allow the hippos to exercise their legal right to acquire information in the United States is a significant step forward in the larger campaign to acknowledge that animals have enforceable rights.
Attorney Luis Domingo Gómez Maldonado filed a lawsuit in Colombia on behalf of the hippos on July 31, 2020, in order to prevent the animals from being murdered.
While the case is pending, the regional environmental agency in charge of the hippo population stated on October 15, 2021 that it has started administering the contraceptive medicine GonaCon to a portion of the animals.
It's unclear if the Colombian government's use of the medicine will be safe and successful, and how many hippos the government plans to kill.
How to Prevent the Hippos From Increasing in Number
The hippos' lawsuit seeks an order requiring the use of a contraceptive called PZP (porcine zona pellucida), which has a history of success in zoo hippos and has been recommended by an International Advisory Committee assembled by Animal Balance, an international organization that focuses on animal sterilization.
Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar bought four hippos for his private zoo in the 1980s. Because the Colombian authorities were unable to relocate the hippos to a suitable location after Escobar's death, the hippos were left on his property.
In the years afterward, the hippos had left the property, migrated to the Magdalena River, and reproduced at an unsustainable pace, according to some ecologists.
The testimony of Animal Balance's wildlife specialists, Dr. Elizabeth Berkeley and Dr. Richard Berlinski, will be used to build support for the PZP contraceptive, which would prevent hippos from becoming overpopulated and hence being slaughtered.
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