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June News

  News of shark sightings and attacks in U.S. underscore need to understand and protect these ocean predators. Recently, the Gulf Coast of Florida made headlines due to tragic shark attacks on beachgoers. According to news reports, not only are these incidents “very rare” but are fueled by the presence of schooling small fish, common this time of year. Sharks play a critical role as “doctors of the ocean” – removing unhealthy or dying members of prey animals and preventing disease spread. Due to this recognition of their importance, the commercial trade in shark fins was prohibited by H.R. 7776 in December of 2022. At least 12 states have enacted their own bans, including California, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Texas, Nevada, Washington.

   Vermont joins growing list of states banning retail sale of dogs and cats in pet stores. Beginning July 1, 2024, the retail sale of dogs, cats, and wolf-hybrids by a pet shop will be banned in the state of Vermont via S. 301 (codified as 20 V.S.A. § 3931). Vermont joins several other states that previously passed such legislation including California, Colorado, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, New York, Oregon and Washington. The laws are aimed at the sale of dogs sourced from “puppy mills,” effectively eliminating what has been called the “pipeline” of dogs from substandard commercial breeding facilities with little oversight to unsuspecting pet buyers. In addition to state laws, hundreds of cities across the country have enacted such bans.

   New Jersey enacts law to end cruel confinement of veal calves and pregnant pigs. On July 26th, New Jersey governor Phil Murphy signed A1970/S1298 into law. The bill prohibits the confinement of breeding pigs and calves raised for veal in a manner that unduly restricts movement or provides inadequate space. Violation of the bill’s prohibitions constitutes a disorderly persons offense and would also be a civil violation of the animal cruelty laws subject to a civil penalty of not less than $250 or more than $1,000. A gestation crate is a metal cage so small that a mother pig is unable to turn around or move freely for virtually her entire life. Veal crates are small, individual cages used to confine newborn calves prior to slaughter preventing almost any natural behavior and social interaction. According to the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), the bill's enactment reflects a 13-year campaign to lessen animal suffering and protect consumers from zoonotic disease potential linked to extreme confinement of farm animals.

News archives


Circuit court affirms judgment that wind turbine project properly analyzed risks to critically endangered North Atlantic right whale. Nantucket Residents Against Turbines v. U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Mgmt., 100 F.4th 1 (1st Cir. 2024). The U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (“BOEM”) approved the construction of Vineyard Wind, a wind power project off the coast of Massachusetts after consulting with the National Marine Fisheries Service (“NMFS”). A group of Nantucket residents, organized as "Nantucket Residents Against Turbines" (“Residents”), allege that the federal agencies violated the Endangered Species Act by concluding that the project's construction likely would not jeopardize the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale. The United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts granted summary judgment for BOEM and NMFS. On appeal of summary judgment, the Residents further allege that BOEM violated the National Environmental Policy Act by relying on NMFS's flawed analysis. The court rejected the Residents' argument, finding that NMFS's biological opinion properly analyzed the current status and environmental baseline of the right whale. Further, the biological opinion properly analyzed the effects of the project (e.g., noise) on the right whale, along with mitigation measures, and did not ignore the project's additive effects on the right whale's long-term recovery prospects. Finally, BOEM's reliance on the biological opinion did not violate NEPA. The judgment of the district court was affirmed.

Single kick to dog sufficient basis for "cruelly beat" component of felony cruelty conviction in North Carolina. State v. Doherty, --- S.E.2d ---- 2024 WL 2002922 (N.C. Ct. App. May 7, 2024). In this North Carolina case, the defendant appeals from his conviction of felony cruelty to animals and suspended sentence of imprisonment. The conviction stems from Defendant's kicking of his neighbor's dog. In November of 2019, the dog's owner was walking her fourteen-year-old dachshund-beagle mix, Davis, in front of Defendant's house when she stepped out of the roadway onto Defendant's lawn to avoid a passing car. The occupants of the car then stopped to talk with the dog's owner briefly, whereupon Defendant emerged from his home and proceeded to kick Davis in the stomach. Defendant was ultimately charged, indicted, and convicted of felonious cruelty to animals. On appeal, Defendant argues that the trial court erred in failing to dismiss the charge of felonious cruelty to animals because a single kick was insufficient to show that Defendant "cruelly beat" the dog. This court first addressed whether a single kick to a dog was sufficient to meet the definition of "cruelly beat." Looking first at the standard dictionary definition of "beat," the court found that the words, “cruelly beat” can apply to any act that causes the unjustifiable pain, suffering, or death to an animal, even if it is just one single act. In fact, the court stated, "[t]o hold otherwise would allow a person to kick a dog so hard they suffer life-threatening injuries—such as the case here—but not be subject to felonious cruelty to animals because it was 'just' one kick." Thus, the trial court did not err in denying Defendant's motion to dismiss. No reversible error occurred and Defendant's conviction was affirmed.

Pennsylvania dogs chasing deer that were enclosed in fence does not allow deer owners to raise defense of legal right to kill dogs pursuing certain domestic animals. Commonwealth v. Stefanowicz, --- A.3d ---- 2024 WL 1918371, 2024 PA Super 90 (May 2, 2024). Appellant Stefanowicz appeals from the judgment entered in the Tioga County Court of Common Pleas in Pennsylvania. Appellant and his wife co-owned a deer farm ("Awesome Whitetails") where they are legally licensed to operate and sell trophy bucks which are kept in a fenced-in enclosure on their property. Appellant's neighbor, Ms. Smith, owned two German Shepherd dogs, which Appellant testified frequently entered his property and had previously harassed the animals he raises there. Appellant and his wife submitted a complaint to the state dog warden who then warned Smith of the statewide requirements on confining dogs. The warden also advised Appellant of the legal right to kill a dog that is “in the act of pursuing or wounding or killing” Appellant's animals. In fall of 2020, Smith's dogs entered Appellant's property and were chasing the deer from outside the fence. This deer began to panic, causing one to get stuck in the fence where one of the dogs then stared biting it. Appellant tried to yell at the dogs to no avail, so he then shot and killed the dogs. Appellant testified that one deer had a bloody gash, two more had bloody faces, and one deer died of a broken neck. Ultimately, Smith was sent a citation for failing to confine the dogs and Appellant was charged with two counts of Aggravated Cruelty to Animals and convicted of one of those counts. On appeal, Appellant raises several issues. The first two issues challenge the sufficiency of the evidence for the Aggravated Cruelty conviction. The court found sufficient evidence for the conviction as Appellant acted in an intentional manner to kill the dogs. Next, Appellant asserts that the verdict was against the weight of the evidence because of his legal defense. In Pennsylvania, it is legal to kill certain dogs in the act of pursuing or wounding "domestic animals" (which includes farm-raised deer). The trial judge here gave an instruction on the defense, but added that "under the laws of this Commonwealth, harassing an animal through a fence without any contact does not constitute pursuing, wounding, or killing an animal." Here, the jury heard that instruction and found the defense inapplicable for one dog. There was testimony from Appellant that he saw one of the two dogs biting a deer caught in the fence, not both dogs. Since the jury was free to evaluate the testimony and infer guilt, the reviewing court will not disturb the lower court's determination. After disposing of the remaining issues related to jury selection and ineffective assistance of counsel, the court affirmed Appellant's sentence.

Case Archives


Examining the Veterinary Client-Patient Relationship in the United States: Why the Abolition of the In-Person Examination Requirement is Warranted, Jeffrey P. Feldmann, 56 Suffolk U. L. Rev. 91 (2023).

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).

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).