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May News

 

  Maine bill proposes advocates for abused animals in court. LD 1442 dubbed "Franky's Law" is modeled after Connecticut's "Desmond's Law" passed in 2016 (C.G.S.A. § 54-86n). Connecticut's law, the first of its kind, states that, in a cruelty or welfare proceedings, the court may order, upon its own initiative or upon request of a party or counsel for a party, that a separate advocate be appointed to represent the interests of justice. Similarly, the proposed Franky's Law would allow judges to appoint volunteer lawyers and students “to represent the interests of justice," which is different than giving the animals legal standing. Just like the CT law, the advocates serve on a volunteer basis and "a list of attorneys with knowledge of animal issues and the legal system and a list of law schools that have students with an interest in animal issues and the legal system" will be maintained for this purpose. The Bangor Daily News reported that advocates testifying before the judiciary committee in Bangor contend the legislation is critical because a vast majority of animal cruelty cases are dismissed and data show a strong link between animal violence and later human violence.

  Five states now have laws allowing transport of injured police dogs by ambulance. Police service dogs can range from traditional "K-9 Units” to bomb-sniffing dogs, accelerant detection dogs, search and rescue dogs, and even cadaver-sniffing dogs. These heroic canines serve their human handlers and communities, sometimes at great personal cost. So what happens when a police dog is injured on the job? Recently, several states have made it possible for police dogs to receive emergency transport by ambulance or other medical transport to get critical veterinary care. New York was the first state in 2015. In 2018, California (a pilot project), Illinois, Michigan, Mississippi, all enacted similar laws. Each of these laws requires that no person requires medical attention or transport at the time of dog's transport.

  Florida bill allowing veterinarians to report suspected animal abuse awaits Gov. DeSantis' signature or veto. News station WTSP reports a provision in HB7125 (a multi-issue, 296-page criminal justice bill) that "would allow vets to report suspected criminal violations, like animal abuse, to authorities as long as the animal doesn’t live on agricultural land.” Language under the state's primary anti-cruelty law (Sec. 828.12) is vague and only holds licensed veterinarians "harmless from either criminal or civil liability for any decisions made or services rendered under the provisions of this section” and that “[s]uch a veterinarian is, therefore, under this subsection, immune from a lawsuit for his or her part in an investigation of cruelty to animals." However, the WTSP article states that current state law actually prohibits a vet from discussing a patient's condition absent a subpoena and notice to the owner, and then penalizes vets who share unauthorized records with disciplinary action. Supporters contend HB 7125 would provide a “reasonable step” toward eliminating ambiguity on reporting under current law. Most states either allow or even mandate reporting of suspected cruelty or neglect by veterinarians. See our Map of Veterinary Reporting Laws.

 

News archives

Cases

Plaintiff's future intention to move to town with her two pit bulls insufficient to confer standing to challenge BSL ordinance. Frost v. Sioux City, Iowa, 920 F.3d 1158 (8th Cir. 2019). Plaintiffs challenged the constitutionality of a ban making it “unlawful for any person to own, possess, keep, exercise control over, maintain, harbor, transport or sell within the City of Sioux City, Iowa, any pit bull.” The remaining plaintiff Myers admitted in deposition that she does not currently own a dog, nor does she currently reside in Sioux City, but that, in the near future, she intends to adopt a pit bull dog and take the dog to visit friends and family in Sioux City. Based on these facts, the district court, sua sponte, dismissed Myers' claims due to lack of standing. On review of that dismissal here, the appellate court first noted that, to show standing, Myers must have suffered an injury in fact. While the conduct of defendant Sioux City caused Myers injury in the past when they seized her two dogs, she must now face "a real and immediate threat" of similar injury in the future. Her intention to one day adopt a dog and take it to Sioux City does not suffice, according to the court. The declaratory judgment plaintiff seeks cannot redress a past injury. The court also found no abuse of discretion in not holding an evidentiary hearing on the dismissal prior to its sua sponte ruling. The judgment was affirmed. 

Marital Settlement Agreement (MSA) with provision for weekly visitation with pet dogs upheld by Rhode Island Supreme Court. Giarrusso v. Giarrusso, --- A.3d ----, 2019 WL 1606351 (R.I. Apr. 16, 2019). This case centers on a disagreement among former spouses concerning the ex-husband's visitation with their two dogs acquired during marriage. The couple entered into a Marital Settlement Agreement (MSA) formalizing the terms of the dissolution of Diane and Paul Giarrusso's marriage and giving Diane all title and interest to the dogs and Paul twice a week visitation. The weekly visitation proceeded according to the agreement for over a year, when Diane ceased allowing Paul's visits. Paul then filed a motion for post-final judgment relief citing breach of the agreement and Diane counterclaimed. A justice of the Family Court held a hearing on the issue, where each party testified and submitted associated texts and emails. In one recounted incident, one dog was missing for some time at Paul's house, causing Diane extreme distress, but was found to be accidentally locked in a closet. The hearing justice affirmed the visitation schedule of the MSA, denied Diane's requested relief, and awarded attorney fees to Paul. On appeal here, Diane argues that the hearing justice was "clearly wrong and overlooked material evidence when she found that Paul had acted in good faith." In particular, Diane contends that the dogs are chattel and Paul failed to provide safe conditions and return them to her in an undamaged condition. The Supreme Court held, in noting that the MSA retains the characteristics of a contract, that it would not overturn the hearing justice's determination in absence of mutual mistake in the contract (the MSA). There was no mutual mistake in the MSA's visitation provision and no basis for the hearing justice to conclude that the MSA needs to be reformed. The order of the Family Court was affirmed and the matter returned to Family Court.

Wrongful placement of feeding tube into cat's trachea "undisputed" causation in veterinary negligence action, despite cat's weakened state. DeLany v. Kriger, Slip Copy, 2019 WL 1307453 (Tenn. Ct. App. Mar. 20, 2019). This unpublished Tennessee case concerns a veterinary negligence action. The owners of a cat (Callie) filed a wrongful death complaint against the cat's veterinarian and animal hospital after the cat was killed when the veterinarian wrongly placing a feeding tube into the cat's trachea rather than her esophagus, causing the cat to aspirate and die when she was fed through the tube. The trial court held that the defendants were not liable because the cat was so ill she was likely to die anyway, and thus dismissed the complaint. This court found that the evidence was "undisputed" that the cat died as a result of the improperly placed feeding tube, which was further supported by x-rays showing the feeding tube in the trachea rather than the esophagus. Because the trial court did not find causation, damages were not addressed. Here, the court noted that domestic pets are considered private property in Tennessee. The law is settled that a pet owner can recover for the wrongful death of his or her pet in the state. Further, Tenn. Code Ann. § 44-17-403 provides that a dog or cat owner is entitled to recover up to $5,000 in noneconomic damages for "the unlawful and intentional, or negligent, act of another or the animal of another . . ." but that no award of noneconomic damages is permitted in “an action for professional negligence against a licensed veterinarian.” The appellate court stated that the calculation of damages is a matter for the fact-finder, and the case was remanded to the trial court to determine the appropriate amount of economic damages. This would include, but not be limited to, the medical bills incurred for Callie's treatment and the cost of replacing Callie, said the court.

Case Archives

Articles

An Analysis of Favre’s Theory on the Legal Status of Animals: Towards a Reconsideration of the “Person-Property Dichotomy," Akimune Yoshida, The Hitotsubashi Journal of Law and International Studies (2019) (article in Japanese, abstract in English).

Never Enough: Animal Hoarding Law, Courtney G. Lee, 47 U. Balt. L. Rev. 23 (2017).

Animal Consortium,  David S. Favre and Thomas Dickinson, 84 Tenn. L. Rev. 893 (2017).

The Animal Welfare Act at Fifty: Problems and Possibilities in Animal Testing Regulation, Courtney G. Lee, 95 Neb. L. Rev. 194-247 (2016).

From Inside the Cage to Outside the Box: Natural Resources as a Platform for Nonhuman Animal Personhood in the U.S. and Australia, Randall S. Abate & Jonathan Crowe, 5 Global J. Animal L. 54 (2017).

Zuchtvieh-Export Gmbh v. Stadt Kempten: The Tension Between Uniform, Cross-Border Regulation and Territorial Sovereignty, David Mahoney, 40 B.C. Int'l & Comp. L. Rev. 363 (2017).