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Exotic Pets: Related Cases

Case Name Citation Summary
ARFF, Inc. v. Siegel   867 So.2d 451 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 2004)   Resort developer and president of an animal performance company received an injunction against an animal rights group limiting their ability to both picket the resort and distribute pamphlets claiming that the big cats were abused.  Appellate court reversed, finding that the picketing regulations burdened more speech than necessary and that the restriction on distributing pamphlets was a prior restraint not justified by a compelling state interest.  
Dehart v. Town of Austin   39 F.3d 718 (7th Cir. 1994)   The breeder was in the business of buying, breeding, raising, and selling of exotic and wild animals. The town passed an ordinance making it unlawful to keep certain wild animals, and the breeder filed suit challenging the constitutionality of a local ordinance.  On appeal, the court affirmed the grant of summary judgment in favor of the town because: (1) the ordinance was not preempted by the Animal Welfare Act; (2) the ordinance was not an impermissible attempt to regulate interstate commerce in violation of the Commerce Clause; and (3) the town did not deprive him of his property interest in his federal and state licenses without due process.  
Eyrich v. Earl   495 A.2d 1375 (N.J.Super.A.D.,1985)   In this New York, the neighbors of a five-year-old child who was mauled to death by a leopard that was at a circus held on school property filed suit against the operators of the circus seeking compensation for emotional damages. On defendants' appeal, this court held that defendants were strictly liable to plaintiffs. The court first began with the proposition that wild animals are presumed to have a dangerous propensity and the keepers of such have been held strictly liable. Using a products liability analogy, the court found that as a matter of public policy, it would be 'unthinkable' to refuse to insulate individuals who put a defective car on the road and 'then tell one injured by a wild beast that he has no claim against those who put that beast on the road.' The judgment was affirmed.  
Gill v. Prehistoric Ponds, Inc.   634 S.E.2d 769 (Ga.App., 2006)  

In this Georgia case, the Court of Appeals held that, on issue of first impression, an alligator farm was not a "farm" within meaning of the state statute that exempted "farm laborers" or their employers from coverage under the Workers' Compensation Act (Gill was bitten while cleaning out a pen and subsequently developed both a bone infection and salmonella). In construing the relevant statutes, the court found that in the chapter on Employment Security Law (ESL), the legislature meant that individuals who raise or tend wildlife perform "agricultural labor," but only when they do so on a "farm," which is "used for production of stock, dairy products, poultry, fruit, and fur-bearing animals." Accordingly, the court concluded that when Gill cleaned out the alligator pens, he was caring for wildlife and thus performing "agricultural labor." However, his employer, an alligator farm, was not a "farm" because alligators are "wildlife," not "[live]stock ... [or] fur-bearing animals." 

 
Hoctor v. Dept of Agriculture   82 F.3d 165 (7th Cir. 1996)  

A dealer raised exotic animals (mainly big cats), and USDA ordered that the dangerous ones be fenced, with fencing being a minimum of eight-feet high.  However, the animal housing standard only required that the fencing be sturdy enough to prevent the animals from escaping.  The eight-foot rule established by USDA was considered arbitrary, and it did not have to be followed.   

 
Howard v. Chimps, Inc.   284 P.3d 1181 (Or. App. 2012)   While cleaning a cage at a chimpanzee sanctuary, the plaintiff was twice attacked by a chimpanzee, which left the plaintiff without much of her thumb. Plaintiff brought a suit against the sanctuary based on claims of strict liability; under a statute and common law; negligence; and gross negligence. At the district court, the plaintiff lost because she had signed a waiver releasing the sanctuary from liability "on all claims for death, personal injury, or property damage" and because she failed to state a claim in regards to the gross negligence charge. In affirming the lower court's decision, the appellate court found an enforceable contract existed with the waiver, and that there was no evidence of reckless disregard on defendant's part to rise to the level of gross negligence.  
Renzo v. Idaho State Dept. of Agriculture   241 P.3d 950 (Idaho, 2010)   A tiger habitat developer sued the Idaho State Department of Agriculture (Department) under the Idaho Tort Claims Act (ITCA) for breach of ordinary care in refusing to grant exotic animal possession and propagation permits and for intentional interference with developer's prospective economic advantage. The Court held that the time period under which the developer had to file notice of its claim began to run when the Department sent its letter stating that a possession permit would be conditioned upon the tigers’ sterilization. This letter put developer on notice that he would not receive a possession permit without sterilizing the tigers, and therefore, had knowledge that he would not be granted a propagation permit.  
State v. DeFrancesco   668 A.2d 348 (Conn. 1995)   After the USDA went to the defendant’s house to perform a prelicense inspection for an Animal Welfare Act permit for a rabbit, the USDA discovered the defendant also kept a Bengal cat, a Jungle cat and a Bobcat on the premises; the USDA then notified the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) about the three cats. After the defendant’s attempt to sell the three cats, the DEP confiscated them and placed them in the care of an expert; the DEP also charged the defendant with three misdemeanor violations of General Statutes section 26-40a. After trial and appellate court determinations, the Connecticut Supreme Court found the three cats to be included on the list of prohibited felidae in General Statutes section 26-40a and found General Statutes section 26-40a did not violate Due Process.  
U.S. v. Bronx Reptiles, Inc.   217 F.3d 82 (2nd Cir. 2000)   After defendant received a shipment of dead frogs, he was convicted of violating a portion of the Lacey Act, 18 U.S.C.S. § 42(c), which made it a misdemeanor to knowingly cause or permit any wild animal to be transported to the United States under inhumane or unhealthful conditions. Defendant appealed, and judgment was reversed and remanded with instructions to enter a judgment of not guilty. The government failed to meet its burden to prove not only that the defendant knowingly caused or permitted the transportation to the United States of a wild animal, but also that the defendant knew the conditions under which the frogs was transported were "inhumane or unhealthful."  
U.S. v. Guthrie   50 F.3d 936 (11th Cir. 1995)   The court affirmed the decision of the district court which convicted defendant of violations of the Lacey Act (Act) and the Endangered Species Act. The court held that the Act was not unconstitutional, that defendant was not permitted to collaterally challenge an agency regulation on the grounds of new scientific evidence, and that the Secretary of the Interior's finding that the turtle was a valid species was not arbitrary.  
U.S. v. Lewis   240 F.3d 866 (10th Cir. 2001)   A jury convicted defendant of one count of violating the Lacey Act, 16 U.S.C.S. §§ 3371-3378. The jury found that defendant had violated Oklahoma law by capturing wild elk, holding them captive, and organizing at least one commercial elk hunt, without a license for those activities. The court affirmed. Violation of a state hunting law was an adequate basis for a Lacey Act prosecution. There was sufficient evidence to prove that the Oklahoma statute regarding commercial hunting licenses applied to defendant, and that defendant had knowledge of the statute's requirements.  
U.S. v. Molt   631 F.2d 258 (3rd Cir. 1980)   The court affirmed a judgment of sentence entered following defendant's conditional plea of guilty to smuggling and to violating the Lacey Act. The court held that the district court properly denied defendant's Speedy Trial Act motion where defendant incorrectly computed the number of excludable days. Therefore, the court concluded that more than 120 non-excludable days did not elapse between the indictment and the trial.  
U.S. v. Molt   599 F.2d 1217 (3rd Cir. 1979)   Defendants were indicted for conspiracy to smuggle snakes and other reptiles into the United States in violation of the Lacey Act, 18 U.S.C.S. § 43. The district court granted defendants' motion to dismiss counts based on alleged violations of the laws of Fiji and of Papua New Guinea, finding that foreign laws and regulations referred to in the statute were designed and intended for the protection of wildlife in those countries. On appeal, the trial court's order dismissing an indictment against defendants for smuggling wildlife was affirmed as to Fiji, where the regulation relied on was a revenue ordinance. The court reversed as to Papua New Guinea where the law was intended to protect wildlife in the country of origin.  
Wilkins v. Daniels   Slip Copy, 2012 WL 6644465 (S.D.Ohio, 2012)   Various owners of exotic and wild animals filed a lawsuit in order to obtain a temporary restraining order and a permanent/preliminary injunction against the Ohio Department of Agriculture and its Director, David Daniels. The owners of the exotic and wild animals argued the Ohio Dangerous Wild Animals and Restricted Snakes Act, which the Ohio Department of Agriculture and its Director were trying to enforce, was unconstitutional. The district court denied the owners’ motion for obtain a temporary restraining order and a permanent/preliminary injunction reasoning that the exceptions to the Act’s ban on owning wild and exotic animals does not violate the owners’ freedom of association rights, that the legislature had a legitimate purpose so as to not violate procedural due process with regards to micro-chipping wild and exotic animals, and that the Act did not constitute an unconstitutional takings. Significantly, the court recognized that owners of wild and exotic animals have a limited or qualified property interest in said animals.  

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