The Challenges of Mounting a Court Case on Behalf of an Animal

Maral Cavner

Attorney, Maral Cavner is a member of the Portland, Oregon (OR) community who recently graduated from Lewis and Clark Law School. An active volunteer, Maral Cavner serves as a founding board member of the Route 66 No-Kill Animal Rescue and Shelter and specialized in animal law through her law program at Lewis and Clark Law School, which houses the number one animal law program in the country.

One issue recently addressed in the Legal Intelligencer centers on whether animals are capable of suing for injuries that have been inflicted on them by humans. The answer, unfortunately under nearly all circumstances, is no, leaving animals with little recourse for the harms they endure.

Because animals are considered “property” under the law, they are not able to bring cases to court that enforce the few protections that are afforded them, such as those in the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Rather, a human must be found who is able to meet prudential and statutory standing requirements and plead the case on the animal’s behalf.

The thresholds are high for this, as the plaintiff must be closely enough associated with the situation such that a “concrete and particularized harm” was inflicted on them by the animal’s mistreatment.

One example is the Ringling Brothers elephants that were subject to inhumane treatment such as the use of bullhooks, which may contravene ESA provisions. In order to mount a case, a plaintiff with standing needed to be found who had a longstanding relationship with the animals, such as a circus trainer. Unfortunately, such a person is often unwilling or unable to speak out against the practices of the company on which they rely for a salary.

In the Ringling Brothers case, a former employee was ultimately found, but this did not prevent the case from being thrown out of court on the standing issue, without claimed ESA violations ever being taken up. The bottom line is that it is still extremely difficult to bring a case to court on behalf of an animal, particularly when weighed against the “property” interests involved, leaving the legal system lacking an obvious solution for the protection of animal victims.


California Law Mandates That Pet Stores Sell Only Rescue Cats and Dogs


Boston Celtics Trade for Point Guard Kyrie Irving

Kyrie Irving pic
Kyrie Irving

The recipient of a graduate degree in conflict and dispute resolution from Missouri State University, Maral Cavner is an aspiring environmental and animal justice attorney who held internship roles with the Missouri Attorney General’s Office and the International Campaign for Tibet. Beyond her professional pursuits, Maral Cavner is a passionate fan of the National Basketball Association’s (NBA) Boston Celtics.

The Celtics have made the playoffs in eight of the past nine seasons since winning a championship in 2008, but have yet to advance beyond the Eastern Conference Finals. In an attempt to bolster its roster for the 2017-18 season, the team completed a blockbuster trade with the Cleveland Cavaliers in which it acquired four-time All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving in exchange for Isaiah Thomas, Ante Zizic, Jae Crowder, a 2018 first-round draft pick, and a 2020 second-round draft pick.

The trade was agreed to on August 22, but fell through after Thomas failed his physical due to a hip injury. The transaction was officially completed on August 30 with the Celtics adding the second-round pick. The first overall pick of the 2011 NBA Draft, Irving earned Rookie of the Year in 2012 after averaging 18.5 points and 5.4 assists per game. Now in his seventh season, the native of Melbourne, Australia, has a career average of 21.6 points, 5.6 steals, and 3.4 rebounds per game.

Animal Welfare Groups Celebrate the End of the Circus

Animal Legal Defense Fund pic
Animal Legal Defense Fund

Law student Maral Cavner plans to use her forthcoming legal credential in the field of animal law. A dedicated animal lover, Maral Cavner has already made great strides helping companion animals through her work at the Route 66 No-Kill Shelter, and she is an advocate for the freedom and well-being of animals everywhere.

The Animal Legal Defense Fund, the Humane Society, and other animal welfare organizations are eagerly awaiting the end of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus performances, which will conclude in May 2017.

Animal lovers have been increasingly critical of the circus for decades, as allegations of abuse and reports of animal deaths stacked up. In particular, the 1998 death of an elephant named Kenny sparked widespread discussion of the role of elephants in entertainment.

In more recent months, cities and states across the nation began to ban the use of bull hooks on elephants. Ringling announced its refusal to bring the circus to cities with such bans, and regulatory and economic pressures contributed to dropping ticket sales, forcing the circus to close after 146 years.

Alpha Kappa Delta Society Holds President’s Dinner at ASA Conference


Three More Successful Gray Seal Rescues for the IFAW

International Fund for Animal Welfare pic
International Fund for Animal Welfare

Maral Cavner, a founding member of Route 66 Rescue Inc., a no-kill animal shelter in Missouri, is currently studying to become a lawyer. After she receives her law degree, Maral Cavner intends to go into animal law and protect animal rights. As part of her personal and professional commitment to animal welfare, she carefully follows the latest developments around the nation.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) has developed an effective system for rescuing gray seals from entanglements in recent years. Entrapments in aquatic hazards are responsible for the deaths of 75 gray seals a year in the United States alone. When a gray seal becomes caught in a net or other obstacle, researchers track it and sedate it with a special dart. This requires great care, as seals often swim close enough to touch one another. Each dart emits a signal, allowing rescuers to track the animal as it begins to grow drowsy.

It takes about 10 minutes to fully sedate a 200- to 280-pound gray seal. Rescuers move in quickly, using special nets to safely lift the seal into a boat. Over the next 45 minutes, they remove the entanglement, treat any wounds, and attach a tag so they can track the animal and follow up later.

This technique, developed over years, has led to an increase in seal rescues recently. Rescuers were able to save three seals in three days during October of 2016, a new feat for IFAW teams. The organization hopes to refine the procedure even further in the near future and would like to be able to save more than one seal per day.

Donating Your Vehicle to Teen Challenge

Teen Challenge pic
Teen Challenge

Maral Cavner attended Emory University, where she attained her bachelor’s degree in sociology with highest honors. Since 2011, Maral Cavner has also served as an executive board member for Teen Challenge, a nonprofit organization offering young people a new chance at freedom from life-controlling problems, like addiction.

As a nonprofit, Teen Challenge relies heavily on donations to meet its financial needs. One of the ways you can help is through donating a vehicle to the organization.

Teen Challenge works with a company called Insurance Auto Auction to collect donated vehicles from donors. After filling out the online form or calling the company, you can request a vehicle pick-up and thus not have to worry about the cost of transporting the automobile.

The vehicle you donate can be in any condition, drivable or otherwise. You will, however, need to provide a clear vehicle title upon donation. Once donated, your vehicle will be sold and you will receive a receipt in the mail to keep for your tax records.

To learn more about Teen Challenge and other ways to help, visit