What We Do

There is tremendous demand among animal protection organizations for high quality legal and other professional services. Our goal is to be the go-to pro bono legal and professional service provider to the animal protection community. We free our clients from the press of legal matters that often consume too much of their time and budgets, thereby unlocking resources to be put to better use on behalf of animals.

Drawing on our combined decades of legal experience, we strive to protect the interests of animal protection organizations and abused animals principally on three fronts:


1. Providing legal services directly in support of our clients' animal protection work to enable them to maximize the resources they devote to protecting animals.

ADP assists its clients on a range of legal issues, including, for example, non-profit compliance; fiscal sponsorship; litigation avoidance;  fundraising; state registrations; entity organization and structure; communications; employment best practices   and  disputes; contract drafting, review and negotiation; board governance; human resources; intellectual property protection; and social media and rights clearance.


2. Providing professional consulting services to address our clients' internal organizational and operational needs and goals.

Our organizational consulting work covers, as examples, board/executive/employee relationships and dynamics, business and strategic long- and short-term planning, leadership mentoring, internal and external communications, and crisis management.


3. Pursuing ADP's own projects and initiatives.

On a selective and limited basis, ADP becomes involved in projects directly on behalf of animals.   With our Weeping Elephant Project, as an example, we have developed strategies and are taking action - in a joint effort with other animal protection organizations - to address circumstances that we believe we can effectively improve or eliminate.

The Weeping Elephant Project

Photograph courtesy of Jo-Anne McArthur/We Animals
Photograph courtesy of Jo-Anne McArthur/We Animals

"The Indian elephant is known sometimes to weep. Sir E. Tennent, in describing these which he saw captured and bound in Ceylon, says, some 'lay motionless on the ground, with no other indication of suffering than the tears which suffused their eyes and flowed incessantly'."

--Charles Darwin, The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals

“The keeper of the Indian elephants positively asserts that he has several times seen tears rolling down the face of the old female, when distressed by the removal of the young ones.”

--Charles Darwin, The Zoological Gardens

There are solitary elephants suffering in misery all over the country in zoos, circuses, sham sanctuaries, and “petting zoos.”

Typically the captive elephants are quite poorly treated and cared for, housed and transported in deplorable conditions, prone to developing chronic health issues, and left to languish in deep emotional despair and relentless physical agony. This neglect, trauma, and abuse shortens their life expectancy substantially compared to elephants in the wild, which, under the circumstances, may stand as a stroke of unintended mercy.

These elephants are most often separated and taken from their mothers as babies, shipped in terror across the world as freight, and enslaved in a desolate existence with no other elephants or sources of comfort contact, often for the duration of their abbreviated lives. Baby elephants may be "trained" into compliance through a process known as “the crush,” which can include being restrained and beaten for several weeks. Their solitude is heartbreaking.

These circumstances are particularly devastating for elephants, who, as we now know, are complex, intelligent, and intensely emotional and social beings. That we do this is an atrocity.

The Animal Defense Partnership has engaged in various projects seeking to release isolated captive elephants and place them in accredited elephant sanctuaries, either in California’s Performing Animal Welfare Sanctuary or Tennessee's The Elephant Sanctuary.

10 Worst Zoos for Elephants

Each year In Defense of Animals publishes its list of 10 Worst Zoos for Elephants in North America.  And each year ADP vets IDA's list for any potential legal issues.  In many years one or more zoos that have been exposed threaten to sue IDA.  To date, none has.

This year, within one day of release of IDA's  2020's list, Fort Worth Zoo in Texas canceled a $2 million deal with African Lion Safari in Ontario, Canada, after the zoos were ranked as #1 and #2 on the list of the 10 Worst Zoos for Elephants in North America by In Defense of Animals. As a result, two mother elephants have been spared separation from their two young calves.

This deal would have caused many elephants a great deal of trauma and put a dangerous price on the head of every wild and captive elephant, including those at circuses which profit from sales to zoos. Elephants die faster in captivity than they can reproduce, leading desperate zoos to buy elephants and cruelly separate elephants for breeding purposes. Zoo exhibits cause elephants misery and diseases

Numerous zoos on 2020’s 10 Worst Zoos for Elephants list knowingly engage in “transfer abuse,” repeatedly trafficking elephants from place to place. Transfers are known to cause stress to elephants, and scientific research associates them with repetitive stereotypic behaviors known as “zoochosis.” It is considered “an important indicator of compromised welfare” and is exhibited by multiple elephants in North American zoos.


Our first efforts were on behalf of Nosey, who for more than three decades was confined and exhibited under awful conditions and subjected to inhumane treatment and egregious regulatory violations while housed in Florida and traveling throughout the country. In Defense of Animals (IDA) and Free All Captive Elephants (f/k/a Save Nosey Now) (FACE) approached ADP to help their campaign to release Nosey. Thanks to the tireless work of all the organizations, the Alabama District Attorney seized Nosey while she was in the state, placed her in Tennessee’s The Elephant Sanctuary, and brought charges against her owner. After a bench trial, the court declined to return Nosey, who now lives at the sanctuary in peace.


ADP, through its Weeping Elephant Project, has filed an action on behalf of In Defense of Animals (IDA) against the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs (DCLA) and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) to compel production of records maintained for the Bronx Zoo's captive elephants.ADP filed a Freedom of Information Law request on IDA's behalf in February 2019 to obtain the medical records for Happy and Patty, two elephants who are each held separately in solitary confinement at the Bronx Zoo, as well as Maxine, who was euthanized in late 2018.  The DCLA and WCS failed to comply with ADP's requests, leaving us with no choice but to pursue this lawsuit.

While Patty was housed with one other elephant companion, Maxine, Happy has been confined in the zoo for four decades and held in isolation from other elephants since 2006. Happy was the first elephant to demonstrate a sophisticated degree of self-awareness, having passed a mirror self-recognition test in 2005.

The Bronx Zoo refuses to follow even the minimal requirements set by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums that there be at least three elephants living together. The remaining two Bronx Zoo elephants share outdoor space, and are forced to take turns using it, but only when the weather allows. Most of their time is spent confined indoors.

The public, which funds the zoo's operation, has a right to know what has transpired - and continues to transpire - at the zoo and its treatment of these highly social beings. This is the very purpose of the Freedom of Information Law, and to fail to comply is an affront to all those who care about Happy, Patty and other captive animals at the zoo.

We express our deep gratitude to Matthew Beyer, one of our very excellent outside volunteer lawyers, and our extremely talented co-counsel at Sher Tremonte, Allegra Noonan, Noam Biale and Justin Gunnell, for their invaluable work on the petition, a copy of which can be accessed here, together with the exhibits.


ADP is involved in a similar effort for Asha, an elephant housed at Natural Bridge Zoo in Virginia. Together with IDA, FACE, One World Conservation, and Anna Katogyritti of Jane Goodall’s Roots and Shoots Program, ADP filed a complaint with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF), seeking to have Asha seized and placed in an accredited sanctuary. The complaint was submitted to the Virginia DGIF and local law enforcement, along with extensive evidence of the zoo’s deplorable record of violations and a compelling preliminary assessment by Toni Frohoff, Ph.D., a leading wildlife behavioral scientist with IDA who specializes in elephants and other mammals in captivity and in the wild.  Our efforts on this front are on-going.