Animal Law Legal Center home page

January News

 

 How much is that doggy in the window? It may depend on your lease agreement. According to a recent Washington Post article, the advent of “pet leasing,” purchasing a pet through a payment plan over the course of months or years, has been on the rise. Not only does this often double the sales price of the animal, but animal advocates suggest it raises serious issues of ownership/care and reinforces the “pets as property” paradigm. Interestingly, Massachusetts was the first state to address the unconventional pet arrangement known as “pet leasing” in 2008. The concern at that time was directed at companies that provided membership fees to possess dogs on a temporary basis. After January 1, 2018, California law (West's Ann.Cal.Civ.Code § 1670.10) voids contracts that allow the purchase of pets on retail installment agreements (where transfer of ownership is delayed until final payment is made). In 2017, Nevada also enacted legislation (SB 185, § 3) prohibiting leases for a living animal where the animal is expected to have a de minimis value at the end of the lease contract.

 

 Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirms District Court, ruling Idaho’s “Ag Gag” law unconstitutional. “Ag gag” laws are those that restrict undercover or covert recording of animal operations at agricultural facilities. Courts are finding some of the newer laws controversial because they protect only agricultural operations (as opposed to other businesses) and directly target speech, which is protected under the First Amendment. The Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) sued the State of Idaho (through the state’s Attorney General, Lawrence G. Wadsen) challenging their law in 2014. The District Court ruled in favor of ALDF and this appeal by the State followed. The Court of Appeals, in affirming the lower court’s decision with respect to the unconstitutionality of the law, found it particularly problematic because lawmakers intended to “shield the agricultural industry from undercover investigators.” The court observed that trespassing was already illegal in the state. In addition, the court found the  law was “staggeringly overbroad” since it also criminalized innocent behavior. Read the opinion at http://cdn.ca9.uscourts.gov/datastore/opinions/2018/01/04/15-35960.pdf.

  The Department of Justice (DOJ) rescinds guidance documents for several federal laws, including Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) documents concerning service animals. On January 4, 2018, the DOJ withdrew 25 guidance documents that it declared were “unnecessary, inconsistent with existing law, or otherwise improper." Two of those documents related to service animals, including “ADA Business Brief: Service Animals" from 2002 and “Commonly Asked Questions About Service Animals in Places of Business” from 1996. The 2002 Document had been previously cited as a source of information on DOJ's and other disability information websites.

 

 U.S. Senate unanimously passes the PACT Act - Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture Act, S. 654. This bill represents the first-ever general federal animal anti-cruelty bill. It builds upon the federal animal crush bill from 2010 that prohibits the act of making and distributing animal crush videos. The bipartisan measure, led by Senator Pat Toomey, R-Pa., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., would prohibit the same acts of animal cruelty specified in the previous law, occurring in interstate or foreign commerce, and, most importantly, whether or not a video is produced. Those convicted face federal felony charges, including fines and up to seven years in prison. S. 654 also makes bestiality a federal criminal enterprise. On December 15, 2017, it was referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary. 

New archives

Cases

General bail bond cannot be automatically applied to animal care costs in IN cruelty case - Wolff v. State, --- N.E.3d ---- 2017 WL 5163662 (Ind. Ct. App. Nov. 8, 2017). This Indiana case addresses the status of animals seized in conjunction with a criminal animal cruelty case. Specifically, the appeal addresses whether the trial court erred in granting a local animal rescue the authority to determine disposition of the seized animals. Five horses, two mules, and two miniature donkeys were impounded and placed with a local animal rescue. Following this, the state filed a notice with the court that estimated costs of continuing care for the impounded animals. The court ultimately entered an order that allowed the rescue agency full authority to determine disposition of the animals after defendant failed to respond. In his current appeal of this order, defendant first claims that the trial court erred in giving the animal rescue such authority because defendant paid $20,000 in bail. The appellate court found that this money was used to secure defendant's release from jail and he did not request that the jail bond be used for the care of the animals. The court found that the legislature clearly intended the bail and bond funds are used for "separate and distinct purposes," so there was no way for the trial court to automatically apply this money to the animal care costs.  

Appellate court modifies order enjoining horse-drawn carriage protestors in NYC - Central Park Sightseeing LLC v. New Yorkers for Clean, Livable & Safe Streets, Inc., --- N.Y.S.3d ----, 2017 WL 6043994 (N.Y. App. Div. Dec. 7, 2017). This New York cases balances animal right protestors' First Amendment rights against the government's interest in preserving public safety and flow of traffic on public streets. Plaintiff here is a business that operates horse-drawn carriage rides in Central Park. Defendant is an animal rights organization that protests the horse-and-carriage industry, often demonstrating where carriage operators drop off and pick up customers. At issue is the manner in which defendants conduct their protests in the designated horse-drawn carriage zones. Finding the plaintiff's injunction was content-neutral, this reviewing court then considered whether the challenged portions of the injunction burden speech no more than is necessary to assert the significant government interest. The court agreed with defendant that the "floating buffer zone" of the original order would be difficult for a protestor to assess and would burden speech more than is necessary. Thus, this court modified the order to prohibit any person from knowingly approaching within nine feet of a person in the loading/unloading carriage zone (a “conversational distance," said the court). The order from the Supreme Court, New York County was modified as specified in this decision.

Applying objective instead of subjective self-defense standard in ESA grizzly bear killing case was not harmless error - United States v. Wallen, 874 F.3d 620 (9th Cir. 2017). Defendant appeals his conviction for unlawfully killing three grizzly bears in violation of the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA). The killing of the bears occurred on May 27, 2014 at defendant's residence in Ferndale, Montana ("bear country" as the court described). On appeal, defendant argued: (1) he should have been tried by a jury; (2) the magistrate judge did not correctly identify the elements of his offense, and that error was not harmless; and (3) the case should be remanded for a trial by jury in the interest of justice. On the second argument, the court agreed that magistrate erroneously relied on a self-defense provision from a federal assault case that required the "good faith belief" to be objectively reasonable. The court held that the "good faith" requirement for § 1540(b)(3) should be based on a defendant's subjective state of mind. "Under the Endangered Species Act, the reasonableness of a belief that an endangered animal posed a threat is likewise strong evidence of whether the defendant actually held that belief in good faith." As a result, the appellate court found the error by the magistrate in rejecting defendant's self-defense claim was not harmless. The conviction was vacated and proceedings remanded.

Case Archives

Articles

Courtney G. Lee, The Animal Welfare Act at Fifty: Problems and Possibilities in Animal Testing Regulation, 95 Neb. L. Rev. 194-247 (2016).

Randall S. Abate & Jonathan Crowe, From Inside the Cage to Outside the Box: Natural Resources as a Platform for Nonhuman Animal Personhood in the U.S. and Australia, 5 Global J. Animal L. 54 (2017).

David Mahoney, Zuchtvieh-Export Gmbh v. Stadt Kempten: The Tension Between Uniform, Cross-Border Regulation and Territorial Sovereignty, 40 B.C. Int'l & Comp. L. Rev. 363 (2017).

Animal Rights Law Reporter, published by the Society for Animal Rights, Inc., edited by Professor Henry Mark Holzer, available issues from 1980 - 1983.

Trophy Hunting Contracts: Unenforceable for Reasons of Public Policy, Myanna Dellinger, 41 Colum. J. Envtl. L. 395 (2016).

Stevens, R.A.V., and Animal Cruelty Speech: Why Congress's New Statute Remains Constitutionally Problematic, J. Alexandra Bruce, 51 Gonz. L. Rev. 481 (2015-2016).

Animals as More Than 'Mere Things,' but Still Property: A Call for Continuing Evolution of the Animal Welfare Paradigm, Richard L. Cupp, Jr., University of Cincinnati Law Review, Forthcoming; Pepperdine University Legal Studies Research Paper No. 19 (available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2788309).