TACOMA — The Olympic Game Farm has asked a federal judge to dismiss some of the claims against it in a lawsuit filed by the Animal Legal Defense Fund, arguing the law firm cannot make claims based on state nuisance and state animal cruelty laws.
On Wednesday, Olympic Game Farm filed a motion in U.S. District Court in Tacoma to dismiss ALDF’s public nuisance and animal cruelty claims, saying state law does not recognize private cause of action to enforce cruelty laws.
ALDF has not responded to the motion.
ALDF sued Olympic Game Farm in December, alleging that the Sequim-area business is in violation of the Endangered Species Act and asking the court to require the game farm to give up its endangered or threatened species to a sanctuary.
The farm’s motion outlines the more than 70-year history of the Game Farm, with filmmaker and animal trainer Lloyd Beebe starting the facility in the 1940s. Beginning in the 1950s, Beebe and his family made more than 100 films with Disney, either at the Game Farm or featuring animals trained at the game farm.
“Lloyd Beebe’s son and grandsons have continued this tradition and have continued to modernize operations at the Farm, marking three generations committed to the sound stewardship of the animals at the Olympic Game Farm,” the motion says. “The plaintiff in this case, the Animal Legal Defense Fund, is a California-based animal rights group that has different views about animal husbandry practices.
“ALDF disagrees with the sufficiency of [United States Department of Agriculture] regulations, and commonly files suit against private animal owners in an effort to force the transfer to accredited ‘sanctuaries’ that are part of the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries.”
In addition to claims that the game farm is in violation of the Endangered Species Act, ALDF has also alleged that the game farm is in violation of state public nuisance laws.
“ALDF’s members have been injured by Defendant’s nuisance because they have visited the OGF for recreation purposes based on the mistaken belief that OGF was caring for rescued exotic animals,” ALDF’s complaint says. “ALDF’s members would return to OGF if the housing conditions improved, or visit the animals if they were moved to a sanctuary.”
ALDF’s complaint also alleges the game farm is violating state animal cruelty laws.
In the game farm’s motion, the game farm said state animal cruelty laws cannot be the basis of a private lawsuit because animal cruelty laws fall under criminal law.
“Washington law does not recognize a private cause of action to enforce its animal cruelty laws,” the motion says. “These are criminal statutes, and prosecution of these criminal statues is left to the enforcement of the statutorily designated enforcement agencies — local animal control agencies and the State Department of Fish and Wildlife, both of which are fully familiar with the Game Farm’s operations.”
State law says that public nuisances “affect equally the rights of an entire community or neighborhood” by annoying, injuring or endangering the “comfort, repose, health or safety” of the members of that community, the motion says.
The Game Farm said in its motion that instead of alleging impacts to the neighborhood or community, ALDF alleges injury only to its unidentified members.
The motion said that even if there were a community or neighborhood injury, ALDF has not alleged that it is part of the community or neighborhood.
“On the contrary, ALDF has alleged that it is a California-based organization,” the motion said. “ALDF does not allege it suffers an injury at all from operation of the Olympic Game Farm, let alone a special injury as a member of a community that it is not a part of.”
Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at [email protected].