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December News


  Nation’s oldest “ag gag” law challenged in federal court by coalition of animal advocacy groups. “Ag gag” is a colloquial term for laws that prohibit undercover investigators and prevent whistleblowers from recording what they see at animal agriculture operations like large factory farms. Before ag gag laws came to be known, similar laws prohibited conduct often called “ecoterrorism” at animal testing and research facilities. In recent years, large-scale animal agriculture entities have petitioned legislatures to enact laws that specifically protect their industry from scrutiny by those who gain entry through “false pretenses." These blanket prohibitions, advocates claim, stifle exposure of cruel and illegal practices by facilities and have a chilling effect on those whistleblowers that may seek to expose health concerns. Advocates have successfully challenged some of the most recent laws based on First Amendment violations in states like Idaho and Utah. Now, advocates have set their sights on the state with the oldest law from 1990: Kansas. In early December, a collation of activists including the Animal Legal Defense Fund, Center for Food Safety, Public Justice, and two Kansas-area farmed animal organizations filed a civil rights lawsuit in federal district court. Want to learn more about ag gag and animal research facility protection acts? See our Topic Introduction.

   October 24, 2018: Pennsylvania Governor Wolf signs "The Motor Vehicle Extreme Heat Protection Act." This law builds upon the previous work of the General Assembly in strengthening animal protection in the state (last year was "Libre's Law"). The law (new section § 8340.3) protects law enforcement officers, animal control officers, humane society police officers, emergency responders, or the employers of those entities from liability resulting from damage to a motor vehicle or its contents for the purpose of removing a dog or cat if certain criteria are met. Specifically, these responders must: (1) have a good-faith, reasonable belief that the dog or cat is in imminent danger of suffering harm if not immediately removed from the motor vehicle; (2) make a reasonable effort to locate the driver of the motor vehicle prior to entry; (3) take reasonable steps to ensure or restore the well-being of the dog or cat; (4) use no more force than necessary under the circumstances to enter the motor vehicle; and (5) leave notice on or in the motor vehicle as outlined in the law. The new law takes effect in 60 days. This makes Pennsylvania the 30th state (including D.C.) to enact some form of "dogs in hot cars" law (see the Map of State Laws).

   Oklahoma enacts new law requiring tenants to show proof of disability if requested by landlord. HB 3282 went into effect on November 1, 2018. The law mirrors the language of HUD's EEOC Policy document from 2013 that establishes the responsibilities of housing providers when receiving requests for assistance animals. Oklahoma's law incorporates definitions and language from that document and adds some new requirements. Under subsection B., the law states that, "[s]upporting documentation that was acquired through purchase or exchange of funds for goods and services shall be presumed to be fraudulent supporting documentation." Additionally, if a person obtains a reasonable housing accommodation under this section by knowingly making a false claim, he or she is subject to eviction and can face court costs and damages payable to the landlord up to $1,000. Other states have recently enacted laws aimed at “fraudulent” assistance animals, including Alabama, Colorado, Indiana, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.

News archives


Appellate court will not substitute its judgment for jury who viewed defendant's large collection of animal fighting paraphernalia and communiques relating to cockfighting as sufficient evidence for AWA conspiracy conviction. United States v. Carrano, --- F.Supp.3d ----, 2018 WL 6314123 (S.D.N.Y. Dec. 4, 2018). Defendant Thomas Carrano was convicted after a jury trial of conspiracy to violate the Animal Welfare Act (AWA), 7 U.S.C. § 2131 et seq.  In the supporting investigation, officers eventually searched Carrano's property and seized extensive animal fighting paraphernalia, some of which was covered in chicken blood. Defendant was indicted on a single count of conspiring to violate the AWA and was subsequently convicted by jury. In this appeal, defendant contends that the government failed to prove he joined a conspiracy to violate the AWA and failed to prove the interstate commerce requirement for the conspiracy. He argues that the substantial evidence seized (e.g., training videos, gaffs, vitamin supplements, etc.) were consistent with showing chickens at a poultry show. The court noted that the jury made permissible inferences as to the evidence that were consistent with cockfighting, and that a reviewing court will not substitute its judgment for that judgment. In addition, Facebook and text messages from defendant evidence the furtherance of a conspiracy. While defendant contends that the government failed to prove that he actually engaged in cockfighting during the relevant time period, the court stated that the conspiracy charge only required sufficient evidence showing defendant agreed to deal in chickens for a fight through interstate commerce. Defendant's motion for a judgment of acquittal or in the alternative a new trial was denied.

North Carolina dog owners have no ownership right to dog adopted out after required state holding period of 72-hours. SAM LAMBERT & ANDRIA LAMBERT v. SALLY MORRIS & STEVE HAIR, --- S.E.2d ----, 2018 WL 6314142 (N.C. Ct. App. Dec. 4, 2018). Plaintiffs appeal the trial court's grant of summary judgment in this lost dog case. Specifically, plaintiffs filed an action against defendants Sally Morris and Steve Hair alleging conversion, civil conspiracy, and other claims as well as injunctive relief and damages related to the disappearance of their dog, Biscuit. Biscuit was lost in 2015, and ended up being turned into local animal control a month after she went missing. She was held for the state mandatory 72-hour old and then transferred to the local humane society (who did necessary surgery and adopted the dog out). A year later, plaintiffs discovered Biscuit’s picture on an old Facebook post for the humane society and attempted to reclaim the dog (now adopted by Defendant Hair). Due to Defendant Hair’s concerns over the 14 other dogs plaintiffs possessed, he refused to give the dog back without a home visit, which plaintiffs refused. Plaintiffs filed suit and the trial court granted summary judgment in favor of defendants. On appeal, the court noted that an animal shelter must hold a lost dog for at least 72-hours under state law. Here, animal control satisfied its legal duty by keeping Biscuit in custody for the required holding period before transferring her to the Humane Society. Thus, plaintiffs lost any ownership rights to Biscuit after the 72-hour mark. Affirmed.

Trial court did not err in refusing to read MO right-to-farm amendment during instructions in animal abuse trial where defendant's conduct showed a "conscious object" to induce pain or suffering to horse. State v. Hammond, --- S.W.3d ---- 2018 WL 5913131 (Mo. Ct. App. Nov. 13, 2018). Defendant Hammond appeals his conviction for misdemeanor animal abuse in violation of § 578.012. Dispatched officers encountered defendant and a downed horse in the road with multiple injuries to its hooves, fetlocks, and lower legs. Defendant told the officer that he had been "doing farrier stuff to his horses and this particular horse had broke away from them five times and broke a couple of lead lines, burned some people’s hands, and that he was going to teach the horse a lesson." The jury convicted defendant of the lesser-included misdemeanor animal abuse. On appeal, defendant argues that the trial court erred by refusing to allow his counsel to read Missouri's right-to-farm amendment when it instructed the jury on the amendment. The court disagreed with defendant's contention that his prosecution criminalized a legitimate farming practice. The jury convicted defendant based on a finding that, when he pulled the horse behind his truck, his conscious object was to cause injury or suffering to the horse. While defendant contends that his was employing a legitimate, established farming technique to "train" the horse, the jury rejected his claim. Thus, the circuit court did not abuse its discretion when it refused to allow Hammond to read the right-to-farm amendment to the jury, and when it refused to instruct the jury on the amendment’s terms. Affirmed.

Case Archives


Never Enough: Animal Hoarding Law, Courtney G. Lee, 47 U. Balt. L. Rev. 23 (2017).

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

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

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

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