The five major US territories, in a nutshell, are governed by US laws and are paying US federal tax, but not provided the representation that states enjoy. With a complex present setup and even more complicated history characterized by oppression and racism, implementing laws, especially newer animal cruelty laws in these areas can get tricky. This webinar discusses the five major territories, the issues they’re facing with animal cruelty, the efforts they’ve taken to protect animals, and the barriers to implementing effective animal cruelty law.
This session’s instructor is Kate Youssouf, a staff attorney with the Criminal Justice Program at the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF). Prior to this role, she clerked for the Honorable Kathleen Y. Mackay at the Superior Court of the Virgin Islands District for St. Thomas and St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Specifics of the discussion include:
- The common unfamiliarity with the US territories and how the legal system is conducted in these areas, and a history lesson on how the US territories came to be.
- The doctrines, cases, and colonial and racist underpinnings that brought about the territories’ current status where they are subject to US law minus the perks of statehood.
- The federal authority and oversight that the Congress has on the territories’ government and law.
- How the inhabitants of territories have to pay federal taxes, can serve in the US military, and are considered US citizens but lack voting rights and representation in Congress.
- A look into each of the territories’ unique characteristics and endemic animal species.
- Distinct animal cruelty issues that the territories individually face.
- The Mayaguez Zoo issue where the animals were kept in poor conditions after hurricanes struck Puerto Rico resulting in the animals’ neglect and death, and the collaborative efforts with the federal government to relocate the animals to animal sanctuaries.
- Issues with free-roaming horses in Vieques Island where resources are scarce and the difficulties with getting the animals the necessary care due to the inability with ascertaining ownership.
- Violations by both tourists and locals to prohibitions from interacting with protected species of sea turtles in the US Virgin Islands.
- Increase of abandoned and stray animals following 2017 hurricanes in the US Virgin Islands.
- The communal ownership of dogs in villages in American Samoa.
- The continuous issue of dogfighting and cockfighting in the territories.
- The developments in animal protection laws and a rundown of the animal cruelty types recognized in each territory and the corresponding charge and sentencing options.
- How Puerto Rico’s animal protection law history started in raids where housing residents’ pets were seized and killed which resulted in the Animal Protection and Welfare Act in 2008.
- The pivotal case of a dog shot to death in Guam which led to the passage of the Protecting Animal Welfare and Safety (PAWS) Act of 2020.
- Guam’s efforts to expand the legal definition of suffering in animals, include animals in protection orders, prohibit ear cropping except for medical purposes, require reporting and assisting animals struck by vehicles, and flexibility in animal law sentencing.
- How the torture of a dog in St. Croix created public uproar resulting in assigning animal cruelty investigators within the US Virgin Islands.
- US Virgin islands’ move to make veterinarians mandated reporters of animal cruelty, require counseling for animal cruelty offenders, and criminalize cruelty to working animals and leaving animals in a hot car.
- The pioneering move to ban shark fin at the Northern Mariana Islands in 2011 and their interest in revising and strengthening presently lenient animal cruelty laws.
- The lacking animal cruelty law in American Samoa where animal welfare is mainly managed by the communities and non-profits and an animal control officer was only integrated within the last 6 months.
- The value in systemic, multi-faceted approaches to improve animal protection in territories that takes into account the distinct culture, communities, and history of the territories and considers the scope and limits that come with the territory status.
- The importance of inclusivity and working alongside the locals of the territories to develop animal protection initiatives that are tailored to their unique realities.
Questions from the webinar attendees are about:
- The function of the first animal control officer in Samoa.
- Licensing and tracking database for animals within the territories.
- How culture can be used as a defense in animal cruelty cases.
- The understanding of the concept of the Link in the territories where animal cruelty typically coexists with other forms of family violence.
- The difference between a territory and a state.
- Using the same framework of inclusion and cultural and historical sensitivity when working on animal law with Native American communities.
Other Webinars with this Organization
- Jan 19: Bodies of Evidence: Issues Arising from Search and Seizure of Animal Bodies in Cruelty Investigations
- Feb 22: Towards a More Humane Society: A One-Health Approach to Addressing Criminal Cruelty for Everyone Involved
- March 23: Always on the Map: An Introduction to Animal Law Issues in the US Territories (this webinar)
- May 9: Lions, and Tigers, and Speech, and Religion, Oh My! Applying an Animal-Forward Lens to First Amendment Jurisprudence
- June 22: Stand Up for the Animals with a Case You Can Stand Behind
- Aug 24: Lessons from the Field: How One Community Transformed Its Response to Animal Cruelty through Collaboration
- Oct 3: The Importance of Pre-Sentence Forensic Psychological Evaluations in Animal Cruelty Cases
- “What I have learned was the territorial differences as it relates to the USA and THE Caribbean in collaboration with the country/territory in question.” — Allison N
- “My thought process for approaching/presenting in similar situations.” — Collin
- “I learned how many people live in these areas and how they are viewed under federal law when it comes to voting as well as federal animal protection laws. The differing issues they are struggling with was really interesting and it was a good reminder of how many places need attention with respect to animal protection and related resources. THANK YOU!” — Emily
- “I got a better understanding of the creation and suppression of the territories in general and better understanding of general standpoint of the other territories (I’m in Guam). I would have liked to see more information on the status of livestock species in the territories (living conditions, protections for livestock species).” — Mariana
Founded in 1979, the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s mission is to protect the lives and advance the interests of animals through the legal system. The Animal Legal Defense Fund accomplishes this mission by filing high-impact lawsuits to protect animals from harm, providing free legal assistance and training to prosecutors to assure that animal abusers are held accountable for their crimes, supporting tough animal protection legislation and fighting legislation harmful to animals, and providing resources and opportunities to law students and professionals to advance the emerging field of animal law.
This webinar has been certified by the National Animal Care & Control Association and is approved for 1 Continuing Education Unit. Please refer to your NACA membership portal for current CEU submission process. Current NACA Members who attend the live presentation or watch the recording will be able to download a jointly issued attendance certificate that includes the National Animal Care & Control Association logo. Visit the NACA training page for a complete list of future trainings.