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August News


  Delaware becomes first “no kill” state for animal shelters in the U.S. According to news reports and leading animal advocacy organization Best Friends Animal Society, Delaware reached a “no kill” rate for pets in animal shelters. This means that the state “achieves a 90% save rate for all cats and dogs,” with a ten-percent margin for animals that are suffering from irreversible medical or behavioral issues. Statistics for Delaware show that 12,000 of approximately 13,000 pets in shelters were either returned to their owners or placed in safe places, making the save rate 92.9%. While Best Friends works to ensure a similar save rate in every state, the U.S. as a whole has a 76.6% save rate. State legislation may also help reduce unnecessary euthanasia of homeless pets. States like Alabama and Florida have new shelter census laws mandating reporting of animals coming into shelters, and how many of those animals are placed or euthanized. Other states have passed laws that require mandatory scanning of pets for microchips upon entering a shelter so that they can be reunited with their owners/guardians.

  U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) issues final statement clarifying interpretation and enforcement of ACAA regulation for service and emotional support animals on flights. In May of 2018, the DOT published an advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM) seeking comment on amending the Department’s Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) regulation on the transportation of service animals. The DOT indicated that it received 4,500 comments during the comment period. Because of the length of the rulemaking process, the DOT then issued an Interim Statement, now followed by this recently released Final Statement. The Final Statement reaffirms the importance of airlines allowing commonly recognized service animals like cats, dogs, and miniature horses, and that airlines will not be subject to DOT enforcement actions for denying other animals like “snakes, other reptiles, ferrets, rodents, and spiders.” The DOT emphasizes that airlines may “refuse transport to an individual animal regardless of species if the airline determines that specific factors preclude the animal from being transported as a service animal.” As a new topic, the DOT said that the “breed bans” implemented by certain airlines may violate ACAA regulations: “[t]he Enforcement Office continues to take the view that restrictions on specific dog breeds are inconsistent with the current regulation.” Also covered was the issue of multiple service animals. “Airlines may not impose categorical restrictions on the total number of service animals to be transported in the aircraft cabin.” The Final Statement itself is not a legally binding document and was prepared by the DOT to “provide the public with greater transparency with respect to the Enforcement Office’s interpretation of existing requirements and its exercise of enforcement discretion surrounding service animals.” A DOT summary of the Final Statement is available.

   Did you know five states still have active tracks for dog racing? Florida voters made big news last year by banning dog racing through “Amendment 13,” effective December 31, 2020. Dog/greyhound racing, which has been around for centuries, is a form of gambling where betters place wagers on dogs who race around an enclosed track chasing a mechanized device that simulates a prey animal. The five states with active tracks include Alabama, Arkansas, Iowa, Texas and West Virginia, and there are four other states with no active racetracks, but still with laws legalizing greyhound racing on their books. Concerns over the care of greyhound dogs used in racing has come to light in past decades, including overbreeding of dogs, the humane treatment of the dogs (who spend most hours housed in kennels), and the disposition of the animals who are done racing. To learn much more about this historic and controversial practice, read our new Overview of Dog Racing.


News archives


Court not persuaded by defendant's claim of "justifiable purpose" in beating dog with metal hammer after dog injured defendant's thumb in appeal of aggravated cruelty conviction. People v. Brinkley, --- N.Y.S.3d ----, 2019 WL 3226728 (N.Y. App. Div. July 18, 2019). Defendant and his nephew had purchased a puppy and continually used negative reinforcement, such as paddling or popping the dog on the rear end with an open hand, for unwanted behavior. On one occasion, when the dog was approximately 15 months old, a series of events with disciplining the dog resulted in the dog biting off a portion of the Defendant’s thumb. The Defendant attempted to herd the dog onto the back porch, but the dog became aggressive and continued to bite him. As a result, the Defendant repeatedly kicked the dog and used a metal hammer to beat the dog into submission. The dog later died due to his injuries. The Defendant argued that he had a justifiable purpose for causing the dog serious physical injury. The Defendant testified that he was in shock from the injury to his thumb and that he was trying to protect himself and his nephew. However, other evidence contradicted the Defendant's testimony. The dog was in a crate when the Defendant got home, and the Defendant could have left him there rather than take the dog out to discipline him. The Defendant was at least partially at fault for creating the situation that led him to react in such a violent manner. The Court reviewed several of the Defendant’s contentions and found them all to be without merit. The aggravated cruelty judgment was ultimately affirmed.

Court allows plaintiff leave to amend Sec. 1983/civil rights complaint on facts showing euthanasia of cat same day cat was impounded. Theis v. Yuba County Sheriff's Department, Slip Copy, 2019 WL 3006261 (E.D. Cal. July 10, 2019). The Plaintiffs allege that their cat, Pizza, was unlawfully euthanized at Yuba County Animal Care Services shelter on or about February 9, 2018. Pizza went missing on or about February 9, 2018 and Plaintiffs found out later that same day that a neighbor had found the cat and brought it to the Yuba County animal shelter. The Plaintiffs attempted to contact the shelter, but it had already closed for the evening. The next morning around 9:30 a.m., the Plaintiffs arrived at the shelter and learned that Pizza had been euthanized as early as 5:00 p.m. the night before. The Plaintiffs contend that Pizza’s euthanization falls within an ongoing pattern and practice of abuse and failure to follow state and federal law. The Defendants moved to dismiss Plaintiff’s First Amended Complaint and alleged that the Plaintiff’s did not plead facts sufficient to show that Barnhill engaged in unlawful conduct or to establish a substantive or procedural due process violation. The Court, however, granted the Plaintiffs leave to amend their complaint as to the section 1983 claim. Ultimately, the Court ordered Plaintiff’s third cause of action for violations of their Fourteenth Amendment substantive and procedural due process rights be dismissed with leave to amend, the Plaintiff’s state law claims in their first, second, and fourth causes of action be dismissed with leave to amend to the extent consistent with the order, and denied the Defendant's motions to strike Plaintiffs' punitive damages claim.

Injury to pedestrian on his bicep did not rise to level of "serious injury" to warrant destruction order for dog. Reid v. Kramer, Not Reported in N.W. Rptr., 2019 WL 2866091 (Mich. Ct. App. July 2, 2019). Alpena County Animal Control filed a complaint against the respondents alleging that a black and tan German Shepherd named Bruiser had attacked or bit a person after the dog bit a jogger on the bicep and forearm. Respondents stated that Bruiser had never attacked or bitten anyone before and was raised around children. While the prosecutor clarified that euthanization was not being sought, the district court found that Bruiser had caused serious injury, noted the possibility of Bruiser injuring children in the future, and ordered Bruiser to be destroyed. After the circuit court affirmed the district court’s decision, respondents appealed to the Court of Appeals. While, the Court concluded that Bruiser fit the definition of a dangerous animal under the statute, it agreed with the Respondents that evidence was insufficient to support a conclusion that Bruiser caused serious injury or was likely to cause death or serious injury in the future. In order for an animal to be destroyed, it must be more than dangerous. Henderson’s injuries consisted of scrapes, puncture wounds, and three stitches. Those injuries did not rise to the level of a “serious injury” as defined under MCL 287.321(e). The district court did not properly interpret MCL 287.322 and based its decision solely on the fact that Bruiser had bitten someone once and concluded that because of that, the court knew that Bruiser was more likely to do so again. The Court of Appeals reversed and remanded to the district court.

Court allows public nuisance action by ALDF to proceed against roadside zoo in Washington. Animal Legal Def. Fund v. Olympic Game Farm, Inc., --- F.Supp.3d ----, 2019 WL 2191876 (W.D. Wash. May 21, 2019). This case has to do with the mistreatment and unsafe captivity of numerous animals kept at a roadside zoo in Sequim, Washington called Olympic Game Farm (OGF). The Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) alleged that OGF’s failure to abide by the Federal Endangered Species Act, as well as alleged violations of Washington State animal cruelty laws created a public nuisance. OGF admitted one of the allegations, specifically, that they are not accredited but possess or display Roosevelt Elk. That was an admitted violation of Washington law which makes it unlawful for a non-accredited facility to possess such a species. That single admission supported ALDF’s public nuisance claim in addition to all of the other alleged state violations. The court stated that ALDF met the "low bar" of standing in a public nuisance context. Accordingly, OGF’s Motion to Dismiss was denied.

Case Archives


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).