Animal rights activists arrested by FBI for mink-freeing spree

"[Releasing captive minks] is a form of domestic terrorism and can’t be permitted to continue," U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy said.

By Doug G. Ware
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OAKLAND, Calif., July 25 (UPI) -- Two animal rights activists were arrested by federal agents on Friday for allegedly embarking on a cross-country mink-liberating crusade two years ago, authorities said.

Joseph Buddenberg, 31, and Nicole Kissane, 28, both of Oakland, Calif., were arrested by the FBI and now face charges of violating the U.S. Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act -- a 2006 federal law that prohibits any person from acting in an illegal manner "for the purpose of damaging or interfering with the operations of an animal enterprise."


According to investigators, Buddenberg and Kissane mounted a 40,000-mile venture aimed at releasing captive minks being raised at farms nationwide. Authorities said the pair also vandalized animal-related businesses.

A San Diego grand jury charged Buddenberg and Kissane Wednesday and the indictment was unsealed following their arrests Friday. Each made their initial court appearance later in the afternoon.

Federal investigators said between June and December 2013, the pair succeeded in releasing more than 5,000 minks destined to become fur coats. The farms were located in Idaho, Iowa, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Minnesota. They also allegedly released a bobcat from a fur farm in Montana.


"Whatever your feelings about the fur industry, there are legal ways to make your opinions known," U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy said in a statement.

Court documents reportedly detailed one instance in which Buddenberg and Kissane allegedly drove down the West Coast and used paint, glue and even acid to vandalize Furs by Graf in San Diego. The FBI said the pair also damaged the homes of the store's current and former owner.

Prosecutors say they also broke the windows at a Bay Area market, slashed the tires of a San Francisco meat wagon, glued shut the locks at a fur business in Minneapolis and attempted to flood the Wisconsin home of a fur auction employee.

Along the way, officials say, they stopped using their cellphones and used encrypted emails to elude capture -- and communicated with extreme animal rights groups online.

"The conduct alleged here, sneaking around at night, stealing property and vandalizing homes and businesses -- with acid, glue, and chemicals -- is a form of domestic terrorism and can't be permitted to continue," Duffy added.

If convicted on the animal terrorism charges, Buddenberg and Kissane could each spend up to 10 years in federal prison and be on the hook for $250,000 in fines.


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