I was the lead attorney for the Animal Legal Defense Fund in a public nuisance lawsuit against a Pennsylvania ice cream shop to free "Ricky the bear" from small and barren enclosure. The lawsuit generated widespread media coverage, and recently resulted in a settlement where Ricky was sent from her Pennsylvania exhibit to a Colorado sanctuary where she is being rehabilitated for introduction into an expansive fifteen acre home with other bears.

Proof of identity here. Video about her rescue is here.

Edit: Thanks for a great conversation! I have to go at 4:00 PM (PT), but keep the questions coming.

Edit 2: Gotta run! Thanks so much for all of the insightful questions. I'll check back a few times this evening to answer more. Don't miss the video of Ricky's rescue.

Edit 3: The ALDF online team is insisting I peddle our website, Facebook, and Twitter on here too.

Edit 4: Thanks for the great conversation, everyone. Goodnight!

Comments: 969 • Responses: 51  • Date: 

astoriabeatsbk477 karma

Is there a Mrs. Bear Free'er?

MatthewALDF566 karma

There is a Ms. Bear Free'er, who is a public interest attorney herself, working to make sure low-income people get the legal assistance they need.

Brelya9 karma


MatthewALDF22 karma

Legal aid.

BloodyEjaculate270 karma

Are you vegetarian/vegan?

MatthewALDF1092 karma

Yes, happy, healthy vegan for 15 years. First rule of legal ethics: don't eat your clients.

katrinald189 karma

What can I legally do to help a dog across the alley because his owner leaves him out on freezing, dangerous temperatures at night?

MatthewALDF273 karma

ALDF's LiveSafe app lets you report animal cruelty with your smartphone.

Dan-Morris101 karma

When we report using the app, who receives our report?

MatthewALDF226 karma

"If you live in a jurisdiction that is already connected with LiveSafe—many jurisdictions across the nation already are—then the tip goes direct to your local law enforcement. If your local authorities are not yet connected with the app, then the tip goes to a call center staffed with individuals who will quickly locate the appropriate local authorities and forward the tips to the correct contact for your jurisdiction. Because the app was built by the same developers who created an already-established national app for general crime reporting, there is already a well-established infrastructure in place that makes sure tips about animal abuse submitted through LiveSafe will quickly and seamlessly get to your local authorities."

Betrayus35 karma

Who foots the bill for this app/organization?

MatthewALDF116 karma

The app is free. The Animal Legal Defense Fund is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit supported by private donations from individuals who support our work. Those who would like to support us can do so here.

May17th155 karma

How'd the idiots who owned the shop get a bear anyways?

MatthewALDF186 karma

According to her owner, Ricky was given to the ice cream shop by the Pennsylvania Game Commission. Before Ricky, the ice cream shop owned other bears and even a lion, due to the lax regulations on private possession of captive wildlife.

kassleruk142 karma

In your experience, what are the best ways for an average citizen to affect change in animal welfare law? Signing petitions and writing to politicians feels like I'm doing something, but I don't know how helpful those actions actually are. How do we give animals a stronger voice?

MatthewALDF172 karma

Petitions that are well-written, strategic, and properly timed can make a difference. In Ricky's case, more than 200,000 people signed petitions to urge the owner to send Ricky to a sanctuary and that kind of public scrutiny cannot be ignored. Public engagement is essential, as are individual acts that refuse complicity with animal exploitation, such as refusing to support businesses that harm animals.

Lala73110103 karma

I'm an animal rights activist in Oklahoma, and my husband is an attorney. We have donated to ALDF, AND WE BELIEVE IN YOUR WORK. THANK YOU for saving Ricky!!! Question: how is the movement against AG-GAG laws going? I live only a few miles away from a factory pig farm, and am sickened by the cloak of secrecy that shrouds that horrible place. Vegan for life!

MatthewALDF118 karma

I grew up in Texas, so I have a sense of what it's like to be a vegan in Oklahoma. Keep up the great work. The fight against ag gag laws, which criminalize undercover investigations at factory farms, is going very well. We've legislatively defeated almost all of the bills that have been introduced over the last few years, and our litigation to challenge their constitutionality is proceeding well.

moanerific92 karma

What is your opinion on PETA?

Good job on getting Ricky free, BTW.

MatthewALDF85 karma

I don't agree with everything they do, but they do some good work. We worked together to rescue another bear, Ben.

Aml5590 karma

How did your legal career (or personal life) steer you towards becoming an animal rights attorney? Do you feel like this area of law is becoming more widespread/accepted?

MatthewALDF180 karma

I've been an animal rights advocate since high school and studied philosophy in college with a concentration on animal ethics. I went to law school with the goal of practicing animal rights law and have been litigating cases for ALDF for more than 7 years now. Animal law is growing exponentially in ways I couldn't have expected just a few short years ago.

zoxcat59 karma

What is your advice to someone who has been thinking about entering the world of animal rights litigation?

MatthewALDF67 karma

If you're already in the legal field, we have some great resources here.

iamnotdenny28 karma

Well, just keep in mind that bird law is a whole different ballgame.

jeffprobst22 karma

Bird law is definitely not governed by reason in this country.

MatthewALDF53 karma

I'll take that advise under cooperation, alright? Now, let's say you and I go toe-to-toe on bird law and see who comes out the victor?

BarkPurrAllianceFund81 karma

Thank You for your great work! How do you maintain your mental equilibrium having to deal with animal cruelty cases on a consistent basis?

MatthewALDF103 karma

It certainly helps to have some wins like this one to recharge the batteries!

arudolph69 karma

What are some other cases ALDF is currently pursuing?

MatthewALDF126 karma

We do a wide variety of cases, everything from factory farming cases to companion animal cases to captive wildlife cases to animal experimentation cases. Other captive wildlife cases I'm working on involve a tiger at a truck stop in Louisiana and a roadside zoo in North Carolina.

Gourmay42 karma

I can't believe Tony the Tiger is still there. Is there any end in sight for his awful situation?

MatthewALDF41 karma

I just gave a more detailed response in another comment, but the short answer is yes!

imayposteventually67 karma

I followed Ricky's story on "The Dodo!" Good for you. Her life was just awful. I cannot fathom keeping any animal in such dreadful conditions.

Were you there when she was released into the sanctuary? (Did you cry a little bit?)

MatthewALDF94 karma

Thanks for following her plight! I was there in Pennsylvania with our clients and the wonderful transport team from the Wild Animal Sanctuary when they loaded her up and hit the road. I was also able to see Ricky the next day at the sanctuary, sleeping on straw in her new den. It was a wonderful transformation.

Jenay51261 karma

Why did it take a lawsuit for the owners to agree to move Ricky? Were they not willing to negotiate beforehand and/or did they really think his cage was a suitable habitat for a bear?

MatthewALDF98 karma

We did try to resolve the issue privately before filing suit, but sometimes it takes litigation to really make change, which speaks to the importance of groups like the Animal Legal Defense Fund. The owner finally did the right thing and agreed to send Ricky to a sanctuary. For that, we commend him.

petsounds9443 karma

Hi! I've been a vegetarian for two years now. I've thought about becoming a vegan (I think it's ethically necessary, to be honest) but I'm scared about how easy it will be. Do you have any tips or tricks?

MatthewALDF52 karma

You can do it! There's a learning curve at first, but it's second nature before long. I wrote a blog about going vegan; it's a little dated by now, but I think the advice still holds. I'd recommend the book Vegan For Life for getting started.

MatthewALDF19 karma


We also have some great resources available here.

Bearlove1035 karma

Thank you so much for dedicating your time to giving animals a voice. What's the hardest aspect of your job? Most rewarding?

MatthewALDF63 karma

The hardest part of the job is the inevitable frustration of trying to help animals through a legal system that is mostly indifferent to their plight. The most rewarding aspect is the flipside of that: when we finally get traction and transform the life of an animal, as we did in Ricky's case.

imakepeoplehappyok22 karma

As I was reading though the discussions about Ricky on Facebook on the many local articles, I noticed a trend. It seemed as though many of the locals were unhappy about the lawsuit for one reason or another (memories of visiting Jim Mack's, local celebrity status, indifference or ignorance, claims that it was an unimportant issue, etc.,) and I am wondering what you would say to the people who were against Ricky's release to the sanctuary?

MatthewALDF28 karma

The vast majority of people in York and the surrounding areas supported our case and were very thrilled when we won. Our four plaintiffs were locals who had been outspoken about Ricky's captivity. The local news stories had thousands of "likes" compared to a handful of comments from a very vocal minority of detractors, most of whom misunderstood the case and the relief that we were seeking.

pmmeyouranything21 karma

Thank you for all you do to advocate for animal welfare!

Do you have suggestions for law students interested in working in animal rights law? It seems like a niche field, but one I am greatly interested in as a current law student!

MatthewALDF15 karma

We have some great resources for law students available here. I highly recommend attending the annual conference that ALDF co-hosts at Lewis and Clark Law School in October.

1cutepenguin21 karma

Hi, I have a couple of questions: What are the next steps/plans to free Tony (truck stop tiger in LA)? Do you think it's just a matter of time until he's free - like yes, the legal process takes forever, but is it moving in a good direction that leads to his freedom? Also, what are the biggest obstacles you deal with - I mean, is it that state/local gov'ts just don't care about these animals' rights or that the laws just don't exist yet until you bring an issue before the court? I'm just imagining you in court, providing evidence as to the conditions a wild animal is living in, thinking the people you talk to must've had a dog/pet at some point in life, yet, in hearing your evidence, are like, eh, yeah, we're just gonna let that animal's suffering continue. I mean, once you make lawmakers/legal system aware of a situation, don't they want to help? I don't see how anyone, other than the crappy owners, could not be on the animals' side. Sorry for the long-windedness - thinking about these poor animals (and all the animals worldwide who suffer at human hands) overwhelms me and breaks my heart.

MatthewALDF49 karma

Tony's case has been long and frustrating. We won the lawsuit, but his owner filed a case of his own to challenge Louisiana's big cat regulations, and then he managed to convince the Louisiana legislature to retroactively exempt him from the law we used in our case. But we haven't given up and we're fighting both the owner's lawsuit and the new exemption in court. Things have moved painfully slowly, but if the court agrees with us that the Louisiana big cat ban is constitutional and that Louisiana can't simply exempt one person from its laws, then Tony will finally be free. How long that will take is out of our hands, unfortunately.

jefferey131319 karma

I know this is kind of a tough question, but as an animal rights attorney, what rights do you believe animals have? All of the same ones as humans? The right to never be consumed for food? To never be kept as pets? Humans can eat animals but only if they are kept and raised humanely?

MatthewALDF66 karma

It is a tough question, and lots has been written on it. Practically speaking, society has at least reached a consensus that animals have a right to not to be treated cruelly and they have a right not to have their interests disregarded for trivial human benefits. How those get sorted out in practice raises a whole other set of questions. Do animals deserve the same rights as humans? No, they don't have much use for a right to vote or a right to drive a car. So of course, which rights animals have will depend on the contexts in which they exist. But animals do deserve to have their well-being considered and to have their interests matter in the legal system.

ST8R19 karma

What is your opinion of making making very costly legal efforts to "save" dogs who no one disputes were involved in severe or deadly attacks?

There are dozens of examples, but probably the best example is Mickey, a pit bull in Arizona who severely attacked a child and was court ordered to be euthanized when the Lexus Project stepped in to overturn the euthanasia order. They succeeded -- Mickey was neutered, defanged, and will spend the rest of his life in a jail cell, his care paid for by Arizona taxpayers.

Here's the ASPCA's Emily Weiss on Mickey's welfare:

"I find watching Mickey quite difficult. I struggle watching him from a few perspectives. First, Mickey seems to have developed some stereotypies – you can see him move from front to back of his cell in the same pattern over and over. Mickey spends a significant amount of time door watching, waiting for someone to come. He cocks his head, and his body softens and he wiggles when he hears footfalls or other sounds. He is obviously a curious dog who has a strong pull for human contact, and this is where he lives – with quite limited human contact...the resources and emotions spent on Mickey feel blind to the plight of the vast majority of shelter dogs who don’t leave the shelter."

The Lexus Project attorneys essentially crowdsource their paychecks by raising donations from the public to appeal euthanasia orders for dogs deemed dangerous by a court. In many cases, there seems to be no dispute that the dog was involved in a highly injurious or deadly attack on a human or nonhuman. Also in many cases, it seems that the facts of the case are fabricated or embellished in order to elicit sympathy from donors. For example, in Mickey's case, someone fabricated a story in which the child victim was attacked after trying to take a bone away from the dog, thereby blaming the child for provoking the attack.

In Mickey's case, I believe the amount of money raised for the dog's legal defense was well into the tens of thousands and possibly into six digits. He even has his own webcam which someone purchased for him for $1,000. Presumably, Arizona taxpayers are also on the hook for the bandwidth on this webcam. To top it all off, the dog now has cancer, for which he is receiving treatment.

As a vehement death penalty opponent, I also oppose the notion that any animal "deserves" to die -- never mind the fact that a dog cannot comprehend our justice system or being "sentenced" for anything. However, Mickey is dependent on humans for his care, and yet he is so risky that he has no real quality of life. He is also too aggressive to have contact with other animals. He lives alone and as Weiss noted, has developed clear signs of distress.

Moreover, what about the ethics of pouring tens of thousands of dollars into an aggressive and now sick dog when millions of perfectly friendly, healthy dogs and cats are euthanized every year in shelters for simple lack of space, time, and/or funds to care for them?

MatthewALDF16 karma

Really difficult question. I don't know enough of the details of Mickey's case to say anything intelligent about it, but, like you, I don't think animals deserve the death penalty, especially where there are legitimate alternatives, such as reputable sanctuaries, who can provide a good home for the animal while also protecting society from dangerous animals.

As for the ethics of supporting an individual dog versus the many other dogs in the same position, I understand the utilitarian case against it, but I also think each animal, as an individual, deserves whatever support we can muster. Whatever the reason, people respond more to individual cases than institutional ones. I wrote a blog about that here. We need to make sure our compassion for individual animals doesn't draw us away from bigger issues, but in my experience, people often come to the bigger issues through individual acts of compassion.

kingswee18 karma

What was Ricky's favorite flavor?

MatthewALDF69 karma

Sadly, Ricky's diet consisted of dog food, dried corn, donuts, and coke. At her new sanctuary home, she'll get a wide variety of fruits, veggies, roots, and other nutritious food, but no ice cream...

moosepaw118 karma

Maybe a bit off-topic. I'm all for eating animals after they've lived relatively long and normal life. But I think many know there are many places not like that. My question, Is there an independent regulatory group that rates livestock farmers? If so, are there any that have a good metric aligned with a concerned citizen and are their results easily found? Lastly is it easy to trace livestock farmers to their customers (Safeway, Burger King, etc...)

MatthewALDF69 karma

Thanks for the question and the concern. It's my philosophy that death is a negative (albeit, ultimately inevitable) event, so the quality of an animal's life is no justification for causing her death. But even if you believe that killing animals for food is justified under the terms you describe, there are no animals who are killed for food that live a relatively long and normal life. This chart, which shows the ages at which animals are slaughtered, is pretty shocking: the bottom line is that the animals who are killed for meat are just kids.

ithurrts17 karma

Thank you for your amazing work! There's a "zoo" in Rising Sun, MD called "Plumpton Park Zoo" that's horrible. (Many people like this "road side zoo" because it's smaller, you can throw what appears to be dog food into cages, cheaper ticket prices.) When I visited the prairie dogs where kept in a wire cage that did enable digging and people could put their fingers in. They had a white-faced capuchin monkey all by itself- just one. He/she was standing in a corner holding his tail like a stuffie. He/she was clearly distressed. They also had a jackal who was pacing back and forth, back and forth- the entire trip he was constantly doing this. The bear they had was chewing on the cage.

Who would reports go to in this case? I've read online they've been cited for small enclosures, unsanitary conditions, etc.


MatthewALDF16 karma

I'll look into it. Thanks for the tip! Please email [email protected] with any more info you have about it.

jumbohotdog15 karma

Ii there, I've been familiar with that bear since I was a little kid. I was wondering - any follow-up news from the sanctuary? How is she adjusting? Does she miss the donuts?

MatthewALDF37 karma

She's doing great. Here's the report from the sanctuary: "Ricky is acting very comfortable already, and has already started to play inside her den and is enjoying rearranging her straw & grass bedding. She has been nose-to-nose with a number of female Bears that came to greet her (through the fence)… and is eating lots of fruits, vegetables, meats and sweet treats."

RedditingChivette11 karma

Thank you for your work! My question is specific to the recent debacle surrounding seaworld. What do you believe would be the best option for the whales in captivity? Is releasing them into the wild even feasible?

MatthewALDF19 karma

Check out this article about sea pens, which are probably the best solution to a difficult problem created by SeaWorld and others who think they have a right to confine wild animals in small tanks.

bluebird171711 karma

Pa. lawyer here, active in animal law and animal welfare issues. I was so excited to see Ricky get released to a sanctuary. But the bottom line is that there was no law, correct, that made this illegal? It's great we pressured the owner to release her, but had he not agreed, she'd still be in that cage. It's so hard in a state like Pa. to effect change re: our animal welfare laws. What can I do and what can other nonlawyers do to actually change these laws? I write my law makers, I'm involved in animal law committees, etc., but Pa. is not known for its animal-friendly laws (e.g. pigeon shoots). Thanks for all you do!

Edit: changed "his" to "its"

MatthewALDF18 karma

PA's wildlife regulations prohibit the inhumane treatment of captive wildlife, so there was a law that made the captivity illegal; it just wasn't being enforced, which is where we stepped in. We hope Ricky's case will force the PA wildlife commission to take its enforcement responsibilities more seriously.

irregularcog11 karma

Did Jim Mack inspect the sanctuary and did that change his mind? He seemed to be worried whether Ricky would be taken care of there which is kind of weird since they were giving her Coke and maple donuts

MatthewALDF22 karma

No, but once we explained how the sanctuary operates, he realized it was far superior to her cage at the ice cream shop.

WaterPenny10 karma

How do you find the cases you take on? There seems to be so many, how do you choose? Have you heard about poor Lucy, the lonely elephant in frigid Edmonton? Also, a big THANK YOU for saving Ricky.

MatthewALDF14 karma

Some cases are brought to us by concerned members of the public, as Ricky's case was; others we find ourselves. Obviously we have to be selective about which cases are most likely to succeed. We are familiar with poor Lucy's plight. There was a lawsuit a few years ago, that unfortunately did not succeed in getting her out.

nikitamaria10 karma

Great work! Thanks so much. What can people who don't work in the field of law or animal protection do for animals that may be in danger? And is there anything we can do for animals abroad? For example, crocodiles used for entertainment that were likely abused in order to be trained? Thank you in advance.

MatthewALDF12 karma

ALDF has some great answers to these questions here. As for helping animals abroad, find out who is organizing indigenously and support their efforts.

Ecofab9 karma

Good for you, saving the bear! I wish more people stepped up like you did. Have you ever seen the poor tiger kept at a gas station in Louisiana? It's enough to make you cry. http://www.tigertruckstop.com/

MatthewALDF12 karma

Yes, we're suing to rescue Tony too.

orkenbjorken9 karma

Thank you for taking on this case I was fighting Jim Mack for over a decade to do something about those animals. I'm really proud of you, Amanda and Kelly for everything you did that I could not. You guys are amazing! Uuh I don't really have a question soo... How's the weather treatin Ricky?

MatthewALDF18 karma

From the sanctuary: "So far, we have had a lot of warmer weather her in CO, so there is a chance Ricky may not go into hibernation. That’s OK, as it won’t affect anything for her long-term happiness or comfort, and she will be fine staying awake so she can continue to adapt.

If she chooses to remain awake, Ricky will be released into the habitat once we feel she is completely comfortable. This process involves our staff opening the door to her enclosure, but not forcing her to come out. We allow the Bears to come out at their own pace.

Usually, the Bear will come out and explore areas very close to their introduction enclosure (which they now consider home base), and will slowly extend their exploration to further distances day by day. They will also meet other bears without the fence between them, and if they feel the need, they can always go back to the enclosure to gain a sense of comfort and safety.

These scenarios of expanding their horizons go on for weeks, and eventually, the Bear feels perfectly comfortable in all areas of the habitat. This is when we start to see new relationships forming, and Ricky will no-doubt find a few friends in the bunch that she likes. She will begin playing with these Bears and start to enjoy having the comradery of others, as well as the added activity of playing and wrestling (which bears love to do).

Eventually, by spring, Ricky will have abandoned her introduction enclosure (and den) and will have picked another den as her own somewhere within the habitat. Sometimes Bears like to sleep with others, and will share a den, and others like to be alone. It’s up to Ricky to decide, and we always make sure there are plenty of dens for the Bears to not have to share if they don’t so choose."

arowberry6 karma

Was checking to see if anyone had asked this. A follow up video would be really good to watch.

Edit: I am loving this post-rescue video of a different bear they helped to rescue.

MatthewALDF4 karma

Ricky's rescue video is here.

TheKittyOwl9 karma

Hi, I'm late to the party but reading through the comments here a question arouse: what's your stance on animal experimenting, in general? I'm from a scientific field and well, unfortunately there's still lots of animal testing going on. It's a necessity in fundamental scientific research, and of course, it is absolutely needed in the pharma industry. The future aim is to reduce this as much as possible, at least that's what they told us at uni. I'm not sure if the industry thinks the same.

Personally I think that by far not all testing and the way the animals are handled is justified. Sometimes, the obtained data is simply useless, but it is hard to predict such an outcome beforehand. Of course, any testing not directed at fundamental research or life saving medicine shouldn't be done anymore (cosmetics, the 394852th blood pressure medicine etc). But ultimately, as we stand nowdays, animal testing is a reality.

Does that mean that vegans shouldn't be taking any medicine? Almost everything, especially newer active substances, has gone through animal testing and are therefore isn't vegetarian (LD50) and even less so vegan.

MatthewALDF18 karma

We probably disagree on the extent to which animal research is still necessary and on the ultimate ethical issue of whether we can justify harming others to benefit ourselves, but I suspect we also have a lot of common ground. Even if we accept that some research is justified, much, if not most, of what is currently conducted is unnecessary because it is either poorly conducted, duplicative of existing experiments, unable to be extrapolated from nonhumans to humans, or simply trivial and unrelated to real human well-being. The way the legal system treats research in the US is pretty pathetic, but that's a whole other issue. ALDF has some good resources on animal testing and the law here.

I don't think it's at all hypocritical for vegans to take medicine, including those tested on animals. I basically agree with this position.

ihazquail8 karma

To every person who helped free Ricky- thank you from the bottom of my heart!!! :)
I know people have tried to help Ricky in the past. What in the past have they sued Jim Mack's for and what prevented them from being successful in the past vs. now?

MatthewALDF11 karma

This case was the first lawsuit, although there had been complaints in the past to the state wildlife commission, which refused to take any action. The reason this case finally accomplished what years of complaining couldn't, is that it finally forced the owner to respond. It also generated a huge public outcry, which really put the spotlight on him to do the right thing.

airfeelcolorswim7 karma

Hey! As a York resident (actually I grew up in Red Lion) I just want to say thanks for what you did. I'm really glad that poor bear gets a chance to be free now. I used to visit JM's when I lived in Hellam to get ice cream and always felt horrible about the situation. She'll be much happier now. :)

Are the owners required to release their other animals as well or will they remain on the property?

MatthewALDF8 karma

Our lawsuit was limited to Ricky, who was the last remaining captive wild animal there. There are still one or two birds and rabbits left, but they weren't subjected to the same kind of neglect. If we receive reports that they're being treated cruelly, we'll of course look at how to save them too.

castmemberzack6 karma

This is gonna sound stupid, but are you a vegan? Is there a brand that treats their animals well before they slaughter them?

MatthewALDF14 karma

Yes, I am. There's a raging debate in the comments above about your second question, but in my professional opinion, no.

CasuallyErect6 karma

I love hearing your stories of success, and I'm SO happy you are doing the work you are doing. But at the end of the day, you are attacking the result of the problem, not the root cause. What sort of social or political pressures do you think we need to end this senseless abuse and exploitation of animals once and for all?

MatthewALDF6 karma

There's no simple answer, but social and political pressure work in tandem with litigation. Through cases like Ricky's, we can draw public attention to the broader ethical issues with captive wildlife and the legal gaps in their regulation. There's a dynamic relationship between law and social change; litigation alone won't solve the problem, but I think it's part of a pluralistic approach to animal rights.

commodore_kierkepwn6 karma

1L here. Interested in public interest. Haven't gotten to talk to an animal rights lawyer about his early experiences in the field before. Where did you go to law school? What did you end up doing your 1L summer? Did you have an idea what you wanted to do?

MatthewALDF4 karma

I went to Stanford Law School; my summer internships were with Tri-Valley CAREs and the ACLU of Northern California. I knew I wanted to practice animal protection law, but there weren't many summer positions in animal law a decade ago and my commitment to public interest law goes beyond nonhuman animals.

BlueGlassGreenFrog5 karma

Why was it a nuisance case rather than a cruelty case? Great job on the case, by the way. I hope Ricki is able to live out her days in happiness.

MatthewALDF9 karma

Pennsylvania's animal cruelty statute exempts wild animals regulated by the wildlife commission, so Ricky's protections stemmed from state wildlife regulations. Those regulations are supposed to be enforced by the wildlife commission, but since it refused to rescue Ricky, we used a public nuisance cause of action, a well-established avenue through which citizens can enforce laws that protect the public safety and morality.

fisch094 karma

From your legal view what did you think of the Zanesville incident? (Person in Ohio with his own zoos worth of animals).

I remember being in afghanistan when my dad told me I told him to shut the fuck up I'm not in the mood for jokes. First time I cursed at him he was not happy.

MatthewALDF5 karma

The Zanesville incident was tragic for everyone involved, not least the animals. Lawmakers really need to act before these kinds of tragedies happen to prohibit people from owning wild animals.

nuttmeg83 karma

Shit. Was this an AMA with Harvey Birdman? I love Harvey Birdman. Seriously, did I fucking miss the Harvey Birdman AMA??

xetes3 karma

How do you reconcile your beliefs as an animal rights activist / attorney with the owner's property rights (the bear after all is his property)?

MatthewALDF3 karma

The legal system does consider animals to be property, wrongly in my view, but animals still receive protections that no other form of property receives. It's perfectly legal to violently destroy your own car or your computer if you want to, but it's illegal to do the same to your dog or cat. Legally speaking, people have property rights in animals, but those rights are limited, because unlike other forms of property, animals are sentient.

sandybottomsmn2 karma

Im just seeing this now, and you may have responded to someone else already...but do you think Ricky's previous owner actually cared for her? I had read some reports when this first started to become a big issue, and sometimes it did sound as if he was legitimately concerned for her well being, but a little...dense?

MatthewALDF5 karma

I can't speculate about what he thought; I'm just glad he ultimately made the right decision to settle the case and send Ricky to a much better place.

Polemicist822 karma

Is it a requirement when working with bears to sport a man-affirming beard?

MatthewALDF3 karma

No, but it helps.

[deleted]1 karma


MatthewALDF7 karma

Ricky was kept as an attraction in a small concrete cage outside the ice cream shop, next to a miniature golf course. She had been there for 16 years, and sadly, she wasn't the first wild animal to be confined there. Happily, she was the last. The owner cannot replace her with any other wild animal.