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April News

   On Thursday, April 5th, Governor Scott of Florida traveled to Ponce Inlet for a ceremonial signing of "Ponce's Law," an amendment to Section 828.12, Florida's Cruelty to Animals law. The law (S.B. 1576) was named after a 9-month old Labrador puppy named "Ponce," who was found beaten to death in the backyard of a Ponce Inlet resident last year. That case led to public outcry and encouraged lawmakers to enhance the existing anti-cruelty law. Specifically, the amendments allow a court to prohibit a person who is convicted of a violation of this section from owning, possessing, keeping, harboring, or having custody or control over any animal for a period of time determined by the court. Other states have similar provisions in their anti-cruelty laws that allow courts to prohibit ownership or possession of animals. See our Map of such laws.

   Nova Scotia becomes first province in Canada to implement a ban on cat "declawing." In December of 2017, the Nova Scotia Veterinary Medical Association (NSVMA) voted to ban the procedure in its ethical rules. Cat declawing, known technically as "Onychectomy," involves the amputation of all or part of the distal phalanges, or end bones, of the cat's toes. Critics of the procedure liken it to amputating the tops of human fingers and contend it leads to later health problems for cats such as arthritis and pain. A report on the ban in the CBC states that the practice has been banned in U.K., Europe, Australia and several California cities. Now there are calls to other Canadian provinces to consider such bans. The ban was voted upon by the NSVMA in December, but had a three-month waiting period before it took effect.

   Recent news highlighting unusual or even aggressive service or emotional support animals aboard flights sparks change in airline policy. In response to concerns over abuse, two major airlines (Delta and United) announced last month that they would be tightening their service and support animal policies. In a press release, Delta stated, “Ignoring the true intent of existing rules governing the transport of service and support animals can be a disservice to customers who have real and documented needs.” But what exactly does federal law provide? Regulations allowing service animals stem from the Air Carrier Access Act, a law that prohibits disability discrimination by commercial airlines. The regulations allow both service animals AND emotional support animals to accompany disabled passengers. Delta and United’s new policies align more with the requirements of the ACAA regulations. An airline is never required to accommodate unusual service animals like snakes, other reptiles, ferrets, rodents, and spiders, and exotic service animals are left to the discretion of the airline. Interestingly, trained psychiatric service animals are treated the same as emotional support animals for purposes of the ACAA regulations. Thus, even a trained psychiatric support animal that interrupts self-destructive repetitive behaviors for a person with OCD must provide documentation 48-hours in advance just like a person using an ESA. For more see, our FAQ.

   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. 

New archives


Federal court denies Governor's motion to dismiss challenge to Iowa's "Ag Gag" law. Animal Legal Def. Fund v. Reynolds, --- F.Supp.3d ----, 2018 WL 1151000 (S.D. Iowa Feb. 27, 2018). In 2012, Iowa passed a statute that criminalized gaining access to agricultural facilities under false pretenses and making a false representation on a job application for those facilities. Plaintiffs in this case (animal rights groups including the Animal Legal Defense Fund and PETA) brought suit alleging that the statute was unconstitutional and sought to enjoin the Defendants (Governor of Iowa) from enforcing it. Their complaint alleged that the statute violates the First Amendment as discrimination on the basis of content, the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment by targeting animal rights groups, and violates the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment by burdening the freedom of speech. The court denies Defendants' motion with respect to the First Amendment, concluding that Plaintiffs have plausibly alleged the intent to suppress their message because of their viewpoint.

"Intent" for purposes of aggravated cruelty conviction in IL needs only an intent to cause the act, not an intent to cause the serious injury or death. People v. Robards, --- N.E.3d ----, 2018 IL App (3d) 150832. Defendant Robards appeals her conviction for aggravated animal cruelty after her two dogs, Walker and Sparky, were discovered in her previous home emaciated, dehydrated, and dead. She moved out of the home and into another home. When her current roommate went over to the prior home, she discovered Walker’s emaciated body on the living room floor, and police later discovered Sparky’s body in a garbage bag in the bedroom. On appeal, Robards concedes that the dogs both died from dehydration and starvation, and that she was the only person responsible for the dogs’ care. However, she argues that the prosecutor must prove that she intended to cause serious injury or death to the dogs. The court disagrees, stating that for conviction only the act need be intentional, and that the act caused the death or serious injury of an animal. Notably, the court observed that "defendant is very fortunate to have only received a sentence of 12 months' probation for these heinous crimes," and criticized the circuit court for its "unjustly and inexplicably lenient" sentence simply because defendant only caused harm to an animal and not a human being.

Foul odor from defendant's apartment that mimicked "dead body" sufficient to support emergency exception for police seizure of neglected pets. People v. Scott, --- N.Y.S.3d ----, 2018 WL 1279067 (N.Y.Crim.Ct. Mar. 13, 2018). Defendant was charged with two counts of Overdriving, Torturing and Injuring Animals and Failure to Provide Sustenance, in violation of section 353 of the Agriculture and Markets Law (“AML”). On September 11, 2017, two Police Officers were called to an apartment building because tenants of the apartment building were complaining about a foul odor coming from the defendant's apartment unit. It was suspected that a dead body might be in the apartment based on the Officers' experience. Under the emergency exception, the Officers searched the apartment for a dead body but did not find one, and instead found a male German Shepard dog and a domestic shorthair cat, both of which were malnourished and emaciated. The defendant challenged the seizure of the animals and the subsequent security posting for costs incurred by the ASPCA for care of the dog for approximately 3 months. The court held that the defendant did violate a section of Article 26 of the AML, and that there was a valid warrant exception applicable to this case. Further, the court held that $2,567.21 is a reasonable amount to require the respondent/defendant to post as security.

Claim of a "taking" of chimpanzee under ESA is not foreclosed because alleged violator is AWA licensed entity. Missouri Primate Foundation v. People for Ethical Treatment of Animals, Inc., Slip Copy, 2018 WL 1420239 (E.D. Mo. Mar. 22, 2018). This is a motion of counterclaim by defendants Missouri Primate Foundation to dismiss PETA's (the counterclaim plaintiff) assertion that two chimpanzees were being held in conditions that deprived the chimpanzees of adequate social groups, space, and psychological stimulation. PETA claimed that the Missouri Primate Foundation (MPF) (the counterclaim defendants) were holding the two chimpanzees in conditions that “harm” and “harass” the chimpanzees, thus violating the “take” prohibition of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). MPF contends that because the chimpanzees at its facility were lawfully in captivity and licensed by USDA–APHIS, so the chimpanzees cannot be subject to a “take” under the ESA. They further argued that PETA lacked standing as the AWA preempts or supersedes the ESA as to animals held at USDA licensed facilities. After examining similar cases, this court concluded that claims under the AWA and ESA are complementary and do not conflict, and that the ESA protects captive animals regardless of whether the alleged violator is an AWA licensed entity. The court found that the allegations by PETA are sufficient at this stage of the case and issues of proof are reserved for trial. As such, the court denied the motions of the counterclaim defendants.

Case Archives


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: