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Mediation is Better than Court to Protect Gorilla’s Interests, Judge Says

Disclaimer: This article does not constitute legal advice. If you have any questions about your individual situation it is best to seek the advice of an experienced legal professional.

Recently, an acrimonious court case centering on a gorilla was ordered to mediation by a judge. The judge commented that mediation would be a better forum for deciding the animal’s fate than battling it out in court. Since the zoo involved in the dispute has vowed to fight for the animal’s return, the case will go back to court. It’s not clear how the dispute will play out, but both parties claim they are fighting about the animal’s health and wellbeing.

The Gorilla, Ndume, was loaned by Cincinnati Zoo to the Gorilla Foundation as a companion to the female gorilla Koko, and the zoo claims the Foundation was in breach of contract by not returning the animal when Koko died. The Foundation claims that the gorilla’s age and poor health would make him unfit to be in a public zoo, while the zoo counters that he needs to be among other gorillas due to the social nature of primates. In the mediation order, the judge commented that “the forum of the courtroom may not allow for a full, and fully-informed, evaluation of all of the potential impacts to Ndume of any particular course of action.”

Because of mediation confidentiality, we don’t know what occurred in the sessions. This is a delicate case involving a rare animal. However under most laws, animals are considered property, so mediation is often the only opportunity to consider the animal’s best interests. At Boileau Conflict Solutions, we are keenly aware of the disregard for animals’ interests under the law, and we intentionally structure mediation to take account of this. We use game theory to resolve differing interests into coherent and comprehensive solutions that can be owned by all in the dispute. Taking account of the animal’s interests has a dual function: to make sure concerns for the animal’s welfare are aired thoroughly; and to transform disputes over animals as “property” into productive consensus.

Animal Mediation: What You Can’t Get in Court

– In mediation you can discuss the animal’s best interests, including how both sides can provide for this.
– In mediation you can bring interested parties into the talks who may have expert information or alternative solutions for the animal’s welfare, including funding any solutions.
– Mediation saves time and money for both parties.
– Mediation resolves more quickly than court cases, bringing relief to animals who may be suffering.

How We Can Help

At Boileau Conflict Solutions we are a group of caring and well-educated mediators and negotiators with financial, legal and psychological backgrounds. We maintain that animals are important stakeholders in our culture and should be represented fairly in conflict. The first step to successfully mediating a dispute involving animals is recognizing that animals have legitimate life interests. By considering the best interests of animals, parties don’t have to remain locked in intractable positions with animals as property or collateral. Animal Mediation solves a huge range of disputes but also future-proofs disputes by coming to good agreements that pave the way for positive change in animal treatment. We mediate disputes involving domestic and wild animals. Some of the areas covered include disputes with breed clubs, contract problems between owners and handlers, conflicts with trainers, groomers and veterinarians, noise problems with barking dogs and other animals, pet “custody” battles and much more. We handle disputes using a set of unique approaches informed by game theory, communication theory, psychoanalysis and the law. We value non-violent resolutions if at all possible and can intervene in urgent situations, even where conflict is violent. In these situations we often manage to prevent harm to animals by facilitating alternative solutions to animal control etc. We are available seven days a week and at urgent notice at our offices in Irvine, CA, Campbell, CA and San Diego, CA. We can also be reached via Zoom, Facetime and Telephone and conflict resolution can be arranged remotely. Please contact us now to see how we can help.

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