Animal Law Legal Center home page

February News

  Colorado city pays dog owner a $262,500 settlement for shooting of therapy dog by police officer. The settlement, obtained after mediation, marked the end of a long legal battle against Commerce City, CO and several of its officers. The incident led to public outcry on social media after a video of the shooting was posted that contradicted the officers' accounts. According to plaintiff's complaint, "Chloe" was a four-year-old mixed breed dog who acted as a service animal/therapy dog for plaintiff in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Notably, the officer who shot Chloe was tried and acquitted of aggravated animal cruelty in 2013. Chloe was initially tased inside an opened garage, and then shot five times before dying. For more on this story, see the Animal Legal Defense Fund's (ALDF) account. For more on legal trends in police shooting pets cases, check out our Topic Introduction.

  City of Ann Arbor, Michigan's "deer cull" challenged in court by local resident. Plaintiff Sally Daniels challenged the City of Ann Arbor's current "deer cull" of 100 deer from public parks and nature areas in the City by marksmen from APHIS. Plaintiff contends that this cull (or planned killing) of deer, a natural resource held in the public trust, violates state law (the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act (NREPA) and the DNR's Wildlife Conservation Order (WCO)). Ms. Daniels argues that there has been no showing under NREPA that the deer have caused damage to horticultural or agricultural crops under either act, contrary to state law. Plaintiff also states that the methods used - firearms with silencers, deer baiting, and the shooting of deer from vehicles - also violate the NREPA and/or WCO. Read the complaint filed in Washtenaw County Circuit Court.

 The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) announces its findings for 17 petitions under the Endangered Species Act. These 17 petitions were put forth to either list or delist species under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA). One petition sought to list the Yellowstone Bison. However, that petition was one of six that the FWS rejected as failing to provide "substantial information indicating that the petitioned actions may be warranted." The rejection of the petition is a blow to the Yellowstone population, as it faces a planned cull starting on February 15th. Animal advocates have filed a preliminary injunction to stop the killing and allow citizens and journalists First Amendment access to parts of the park where the cull is to occur. According to ALDF, a hearing on the matter is set for February 5th in District Court in Casper, Wyoming.

Beginning in January 2016, the FBI begins to track animal cruelty offenses. The data will be collected as part of the Uniform Crime Report National Incident-Based Reporting System, a program that collects data from law enforcement agencies around the country to provide national statistics on criminal activity. Previously, animal cruelty offenses were categorized under "other offenses," but the FBI was persuaded by decades of research showing a strong link between animal cruelty and violence against humans. The advocacy group Animal Welfare Institute has pushed for the categorization for over a decade and partnered with the National Sheriffs Association to provide research that supports the data collection. According to an FBI Unit Chief, animal cruelty can be "an early indicator of violent crime." To hear/read a podcast from the FBI on this proposed implementation from last January, see . For articles on the connection between human violence and animal cruelty, see the "Related Materials" tab on this Topical Introduction.


New archives


Friends of Animals v. Clay, --- F.3d ----, 2016 WL 305359 (2d Cir. Jan. 26, 2016). Friends of Animals (“FOA”) appeals an order of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York granting summary judgment in favor of defendants-appellees Deputy Administrator Clay and the FWS. FOA challenged FWS's issuance of a “depredation permit” to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey authorizing the emergency “take” of migratory birds that threaten to interfere with aircraft at JFK Airport. On summary judgment appeal, this court found that "§ 21.41 [the "emergency take" regulation] does not place Port Authority officials in the untenable position of having to choose between violating federal law and deliberately ignoring serious threats to human safety." Further, the court found the specific requirements in § 21.41 argued by FOA concern only applicants seeking a permit and not the FWS itself. In this situation, the court found the 2014 permit's emergency-take provision satisfied § 21.41 requirements. The District Court's order was affirmed.

Berg v. Nguyen, --- So.3d ----, 2016 WL 100267 (Ala. Civ. App. Jan. 8, 2016). Plaintiff Berg was bitten as she walked through a parking lot of the retail store adjacent to the residence where the dogs were kept. The dogs (six or seven pit bulls) were kept by defendants' tenants at the residence. Plaintiff Berg filed a complaint against the landlords, Nguyens, and their business under a theory of landlord-tenant liability for the dog bite. The lower court granted the Nguyens' motion for summary judgment. On appeal here, the court was persuaded by defendants' evidence that they did not know of the dog's dangerous propensity and were aware of only two occasions where animal control had been called or where the dogs were left unchained in the front yard. This was sufficient for the court to find that plaintiff did not meet her burden establishing that the Nguyens knew or should have known of any dangerous propensities of the specific dog that bit plaintiff. As to the issue of defendants' knowledge that pit bulls were "inherently dangerous," the court held that the Alabama Supreme Court in Humphries established that breed alone is insufficient to impute knowledge. Summary judgment was affirmed.

Leider v. Lewis, --- Cal.Rptr.3d ----, 2016 WL 164343 (Cal. Ct. App. Jan. 14, 2016). Plaintiff-taxpayers filed suit against the Los Angeles Zoo and Director Lewis to enjoin the continued operation of the elephant exhibit and to prevent construction of a new, expanded exhibit. Plaintiffs contend that the Zoo's conduct violates California animal cruelty laws and constitutes illegal expenditure of public funds and property. On appeal by both sides, the Court held that the earlier Court of Appeals' decision was the law of the case as to the argument that the plaintiff-taxpayer was precluded from obtaining injunctive relief for conduct that violated the Penal Code. Further, refusing to apply this Civil Code section barring injunctions for Penal Code violations will not create a substantial injustice. The Court also found the order to rototill the soil was proper because it accords with the "spirit and letter" of Penal Code section 597t (a law concerning exercise time for confined animals). As to whether the exhibit constituted animal cruelty under state law, the Court found no abuse of discretion when the trial court declined to make such a finding. Finally, the Court upheld the lower court's ruling for relief under section 526a (a law that concerns actions against state officers for injuries to public property) stating, "We agree with the trial court that there is no standard by which to measure this type of harm in order to justify closing a multi-million dollar public exhibit."

State v. Milewski, --- So.3d ----, 2016 WL 231314 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. Jan. 20, 2016). This Florida case involves the appeal of defendant's motion to suppress evidence in an animal cruelty case. Specifically, defendant Milewski challenged the evidence obtained during the necropsy of his puppy, alleging that he did not abandon his property interest in the body of the deceased dog because he thought the puppy's remains would be returned to him in the form of ashes. The necropsy showed that the puppy suffered a severe brain hemorrhage, extensive body bruises, and a separated spinal column that were consistent with severe physical abuse (which was later corroborated by Milewski's confession that he had thrown the dog). On appeal, this court found that the Fourth Amendment does not extend to abandoned property. When Milewski abandoned his puppy's remains for the less-expensive "group cremation" at the vet's office, he gave up his expectation of privacy. As such, the court found that he was not deprived of his property without consent or due process when animal services seized the puppy's remains without a warrant. The motion to suppress was reversed as to the doctor's statements/testimony and the evidence from the necropsy. The trial court's suppression of the hospital's medical records obtained without a subpoena was affirmed.

Case Archives


Redefining The Modern Circus: A Comparative Look At The Regulations Governing Circus Animal Treatment And America's Neglect Of Circus Animal Welfare, Jacqueline Neumann, 36 Whittier L. Rev. 167 (2014).

Why Can't I Know How The Sausage Is Made?: How Ag-Gag Statutes Threaten Animal Welfare Groups And The First Amendment, Daniel L. Sternberg, 13 Cardozo Pub. L. Pol'y & Ethics J. 625 (2015).

Interpreting “Enhancement Of Survival” In Granting Section 10 Endangered Species Act Exemptions To Animal Exhibitors, Anne Haas, 32 Pace Envtl. L. Rev. 956 (2015).

The (Inter)national Strategy: An Ivory Trade Ban In The United States And China, Morgan V. Manley, 38 Fordham Int'l L.J. 1511 (2015).

For Trinkets, Tonics, And Terrorism: International Wildlife Poaching In The Twenty-First Century, Ranee Khooshie Lal Panjabi, 43 Ga. J. Int'l & Comp. L. 1 (2014).