Judge Finds Mizzou Violated “Sunshine Law” in an Effort to Intentionally Hide Animal Records
In 2016, Beagle Freedom Project was forced to bring a lawsuit against Mizzou for failure to disclose documents pertaining to the dogs and cats it performs experimentation tests on in response to BFP’s request under the state’s “Sunshine Law.”
BFP had conducted a creative campaign called the ‘Identity Campaign’ that identified dogs and cats in Universities across the U.S. wherein the public could pick a dog or cat and then BFP would assist in requesting more records on that animal in the hopes this would not only prompt public attention to the matter, but maybe even get the facility to allow that animal to be adopted.
Many universities did comply with the governmental requirements under the public records act and released some information on the animals, but Mizzou came back with a bill of $82,222 if BFP wanted records on any animals, thereby forcing the small non-profit to bring a lawsuit to get the records on these 170 dogs and cats.
After three years, BFP went to trial and Judge Harris, in a 26 page ruling last Friday ruled in favor of Beagle Freedom Project, and therefore in favor of the animals!
Judge Harris ruled that defendant Mizzou:
- Knowingly violated the Open Records Act
- Ordered the defendant to pay a civil PENALTY of $1,000 to BFP
- Ordered to pay BFP’s reasonable attorney’s fees and costs
“Plaintiff sought public records generated by government employees in taxpayer-funded laboratories. The Open Records Act requires a liberal construction and requires using employees resulting in the lowest cost to the requestor. The cost estimate in this case was tantamount to a denial of the request.” (See Judge Harris’ Ruling)
“We have been saying this all along, that this number was unreasonable and designed to thwart Beagle Freedom Project’s attempts to tell the public about the lives and fates of these animals,” stated Dan Kolde, Attorney for the national non-profit, Beagle Freedom Project. In fact, Judge Harris’ ruling revealed that the Defendants knew that BFP is an activist organization and that Defendant Mizzou acted to intentionally stonewall BFP because of it. This ruling is not only a victory for the animals but also a victory for public disclosure of records in any regard.