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Municipal Ordinances: Related Cases

Case Name Citation Summary
Savage v. Prator   921 So.2d 51 (La., 2006)  

Two Louisiana "game clubs" filed an action for declaratory judgment and injunctive relief against parish commission and parish sheriff's office after being informed by the sheriff that an existing parish ordinance prohibiting cockfighting would be enforced. The clubs contended that the ordinance was violative of the police power reserved explicitly to the state (the state anti-cruelty provision is silent with regard to cockfighting).  The First Judicial District Court, Parish of Caddo granted the clubs' request for a preliminary injunction.  The Supreme Court reversed the injunction and remanded the matter, finding that the parish ordinance prohibiting cockfighting did not violate general law or infringe upon State's police powers in violation of Constitution.

 
State v. Mortensen   191 P.3d 1097 (Hawai'i App., 2008)  

Defendant found guilty of Cruelty to Animals under a State statute after firing a pellet gun at/toward a cat which was later found with and died from a fatal wound.  On Defendant’s appeal, the Intermediate Court of Appeals of Hawai’i affirmed the lower court’s decision, finding that evidence that Defendant knowingly fired the pellet gun at a group of cats within the range of such a gun was sufficient to find that Defendant recklessly shot and killed the cat.  In making its decision, the Court of Appeals further found that the legislature clearly did not intend for a cat to be considered vermin or a pest for purposes of the relevant State anti-cruelty statute’s exception, and instead clearly intended for a cat to be considered a “pet animal.” 

 
Pless v. State   648 S.E.2d 752 (Ga. App. 2007)  

In this Georgia case, the defendant was convicted by a jury in the trial court of two counts of failure to keep an animal under restraint and one count of allowing an animal to become a public nuisance. On appeal, the appellate court affirmed the defendant's conviction with the exception of that portion of his sentence requiring him to reimburse the county for his court-appointed attorney fees. The Supreme Court of Georgia, however, reversed the appellate court's holding and ruled that the trial court was authorized to impose the reimbursement of attorney fees as part of the sentence. On remand, the appellate court vacated that portion of its opinion that reversed the imposition of attorney fees and adopted the Supreme Court's opinion as its own;  all other respects of the appellate decision, Pless v. State, 633 S.E.2d 340 (Ga. App., 2006), remain undisturbed.

 
Pless v. State   633 S.E.2d 340 (Ga. App., 2006)   In this Georgia case, the defendant was convicted by a jury in the trial court of two counts of failure to keep an animal under restraint and one count of allowing an animal to become a public nuisance. Defendant appealed, challenging the sufficiency of the evidence. The appellate court found that the evidence showed that in the months prior to the July 14 and August 1 incidents, Pless's dogs were repeatedly found loose in neighbors' yards and garages. Accordingly, evidence supported the conviction on the charge of allowing an animal to become a public nuisance under § 3-4-7(5). ("Public nuisance" is defined, among other things, as any animal which "[i]s found repeatedly at large."). On certiorari review, the Georgia Supreme Court in State v. Pless, 646 S.E.2d 202 (Ga. 2007) reversed judgment of Pless v. State, 633 S.E.2d 340 (Ga. App. 2006), and the case was then sent to Pless v. State, 648 S.E.2d 752 (Ga. App. 2007) on remand.  
City of La Marque v. Braskey   216 S.W.3d 861 (Tex. Ct. App. 2007)   A city's ordinance did not allow a kennel, defined as a place containing more than four dogs and cats, to be operated within 100 feet of a residence, school, or church. A woman kept as many as 100 cats at a time in a shelter within 100 feet of three homes, and she was criminally charged under the ordinance. The court found that the ordinance did not violate the plaintiff's constitutional rights because there was no right to use her property in any manner that she chose.  
Concerned Dog Owners of California v. City of Los Angeles   123 Cal.Rptr.3d 774 (Cal.App.2 Dist., 2011)   Dog owners mounted a constitutional challenge to a Los Angeles municipal ordinance that required all dogs and cats within the city to be sterilized. The Court of Appeal held that the ordinance did not violate the owners’ freedom of association rights, free speech rights. or equal protection rights. The court held that it was not unconstitutionally vague, was not outside of the city's police powers, did not vest unfettered discretion in city officials, did not constitute an unconstitutional prior restraint or an unconstitutional taking. Finally, the law did not violate individual liberties under the California Constitution.  
Youngstown v. Traylor   123 Ohio St.3d 132, 914 N.E.2d 1026 (Ohio,2009)   Defendant was charged with two misdemeanors after his unrestrained Italian Mastiff/Cane Corso dogs attacked a wire fox terrier and its owner.  Defendant filed a motion to dismiss the charges against him, arguing that YCO 505.19(b) is unconstitutional and a violation of his procedural due process rights.  The Supreme Court of Ohio held that the Youngstown municipal ordinance was constitutional because it was “rationally related to the city's legitimate interest in protecting citizens from vicious dogs,” provided “the dog owner with a meaningful opportunity to be heard on the dog's classification,” and did not “label dogs as dangerous or vicious” solely based on their breed type.  
Sawh v. City of Lino Lakes   800 N.W.2d 663 (Minn.App.,2011)   The city council ordered the destruction of a dog after finding it to be a dangerous animal and the owner appealed. The Court of Appeals held that procedural due process required that the owner should have been given a meaningful opportunity to contest the declaration of the dog as a “potentially dangerous animal” before it was declared a “dangerous animal” under the city ordinance.  
Toledo v. Tellings   871 N.E.2d 1152 (Ohio, 2007)  

In this Ohio case, the defendant, who owned three pit bull type dogs, was convicted in the Municipal Court, Lucas County, of violating the Toledo city ordinance that limited ownership to only one pit bull per household. On appeal by the City, the Supreme Court found the state and the city have a legitimate interest in protecting citizens against unsafe conditions caused by pit bulls. The evidence presented in the trial court supports the conclusion that pit bulls pose a serious danger to the safety of citizens. The statutes and the city ordinance are rationally related to serve the legitimate interests of protecting Ohio and Toledo citizens.

 
Settle v. Commonwealth   55 Va.App. 212, 685 S.E.2d 182 (Va.,2009)   The defendant-appellant, Charles E. Settle, Jr., was convicted of two counts of inadequate care by owner of companion animals and one count of dog at large under a county ordinance, after Fauquier County Sherriff's officers were dispatched to his home on multiple occasions over the course of one calendar year in response to animal noise and health and safety complaints from his neighbors.  Consequently, all of the affected dogs were seized from Settle and relocated to local animal shelters.  The trial court also declared three of the animals to be dangerous dogs pursuant to another county ordinance.  The Court of Appeals of Virginia held that: (1) because the forfeiture of dogs was a civil matter the Court of Appeals lacked subject matter jurisdiction and was not the proper forum to decide the case; (2) that Settle failed to join the County as an indispensible party in the notice of appeal from conviction for the county ordinance violation; and (3) that the evidence was sufficient to identify Settle as the owner of the neglected companion animals.  
Becker v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co.   416 N.W.2d 906 (Wis.,1987)   Motorist sued dog owner after he was injured in a car accident allegedly caused by dog. The Court of Appeals held that the “injury by dog” statute creates strict liability for any injury or damage caused by dog if owner was negligent (with public policy exceptions). Here, the dog owner was not strictly liable because he was not negligent when his dog escaped from its enclosure.  
Com. v. Raban   31 A.3d 699 (Pa.Super., 2011)   Defendant was convicted of violating the dog law for failing to properly confine his dog after it escaped from his property and attacked another dog. On appeal, the Superior Court affirmed, holding that 1) scienter was not a necessary element of the violation because the statutory mandate to confine a dog was stated absolutely, and 2) a dog attack is not a de minimis infraction that would preclude a conviction.  
Hoesch v. Broward County   53 So.3d 1177 (Fla.App. 4 Dist., 2011)  

A Broward County, Florida ordinance defines a dangerous dog as “any dog that . . . [h]as killed or caused the death of a domestic animal in one incident.” Plaintiff Brian Hoesch’s dog escaped from Hoesch’s backyard and attacked and killed a neighbor’s cat. Prior to this incident, the dog had never been declared “dangerous” by any governmental authority. Hoesch requested a hearing after Broward’s animal control division notified Hoesch of its intent to destroy his dog. After a judgment in favor of Broward County, Hoesch contends that both county ordinances conflict with state law, section 767.11(1)(b), which defines a “dangerous dog” as any dog that “[h]as more than once severely injured or killed a domestic animal . . . .” The District Court of Appeal of Florida, Fourth District, concluded “that Broward County ordinance sections 4-2(k)(2) and 4-12(j)(2) are null and void insofar as they conflict with state law.” 

 
Webb v. Amtower   2008 WL 713728 (KS,2008 (not reported))   The court applied the forum's traditional lex loci conflict-of-laws rule to determine what jurisdiction's law governed for both damages and recovery of possession. The "place of injury" for the tort/damages issue was Kansas since that's where the contract was signed. The court remanded the case to determine the law of the place where the dog was found to determine the right-to-possession since that was a personal property issue.  
Barnes v. City of Anderson   642 N.E.2d 1004 (Ind.App. 2 Dist. 1994)   Virginia Barnes and Jan Swearingen appealed a trial court's decision in favor of the City of Anderson, Ind., granting a permanent injunction enjoining the women from keeping and maintaining Swearingen's pet Vietnamese pot-belly pig, Sassy, and ordering Sassy's removal from the residence. Appeals Court found for pig owner, holding that the phrase "raising or breeding" in an Anderson livestock ordinance refers to a commercial enterprise and not to the keeping of pigs as pets.    
Bloomfield Estates Improvement Ass'n, Inc. v. City of Birmingham   737 N.W.2d 670 (2007)  

In this Michigan case, a property association brought an action against the city of Birmingham to enforce a deed restriction. The association alleged that the city's plan to build a dog park violated the residential use restriction in the deed. The Circuit Court of Oakland County granted the city's motion for summary disposition; the Court of Appeals reversed. The Supreme Court held that the city's use of the lot as a “dog park" (a fenced area where dogs could roam unleashed with their owners) did indeed violate the deed restriction limiting use of land to “strictly residential purposes only.” Further, despite the association's failure to contest the previous use of the land as a vacant park, the association could contest the dog park violation because the former use was deemed a "less serious" violation.

 
State v. Overholt   193 P.3d 1100 (Wash. App. Div. 3,2008)  

Defendant was convicted of several counts of second degree unlawful hunting of big game after a game agent (“agent”) followed vehicle tracks to Defendant’s home upon finding fresh cow elk gut piles, and Defendant showed the agent two cow elk carcasses hanging in Defendant’s shed.  On appeal, the Court of Appeals of Washington, Division 3 found that because the agent was in fresh pursuit of criminal activity and did not enter Defendant’s property with the intent to obtain consent to search in order to evade a search warrant, the agent was not obligated to issue Ferrier warnings, and that suppressing the seized carcasses from evidence would not have altered the outcome of the case in light of the substantial evidence obtained prior to seizing the carcasses.

 
Kanab City v. Popowich   194 P.3d 198, (Utah App.,2008)  

In this Utah case, the defendant appeals the decision of the district court finding him guilty on four counts of failing to maintain a city dog license and one count of running an illegal kennel. In December 2005, a Kanab City animal control officer responded to numerous complaints of barking dogs at Defendant's residence. This officer observed four dogs over the age of three months on the premises during two separate visits to Defendant's home that month and on subsequent random visits in the following months. On appeal, defendant argued that the city ordinance on which his conviction for operating an illegal kennel is based is unconstitutionally vague. This court disagreed, finding that an ordinary person reading the ordinance would understand that, in order to keep more than two dogs over the age of three months in the same residence, a citizen must register for a kennel permit.

 
Columbus v. Kim   886 N.E.2d 217 (Ohio, 2008)  

An Ohio dog owner was convicted in the Municipal Court, Franklin County, of harboring an unreasonably loud or disturbing animal as prohibited by city ordinance. On appeal to the Supreme Court, the owner contended that the term “unreasonable” in the ordinance “does not provide enough explanation to allow the average person to know what behavior is permissible.” The Supreme Court held that the ordinance was not unconstitutionally vague on its face, and was not unconstitutionally vague as applied.

 
State v. Mita   245 P.3d 458 (Hawai', 2010)  

Defendant, an owner of two dogs, both boxers, was charged with animal nuisance in violation of Revised Ordinances of Honolulu section 7-2.3. Mita’s counsel objected to the oral charge at trial, arguing "that the arraignment is [not] specific enough to put the defendant specifically on notice of what part of the . . . ordinance she’s being charged with." The district court denied Mita’s motion for judgment of acquittal and sentenced her to pay a $50 fine. Mita appealed. The Intermediate Court of Appeals vacated the judgment of the district court. On certiorari, the Hawaii Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Intermediate Court of Appeals and remanded the case, finding that the definition of animal nuisance in section 7-2.2 does not create an additional essential element of the offense; and, second, the definition of "animal nuisance" is consistent with its commonly understood meaning.

 
Stephens v. City of Spokane   Slip Copy, 2007 WL 3146390 (E.D.Wash.)   Before the court here is defendant's motion for summary judgment and plaintiff's motion to certify a class. Plaintiffs claim is based on Spokane's "barking dog" ordinance" for which they were each issued an infraction by animal control officers. Plaintiffs contend the ordinance is void for vagueness. The court disagreed, finding that the ordinance has incorporated the reasonableness standard and is presumptively constitutional. In the ordinance, the citizen of average intellect need not guess at the prohibition of allowing an animal to unreasonably disturb persons by “habitually barking, howling, yelping, whining, or making other oral noises.”  
Rosenfeld v. Zoning Bd. of Appeals of Mendon   940 N.E.2d 891 (Ma. App., 2011)   A zoning board granted landowner’s application for a special permit, and neighbor property owners appealed. The Appeals Court of Massachusetts held that defendant’s proposed use of land for horse stables fit within the agricultural use exception of the zoning ordinance and by-laws, and that plaintiffs had standing to enforce a deed restriction on defendant’s property.  
Luper v. City of Wasilla   215 P.3d 342 (Alaska,2009)  

Plaintiff appealed a grant of summary judgment in favor of the City of Wasilla, Alaska's enforcement action over zoning ordinances. The facts stem from the City's denial of plaintiff's application for a use permit in 2005 to run an eighteen-dog kennel. Plaintiff argued on appeal that Wasilla's former three-dog limit infringed on her property rights in both her land and her dog. This court agreed with the lower court that the provision here bore a "fair and substantial relationship" the government purposes of controlling dog noise, reducing dog odor and pollution, and preventing loose dogs. Further, the court found that it was not reasonable for the plaintiff to rely on the city clerk's statement that she only needed a kennel license to operate a hobby kennel.

 

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