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February News


   New York senate bill seeks to ban retail sale of dogs, cats, and rabbits. The bill (S04234) was recently approved by the Senate's Domestic Animal Welfare Committee. Under the bill, retail pet stores would be prohibited from buying dogs, cats, or rabbits from out-of-state breeders and brokers. However, the measure would allow pet shops to partner with shelters and rescue groups to offer animals for adoption. While New York residents could still buy pets directly from breeders, the hope is that disallowing direct pet store sales would reduce pets originating from out-of-state "puppy mills" where the animals are mass-bred in substandard conditions. If the bill gets enacted, New York would join the only other two states with such laws, Maryland and California.

   On January 1st, Oregon’s “beagle freedom” law (S.B. 638) became effective, joining eleven other states with such laws. These laws mandate that research facilities that use dogs (and sometimes cats) for laboratory research must offer animals deemed medically suitable for adoption instead of simply euthanizing them. The majority of states limit these laws to institutes of higher education that receive public funds except for Nevada that extends its law to private product testing facilities. Oregon’s new law defines “research facility” as “any institution of higher education or any facility, whether privately or publicly owned, leased or operated, where laboratory research is performed.” Under these laws, the research facilities may enter into agreements with animal rescue or humane agencies to take the suitable animals and adopt them to the public.

   Maine joins Connecticut with law allowing appointment of legal advocates to help animal victims in cruelty cases; will Illinois be the next state? In 2016, Connecticut broke legal ground with "Desmond's Law" that allows appointment of animal advocates in cruelty cases to represent the interests of animal victims. According to the University of Connecticut, animal advocates have been appointed in 70 animal abuse cases. Recently, Maine enacted "Franky's Law" that does the same in that state. In 2019, Illinois State Rep. Allen Skillicorn proposed HB 1631, which would allow the court, in a prosecution involving the injury, health, or safety of a cat or dog, to appoint a special advocate to "represent the interests of justice regarding the health or safety of the cat or dog." In all of these states, the legislation states that attorneys or law students who act in such capacities are volunteers. According to a WGEM news story, the Illinois bill has bipartisan support.  

   Hawaii news report raises alarm over feral cat and endangered bird conflicts. According to reports, state wildlife officials found that a feral cat killed an endangered Hawaiian petrel chick that the state Kauai Endangered Seabird Recovery Project had been tracking. The project also documented other native birds killed by feral cat predation. The researchers expressed fears over the survival of native bird populations, some of which are endangered, without proper management of feral cat communities. This concern is not new and not limited to Hawaii. To learn more about this conflict and how states and local communities are addressing the feral/community cat and bird conflict, see our topic area.

News archives


MS Supreme Court holds plain language of cruelty statute limits cruelty to multiple animals occurring during single incident to a single offense. Dancy v. State, --- So.3d ----, 2020 WL 240457 (Miss. Jan. 16 , 2020). The Justice Court of Union County found Michael Dancy guilty of three counts of animal cruelty and ordered the permanent forfeiture of Dancy’s six horses, four cats, and three dogs. Essentially, Dancy failed to provide adequate shelter, food, and water for the animals. After working his appeal to the Supreme Court of Mississippi, the Court found that the circuit court properly released the animals to an animal protection organization. The Court also found that the reimbursement order was permissible. However, two of Dancy’s three convictions were for violations of the same statute regarding simple cruelty, one for his four cats and one for his three dogs. The Court held that, according to the statute's plain language, Dancy’s cruelty to a combination of dogs and cats occurring at the same time "shall constitute a single offense." Thus, the State cannot punish Dancy twice for the same offense without violating his right against double jeopardy. For that reason, the court vacated Dancy’s second conviction of simple cruelty. The court affirmed the permanent forfeiture and reimbursement order and his other cruelty conviction.

USDA’s failure after 18 years to issue bird-specific standards under the AWA arbitrary and capricious. Am. Anti-Vivisection Soc'y v. United States Dep't of Agric., 946 F.3d 615 (D.C. Cir. 2020). Congress passed the Animal Welfare Act (“AWA”) in 1966 to ensure that animals intended for use in research facilities, for exhibition purposes, or for use as pets were provided humane care and treatment. Initially, the definition of the word “animal” excluded birds according to the USDA. In 2002, Congress amended the AWA to make it known that birds were to be protected as well. The USDA promised to publish a proposed rule for public comment once it determined how to best regulate birds and adopt appropriate standards. Eighteen years later, the USDA has yet to issue any standards regarding birds. The American Anti-Vivisection Society and the Avian Welfare Coalition sued to compel the USDA to either issue bird-specific standards or to apply its general standards to birds. The Court of Appeals found that the AWA, when it was amended in 2002, required the USDA to issue standards governing the humane treatment, not of animals generally, but of animals as a defined category of creatures including birds not bred for use in research. The USDA failed to take “discrete action” issuing standards to protect birds that the AWA requires it to take. The Court ultimately affirmed the district court as to the arbitrary and capricious claim but reversed and remanded as to the unreasonable delay claim to determine whether the issuance of bird-specific standards has been unreasonably delayed.

Petitioner’s “class-of-one” equal protection challenge not supported by evidence where officer’s decision not to declare offending dog vicious was supported by rational basis. Turner v. Ferguson, --- F.Supp.3d ----, 2020 WL 97526 (E.D. Wis. Jan. 7, 2020). On March 5, 2017, Lori Turner was attacked by her neighbor’s dog which required her to receive 11 staples to close the wound on her scalp and other injuries. Pursuant to local regulations, the neighbor’s dog was quarantined for a ten-day period. Turner mentioned to officers that the city had recently enacted an ordinance that allowed an officer to declare a dog vicious, which then requires the owner of the dog to adhere to certain requirements. The officer in question issued a citation instead and did not declare the dog vicious under the vicious-dog ordinance because the officer found some provocation. Turner filed suit against the officers she interacted with over the course of the next year, claiming that the officers denied her equal protection of the law by refusing to declare the dog vicious and by failing to protect her from loose dogs in the neighborhood after repeated requests. The Court ultimately found that the evidence in the record did not support a class-of-one equal protection claim. Officer Ruppel’s decision to not declare the dog vicious was supported by a rational basis. Additionally, no evidence existed that suggested that the Glendale police department intentionally and irrationally treated Petitioner’s complaints about loose dogs in the neighborhood differently than it treated similar complaints by other citizens. The Defendant’s motion for summary judgment was granted.

Case Archives


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).

Does Every Dog Really Have Its Day?: A Closer Look at the Inequity of Iowa's Breed-Specific Legislation, Olivia Slater, 66 Drake L. Rev. 975 (2018).

When Cheaters Prosper: A Look at Abusive Horse Industry Practices on the Horse Show CircuitKjirsten SneedKentucky Journal of Equine, Agriculture, & Natural Resources Law: Vol. 6 : Iss. 2 , Article 3 (2014).

Survey of Damages Measures Recognized in Negligence Cases Involving Animals, Alison M. Rowe, Kentucky Journal of Equine, Agriculture, & Natural Resources Law: Vol. 5 : Iss. 2 , Article 5 (2013).

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