Case Name: Animal Legal Defense Fund, et al. vs. Mendocino County
Nature of Case: In November 2014, the Animal Welfare Institute and its co-plaintiffs brought claims against Mendocino County, California, for violating the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The lawsuit alleged that Mendocino County failed to conduct legally required environmental review of its $142,356 taxpayer-funded contract with the US Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services program. CEQA requires that counties, as public agencies, review the environmental impacts of their actions, including wildlife management activities, and modify such actions if less destructive alternatives are feasible. However, Mendocino County’s contract with Wildlife Services authorizes the killing of hundreds of animals in the county every year, including coyotes, bears, bobcats, and foxes, and was entered into without fully assessing the ecological damage or considering alternatives, such as nonlethal predator control methods.
In April 2015, Mendocino County agreed to suspend the renewal of its contract with Wildlife Services pending environmental review that will include consideration of nonlethal predator control methods. As a result of this agreement, the Animal Welfare Institute and its co-plaintiffs agreed to dismiss its lawsuit.
However, in June 2015, Mendocino County renewed its contract with Wildlife Services without conducting an environmental review. In July 2015, the Animal Welfare Institute and its co-plaintiffs brought claims against Mendocino County for renewing its contract with Wildlife Services in violation of CEQA and in breach of the April 2015 settlement agreement, in which the county agreed to comply with CEQA before renewing its contract with Wildlife Services.
Court: Superior Court of the State of California
Year Filed: first lawsuit 2014; second lawsuit 2015
Plaintiffs: Animal Legal Defense Fund, Animal Welfare Institute, Center for Biological Diversity, Natural Resources Defense Council, Project Coyote, and a Mendocino County resident
Defendants: Mendocino County
- California NEPA Wildlife Services Complaint filed on June 6, 2017
- California NEPA Wildlife Services Settlement Agreement filed on October 30, 2017
Each year, Wildlife Services indiscriminately kills millions of animals—approximately 80,000 in California—on behalf of commercial agriculture using taxpayer dollars, despite peer-reviewed research that shows reckless slaughter of animals, particularly predators, causes broad ecological destruction and loss of biodiversity. Lethal methods often indiscriminately kill native carnivores who represent an important component of a thriving ecosystem, and do little to control livestock losses. These methods run contrary to a greater need for safe public lands and a healthy environment. Wildlife Services' methods of predator control, such as the use of steel-jaw leghold traps and sodium cyanide, can cause severe animal suffering—not only for wildlife, but also for domestic pets. Indiscriminate methods used by Wildlife Services have also killed more than 50,000 nontarget animals, including family pets, endangered condors, bald eagles, and millions of other birds.
The Animal Welfare Institute and its co-plaintiffs originally brought suit against Mendocino County over its failure to conduct an environmental review, as required by CEQA, before entering into a contract with Wildlife Services for lethal methods of predator control. This lawsuit was settled via an April 2, 2015, settlement agreement, in which the county agreed to comply with CEQA. As a result, the Animal Welfare and its co-plaintiffs dismissed their suit. After Mendocino County renewed its contract with Wildlife Services in June 2015 without conducting an environmental review, the Animal Welfare Institute and its co-plaintiffs brought another suit against the county. The second suit alleged that Mendocino County’s action in renewing its contract violated CEQA and also breached its settlement agreement with the Animal Welfare Institute and its co-plaintiffs, in which the county agreed to comply with CEQA.
- Animal Protection, Conservation Organizations Sue Mendocino County in Response to Wildlife Services Contract Renewal – AWI Press Release, July 27, 2015
- Conservationists Sue over Mendocino County Coyote-Killing Plan – Reuters, July 29, 2015
- Mendocino County Suspends Contract with a Federal Wildlife Agency – LA Times, April 15, 2015
- Mendocino County Suspends Contract with Rogue Federal Wildlife-Killing Program – AWI Press Release, April 13, 2015
- Lawsuit Filed Against Mendocino County over Contract with Rogue Federal Predator Control Program – AWI Press Release, November 25, 2014
- AWI Responds to Increase in Wildlife Services' Killing – AWI Quarterly (Summer 2014)