SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - The U.S. Secretary of the Interior seizes legally acquired hunting trophies on importation to the United States "for any [paperwork] irregularity without giving the importing hunter-owner the benefit of the innocent owner defense," the hunter's advocacy group Conservation Force claims in Federal Court. It claims the trophies often are acquired as part of foreign nations' wildlife conservation programs.
"This case challenges the defendant's seizure, petition for remission, and forfeiture practices, particularly forfeiture of uncommonly valuable hunting trophies for any irregularity without giving the importing hunter-owner the benefit of the innocent owner defense, consideration of the proportionality of the penalty of forfeiture, and substantive and procedural due process," according to the complaint.
"The items are hunting trophies, lawfully taken in licensed, regulated hunts as part of foreign nations' wildlife conservation programs. Defendants seize incoming trophies for virtually any technical error in the permitting or tagging and treat the trophies as illegal contraband subject to forfeiture. Because of defendants' misinterpretation of law, the petition for remission process that is held out to provide the trophy owner/hunter constitutional safeguards misleads the importer and fails to provide the relief as represented. The petition for remission process is not what it is represented to be. Defendants take the trophies even when no harm has been done, regardless of the fault of the hunter/importer and without genuine consideration of the proportionality of the penalty."
Plaintiffs' lead counsel is Stanford Atwood Jr. of Saratoga, Calif.