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May News

   And then there was one. On March 30, 2023, New Mexico Governor Lujan Grisham singed SB 215, the Animal Sexual Abuse Act, into law. The act creates the crime of “bestiality,” defined as sexual contact with an animal. A person who commits the act of bestiality or promoting bestiality is a fourth degree felony. Aggravated bestiality, which is a third degree felony, involves those acts with or in the presence of a minor. Conviction under this law results in seizure of animals under the direct care of the perpetrator as well as bans on future possession of animals. With the addition of New Mexico, there are now 49 states with such laws. Only West Virginia remains without a law. For more on these state laws, see the Table of Animal Sexual Assault Laws.

   Are more states looking to regulate pets in cars? These days, increasing numbers of companion animals are hitting the road with their humans. This raises legal concerns, from pets being left in parked cars under dangerous conditions to pets riding in the laps of their owners. Only a few states really address this issue directly like Hawaii, New Jersey, and Rhode Island. However, states like Florida, Illinois, and New Hampshire are considering bills to regulate the safety of dogs in moving vehicles. Both Illinois and New Hampshire have bills that seek to ban drivers from having dogs in their lap when driving and Florida wants to prevent dogs from sticking their heads out windows. Ultimately, states are trying to prevent injury to pets as well as distracted driving.

   Curious what animal-related laws were added or amended in 2022? To find the answer, check out our Table of Statutory Amendments for 2022. Overall, there were fewer changes than in past years. Laws concerning animals used in research were a hot topic again with Iowa and Massachusetts passing “beagle freedom” laws and two others banning animal testing for cosmetics. Importantly, Maryland became the second state to ban cat declawing. Several states enhanced laws requiring certain entities to scan impounded pets for microchips. However, animal protection and anti-cruelty laws received only minor attention. Was this year an anomaly or has significant change within animal law reached a legislative plateau?

News archives


Claims of fraud, conversion/trespass to chattels, and intentional infliction of emotional distress based on inhumane euthanasia of cat by veterinarian allowed to go to trial. Berry v. Frazier, --- Cal.Rptr.3d ----, 2023 WL 3141235 (Cal. Ct. App. Apr. 28, 2023). Ryan Berry sued veterinarian Jeffery R. Frazier over the euthanasia of her cat. Berry claimed that Frazier performed the procedure (an intracardiac injection) without her informed consent, using an inhumane and unnecessary method that caused pain to the cat and emotional distress to her. The court found that Berry's allegations of fraud were sufficient to support a claim, as Frazier intentionally misled her about the procedure. The court also ruled that the conversion/trespass to chattels claim and intentional infliction of emotional distress claim were valid, as Frazier's actions violated Berry's property rights and caused severe emotional distress. However, the court agreed with the trial court that there was no separate cause of action for a violation of Civil Code section 3340, but Berry could seek exemplary damages under this section in connection with other causes of action (the court also rejected Frazier's argument that Section 3340 does not apply to veterinarians). The court remanded the case to allow Berry to file a second amended complaint to include the request for exemplary damages. The appeals from the previous orders were dismissed, the judgment of dismissal was reversed, and the case was sent back to the trial court for further proceedings, with instructions to modify the demurrer order and allow the filing of a second amended complaint.

District Court finds insufficient standing for animal advocates who sought petition of rulemaking to regulate the handling and slaughter of "downed" pigs by the FSIS. Farm Sanctuary v. United States Dep't of Agric., --- F.Supp.3d ----, 2023 WL 2673141 (W.D.N.Y. Mar. 28, 2023). Several non-profit organizations, including Farm Sanctuary and Animal Legal Defense Fund, filed a lawsuit against the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) related to the slaughtering of pigs. The plaintiffs alleged three causes of action related to the humane treatment, handling, and disposition of downed pigs, violation of the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, and arbitrary and capricious denial of a Petition for Rulemaking. The court found that the plaintiffs lacked standing to pursue both causes of action and failed to establish that the defendants violated the HMSA and the APA. The court ruled that the plaintiffs did not establish an injury in fact for standing purposes. The defendants argued that they complied with Congress's mandates and that some obligations are not judicially reviewable, to which the court agreed. The court also concluded that the statute grants discretion to the Secretary to determine whether to promulgate regulations for the humane treatment of non-ambulatory livestock and that agency decisions not to take enforcement action are unreviewable. As a result, the defendants are entitled to summary judgment on the first and second causes of action.

Ohio court finds dog participating in dog program at prison was not "vicious" under Ohio's statutory definition to impute liability to department of corrections. Dillon v. Ohio Dep't of Rehab. & Correction, --- N.E.3d ----, 2023-Ohio-942. Anna Dillon, a certified "senior dog handler," was attacked by a dog named "Roosevelt," owned by an Ohio Reformatory for Woman (ORW) corrections officer. Despite previous interactions without incident, Roosevelt attacked Dillon in March 2018, causing multiple bite wounds. After the incident, Roosevelt was removed from the program. Dillon filed a civil action against the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (ODRC) in 2020, alleging negligence and spoliation of evidence. The trial court ruled in favor of ODRC in September 2021. Dillon appealed, arguing that the trial court's findings were incorrect. The court evaluated whether Roosevelt was a vicious dog prior to the incident, using Ohio's statutory definition. The court found that Roosevelt's previous behaviors did not meet the definition of serious injury required to classify him as vicious. The court also dismissed Dillon's claim of negligent keeping of Roosevelt since the first issue was resolved. Regarding spoliation of evidence, Dillon claimed that ODRC willfully destroyed the handler folder for Roosevelt. However, the court found no evidence of willful destruction or disruption of Dillon's case. The judgment in favor of ODRC was affirmed. 

Case Archives


Derechos de los animales en Colombia: una lectura crítica en perspectiva ambiental, Carlos Lozano, State Law Magazine, 54 (Nov. 2022), 345–380.

Forgotten Victims of War: Animals and the International Law of Armed Conflict, Saba Pipia, 28 Animal L. 175 (2022).

From Factory Farming to A Sustainable Food System: A Legislative Approach, Michelle Johnson-Weider, 32 Geo. Envtl. L. Rev. 685 (2020).

Backyard Breeding: Regulatory Nuisance, Crime Precursor, Lisa Milot, 85 Tenn. L. Rev. 707 (2018).

When Fido is Family: How Landlord-Imposed Pet Bans Restrict Access to Housing, Kate O'Reilly-Jones, 52 Colum. J.L. & Soc. Probs. 427 (Spring, 2019).