Cases

  • Plaintiffs sought to prevent the Secretary of Commerce from allowing the American Tunaboat Association ("ATA") to continue killing northeastern offshore spotted dolphins that had been listed as depleted.  Defendants argued that such killings were permissible under the ATA's permit, and that the MMPA provisions relied on by the plaintiffs were irrelevant to the dispute.  The court concluded that Congress did not intend to allow the continued taking of dolphin species or stock, once the Secretary had determined that their population level was depleted. 

  • The Secretary of Commerce made a final finding that the intentional deployment on or encirclement of dolphins using purse seine nets did not have a significant adverse effect on any depleted dolphin stock in the Eastern Tropical Pacific Ocean.  Several organizations challenged that finding under the Administrative Procedures Act, and the matter came before this Court along with simultaneous motions for summary judgment from both the plaintiff and defendant.  The Court concluded that Plaintiff's met their burden of demonstrating that they are entitled to judgment, and the finding of the Secretary is set aside.

  • This case concerns the practice of catching yellowfin tuna by encircling dolphins with purse-seine nets. The dispute centers over whether tuna sellers may label tuna as dolphin-safe if caught with such nets. An environmental group brought suit against the Secretary of Commerce after he concluded that there was insufficient evidence to show that tuna purse seine fishing harmed depleted dolphin stocks in the Eastern Tropical Pacific Ocean (ETP). The Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court's decision that the action by the Secretary was arbitrary and capricious where the agency's decision-making process was influenced to some degree by foreign policy considerations rather than science alone. Further, the finding of no significant impact (FONSI) was not rationally connected to the best available scientific evidence.

  • Petitioner-veterinarian sought judicial review of veterinary medical examining board's denial of his application for renewal of his license to practice, and the permanent revocation of his right to practice veterinary medicine in Oregon.  The Court held that there was ample evidence ample evidence to support board's finding that petitioner was guilty of unprofessional conduct for misrepresentation to dog owner of surgical services allegedly rendered, whether the standard adopted be that of 'clear and convincing evidence,' as petitioner urges, or that of 'reliable, probative and substantial evidence' (ORS 183.480(7)(d)), as urged by respondent.

  • A dog kennel operator acquired 30 dogs while under a revised notice to cease and desist operating a kennel and from buying dogs. The Commonwealth Court affirmed fines imposed by the Department of Agriculture, holding that the fines for violation of the dog law were not excessive or unreasonable; that fines for failure to comply with conditions of the revised notice were not unconstitutionally excessive or unreasonable; and that enforcement of orders by Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement pending appeal were not staid by the doctrine of equitable estoppel.

  • An action was brought against the BLM under the Federal Tort Claims Act claiming that the government was negligent in failing to inform the adopters that they would not be eligible to receive title if they intended to sell the horses to slaughter. The court dismissed the claim for lack of jurisdiction, characterizing the issue as one sounding in contract, based upon the PMCA, and one that therefore should be brought before the U.S. Claims Court.  

  • An in-home caretaker of a sick, elderly woman sued the woman, her trust, and her son after the son’s dog knocked her down causing injury. The court of appeals remanded the case because it found a genuine issue as to whether the dog had dangerous propensities and whether the son knew of the dog’s dangerous propensities to justify strict liability. The court did, however, affirm the order of summary judgment as to the negligence claim, where the son was not the caretaker’s employer and thus did not owe her a duty to exercise reasonable care.

  • Petitioners sought relief from a temporary injunction for the Respondents, which prevented petitioners from enforcing the statute banning cockfighting.  The Supreme Court assumed original jurisdiction and held that the statute did not violate the Oklahoma State Constitution, and was not unconstitutionally overbroad.  Relief granted for petitioners.

  • Automobile driver fled scene of a traffic stop and sustained serious injuries when he was attacked by a police dog, which was allowed to continue for 5 - 7 minutes. Plaintiff brought § 1983 action, alleging that the use of the police dog constituted excessive force, and that the other officer failed to intervene and stop the attack, both of which violated plaintiff’s Fourth Amendment rights. The Court of Appeals held that the use of the police dog to help track and initially subdue the driver was constitutional, but permitting the dog to continue to attack the driver constituted excessive force.

  • In this case, Eldorado Subdivision sued some residents who kept hens as pets at their homes. The subdivision had a covenant (Section 11) that disallowed “animals, birds, or poultry” on residents' lots unless kept as “recognized household pets." The defendant-residents claimed that their hens were pets and thus met the household pet exception in the covenant. The lower court agreed with the subdivision and ordered the owners to remove the hens. On appeal, this court looked at the actual language of the covenant, which the court did find to be "unclear and ambiguous." However, the court found that if the residents did not want poultry as household pets, it is reasonable to assume the residents would have removed language that anticipates poultry as household pets. The court here found that the lower court applied the wrong precedent and should have applied a case that favored free use of the land because the covenant is ambiguous. The ruling should not be based on what the developer of the subdivision may have had in mind in writing Section 11 or how community members would interpret its meaning. Instead, the court found that the Section 11 does not disallow hens as pets and rebuffed plaintiffs' "Chicken Little-esque view" that "the sky will fall" if chickens were permitted as pets. In fact, the court observed that if the lot owners want a different result, they must change Section 11 through the election process set out in the covenants. The judgment of the lower court was reversed.
  • A veterinarian agreed to house, transport, and care for an elephant at no charge other than the actual expenses incurred therewith. One evening, the elephant ingested some poison left in its stall by the veterinarian and later died.  On appeal of the trial court award to plaintiff, the Court disagreed with defendant’s contention that he, as a gratuitous depositary, could only be held liable for gross negligence, willful misconduct, or fraud. In fact, the civil code in Louisiana, states the burden of a depositary is "that of ordinary care which may be expected of a prudent man."  However, an  agreement between the parties was found to release Dr. Cane of liability from negligent acts.

  • Defendant was convicted of cruelty to animals and practicing veterinary medicine without a license after cropping several puppies' ears with a pair of office scissors while under no anesthesia.  Defendant maintained that the evidence is insufficient to support the conviction for cruelty to an animal because the State failed to present sufficient evidence to rebut and overcome his defense that he engaged in a reasonable and recognized act of handling the puppies. The court held that the evidence supported conviction for cruelty under the definition of "torture."  Further the evidence supported conviction for unauthorized practice where defendant engaged in a traditional veterinary surgical procedure and received remuneration for his services. 

  • In this Utah case, plaintiff sued the defendants for personal injuries he sustained in attempting to untangle the defendants' horse from a chain that he alleges the defendants negligently tied it to a post in their yard.  The Supreme Court held that plaintiff who, at defendant's request, entered upon defendants' land to help free horse which had become entangled in chain because of defendant's alleged negligence in tying the horse to the post, could not recover for his injuries since it was his knowing and voluntary conduct in going into a "plain-to-be-seen" danger.  The dissent found that defendants did owe a duty to plaintiff to exercise reasonable care under the circumstances in the manner in which they tied the horse.  The dissent found this case more analogous to those under a "rescue doctrine," where recovery is not barred based on the doctrine of assumption of risk or intervening cause. 

  • This tort case involves appellee's suit against appellant for appellant's conversion of appellee's wolf hybrid dog named Rambo. The appellee in this case had placed an ad stating that he had a certain breed of dogs for sale. When appellant went to see the dogs, she noticed a serious leg infection. After consulting with the local prosecutor’s office and an animal organization, she returned to the owner’s home to take the dog in for treatment. The consulting veterinarian determined that the leg had to be amputated. The court held that the recovery was limited to the market value at the time prior to the amputation.

  • Plaintiff's dog was killed by defendant after defendant set traps out on his farm to catch the dogs that had been injuring his sheep. There was no claim that plaintiff's dog was caught in the act of chasing or worrying sheep. There was testimony at trail that showed plaintiff's dog was a very valuable one, highly trained, and greatly efficient about the farm; some of the witnesses testifying that he was worth at least $200. The trial court instructed the jury that defendant had no right, under the circumstances shown, to trap and shoot the dog, and the case was submitted to the jury for it to find the value of the dog. This reviewing court found no error and affirmed the judgment for the value of the dog, which was above traditional market value.

  • The issue on appeal was whether Texas' prohibition of horsemeat for human consumption was preempted by the Federal Meat Inspection Act (FMIA) or was in violation of the dormant Commerce Clause.  The court held that the statute was not preempted or in violation of the dormant Commerce Clause. 

  • After a 9-year old child was bitten by defendant's dog while at a sleepover at defendant's house, the child's mother sued the dog’s owners on child's behalf. The jury found that the plaintiff provoked the dog and the court entered a judgment in favor of defendants. The appellate court reversed on the ground that the jury instruction given by the district court misstated the meaning of provocation under the statute, and remanded for a new trial. In the instant action, the Supreme Court affirms this decision. Specifically, the jury here could have found provocation without any consideration of the victim's knowledge of the danger, and this misstatement prejudiced the defendant.

  • In this action, plaintiff animal society appeals from an order to return 40 horses to defendant after they were seized pursuant to a warrant. The issue of whether the Court has the authority to order return of animals to the original owner was raised for the first time on appeal. Despite the  procedural impropriety, the Court found plaintiff's contention without merit. The Court held that the return of the horses is based on principles of due process, not statutory authority.

  • In this case a deceased horse rider's parents (Erikssons) have brought wrongful death and negligent infliction of emotional distress actions against the rider's coach after she fell from her horse in competition and died. Due to a release form signed by the parents, the coach (Nunnink) could only be held liable if he was found grossly negligent. The parents attempted to show that the coach was grossly negligent in allowing the rider to compete after injuries sustained by the horse. This court concluded that the Erikssons failed to establish that Nunnink was grossly negligent. The court affirmed the judgment.
  • A county police officer failed to securely fasten her police dog’s portable kennel; the dog escaped as a result and attacked an 11 year old boy. The father of the boy sued the county police officer, alleging that she failed to restrain the dog. The officer moved for summary judgment on the ground of official immunity. The trial court denied her motion and the appeals court affirmed that decision. On issuing a writ of certiorari, the Supreme Court of Georgia reviewed the case. As a county police officer and dog handler, the Court stated the officer was responsible for the care and maintenance of the dog at all times, even when she was not working. For that reason, the allegation that she failed to secure the dog outside her home concerned her performance of an official function and was presumptively entitled to official immunity—with two exceptions to that presumption. Since the father had not contended that the officer acted with malice or with intent to injure anyone, the issue was whether the officer acted with negligence in the performance of a ministerial function. Since the county had not given the officer specific directions about the extent to which the dog should be restrained and since a generalized duty of care stated in a state statute and county ordinance was not enough to amount to a ministerial duty, the Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals’ decision.
  • A woman was horseback riding at a ranch in New York and was injured when she fell off the horse. The woman had signed a Horse Rental Agreement and Liability Release Form before the accident.  The court determined that the rider assumed the risk of injury and the lower court's decision to deny defendant's motion for summary judgment was reversed. 

  • On September 11, 2017, Plaintiffs, Catherine Estis, Samuel Estis, and Thuy Estis brought this action against the Defendants, Clifton and Kimberly Mills, seeking damages for the shooting of the Plaintiff’s ten-month-old German Shepherd puppy, Bella. The Plaintiffs alleged that the Defendants shot Bella, did not disclose to them that Bella had been shot, and dumped her body over ten miles away. Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Defendants. The Defendants argued that they fell within the immunity afforded by a Louisiana statute that gives immunity to anyone who kills a dog that is not on the property of the owner and is harassing, wounding, or killing livestock. The Defendants alleged that Bella, the puppy, was harassing their horses. The Plaintiffs argued that the immunity afforded by the statute needed to be affirmatively pled by the Defendants and that the Defendants waived such immunity by failing to assert the affirmative defense in their original answer or any subsequent pleading. The Plaintiffs further argued that the motion for summary judgment would not have been granted if it were not for the immunity protections. The Court ultimately held that the Defendants failed to affirmatively plead the immunity statute and, therefore, it reversed and remanded the case to the lower court.
  • In this case, the Township brought action against property owners to enjoin the owners from possessing exotic animals on the property, operating an animal exhibition on the property, and operating a business pelting exotic animals on the property. The District Court invalidated the township's exotic animal ordinance as conflicting with state statute, determined that an animal exhibition was not a permissible use under the township's zoning ordinance, and permanently enjoined the owners from operating an animal exhibition and conducting any retail sales, except for horticultural products produced on the property. This court held that the exotic animals ordinance did not conflict with state statute nor was it preempted. Further, this court held that the property owners' grandfathered possession and exhibition of exotic animals was limited to one wolf; animal control officer exception to exotic animal possession was limited to temporary possession of exotic animals in conjunction with owner's work as an animal control officer; township was not estopped from enforcing its exotic animal ordinance; and interpreting zoning ordinance's language to require sale of horticultural products from the land itself was not inherently unreasonable. Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded; motion dismissed.
  • A postal worker brought an action against dog owners to recover for injuries allegedly sustained when dog jumped on her while she was delivering mail to the owners' home. In affirming the denial of defendant’s motion for summary judgment, the court found that there factual issues as to whether the owners were aware of the potential danger from the dog and whether they took reasonable measures to prevent the dog from jumping on the plaintiff.

  • Petitioners, licensed wildlife rehabilitators with New York Wildlife Rehabilitation Licenses (WRL), challenged two statewide modifications to the WRL pertaining to white-tailed deer, which became effective in 2016. Petitioners contend these actions violated the state Administrative Procedures Act (SAPA). Additionally, they argue the modifications were irrational, arbitrary, capricious, and an abuse of discretion, and WRLs were improperly modified without a prior State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA). The first modification limits the time white-tailed fawns can be held for rehabilitation to a period of only April 15 to September 15 (absent prior written approval). The second modification limits the maximum holding period for an adult white-tailed deer (before release or euthanization) to 48-hours. This court did not find either modification was arbitrary, capricious, or an abuse of discretion. In response to the challenges, the state, through a wildlife biologist, contends they are intended to prevent habituation and the spread of chronic wasting disease (CWD). The explanatory statements provided for the modifications support reasonable and rational interpretations of rehabilitation and do not violate the SAPA. The September 15th cut-off day for fawns was based on scientific research conducted by the state's "Big Game Team" that sought to address issues of disease as well as "a documented pattern of licensed wildlife rehabilitators in New York who have been reluctant to either euthanize or release white-tailed deer." As to the modification for adult deer, there was a rational basis since that time period allows the care of a temporarily stunned deer in need of a short rehabilitation period balanced against disease and habituation concerns. The court also found that the issuance of WRL is a ministerial action exemption from environmental review under SEQRA. The petitions in this consolidated action were denied in their entirety and the proceeding dismissed.
  • In this New York, the neighbors of a five-year-old child who was mauled to death by a leopard that was at a circus held on school property filed suit against the operators of the circus seeking compensation for emotional damages. On defendants' appeal, this court held that defendants were strictly liable to plaintiffs. The court first began with the proposition that wild animals are presumed to have a dangerous propensity and the keepers of such have been held strictly liable. Using a products liability analogy, the court found that as a matter of public policy, it would be 'unthinkable' to refuse to insulate individuals who put a defective car on the road and 'then tell one injured by a wild beast that he has no claim against those who put that beast on the road.' The judgment was affirmed.

  • Plaintiff Jody Fabrikant, who had recently placed an advertisement for the adoption of puppies, was in possession of fifteen animals, including fourteen dogs and one cat. Reacting to several complaints regarding the animals’ treatment, defendants, the Ulster County SPCA and employees, executed a search warrant resulting in Fabrikant's arrest and seizure of thirteen of her fifteen animals. Plaintiff subsequently asserted that her federal constitutional rights were violated during the course of her criminal prosecution for animal cruelty. With respect to all four federal claims, the United States District Court for the Northern District of New York granted defendants’ motions for summary judgment since the existence of probable cause (e.g., video recordings and photographs of the condition of the plaintiff’s home) insulated the defendants from liability for their decisions to seize Plaintiff's animals.

  • After multiple negative reports came in about the living conditions of her animals, an animal rescue organization seized many of the plaintiff-appellant's dogs; she was then charged with five counts of animal cruelty, but was later acquitted at a state trial. Subsequently, the plaintiff-appellant and her state trial attorney filed a federal civil rights suit against the animal organization and others.  After losing at the district level, on the first appeal, and on remand from the first appeal, the plaintiff-appellant appealed the case for a second time. On this appeal, the Second Circuit held that though the animal organization was a state actor, it had qualified immunity, which protected it from the plaintiff-appellant’s charges. Additionally, the court held that investigator’s had probable cause to seize the dogs, which also defeated the plaintiff-appellant’s charges. The lower court’s decision was therefore affirmed, but for different reasons.

  • Plaintiffs sued defendant for the death of their racehorses resulting from alleged veterinary malpractice.  The court held that a genuine issue of material fact as to whether veterinarian's actions comported with professional standard of care in treating racehorses precluded summary judgment.  However, the owners were not entitled to recover damages for their emotional distress as result of veterinarian's alleged negligent destruction of horses.  Nebraska law has generally regarded animals as personal property and emotional damages cannot be had for the negligent destruction of personal property.

  • Plaintiffs bring this action against Goldmark Property Management alleging discrimination on the basis of disability in violation of the Fair Housing Act. The alleged discriminatory policy is a mandatory application fee, non-refundable deposit, and monthly charge that Goldmark imposes on tenants with disabilities who reside with a non-specially trained assistance animal (i.e. a companion pet). These same fees are waived for tenants with disabilities who reside with a trained assistance animal (i.e. a seeing eye dog). The FHA encompasses all types of assistance animals regardless of training; therefore, Goldmark's policy implicates the FHA. Further, Plaintiffs have met their burden of establishing a prima face case of discrimination and have presented sufficient evidence to create genuine issues for trial on the questions of the necessity and reasonableness of the requested accommodation and whether Goldmark's alleged objective for the policy is permissible under the FHA and not pretextual. Therefore, Goldmark's motion for summary judgment is granted in part and denied in part. It is granted as to Plaintiffs' claim of disparate treatment because no proof was offered of a discriminatory intent. It is denied as to Plaintiffs' claims of disparate impact and failure to make a reasonable accommodation.
  • The Wild and Free-Roaming Horse Act does not require that wild horses be prevented from straying onto private land, only that they be removed if they do stray onto private land.  

  • Before the Argentina National Constitution of 1994, the attorney Alberto Kattan and Juan Schroder brought an action of amparo (protection of rights) against the national government to prevent the hunting of 14 Commerson's dolphins that had been authorized by the national government. The question was whether these people had a cause of action as they had not suffered any direct or personal harm. The court declared the action of amparo valid leaving the administrative authorizations that allowed the hunting of Commerson's dolphins without effect.
  • Dog bite victim sued homeowners insurer.  Held:  courts may factor traditional public policy to bar a claim under the dog bite statute, and in this case, public policy precludes imposing liability on homeowners even though the dog bite statute appears to impose strict liability.

  • In this New York case, the plaintiff sought damages for injuries his son sustained after the child was bitten by a dog in a house owned by defendant Urban, but occupied by Defendant Buil (the dog's owner). Defendant Urban appeals an order denying her motion for summary judgment dismissing the complaint. Defendant Urban failed to demonstrate as a matter of law that the dog did not have vicious tendencies because defendant's own submissions showed that the dog had previously growled at people coming to the door. However, summary judgment was appropriate here because the evidence failed to show that defendant knew or should have known of the dog's alleged vicious propensities.

  • Environmental group brought suit challenging regulation allowing ritual slaughter exception to statute requiring that animals be treated humanely. The Superior Courtupheld regulation and appeal was taken. The Court of Appeal, Masterson, J., held that: (1) group had standing to sue, and (2) regulation was valid.

  • Plaintiffs Farm Sanctuary, Inc. and Michael Baur filed this action seeking a declaratory judgment holding that the Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman and the United States Department of Agriculture must classify all downed livestock as adulterated pursuant to 21 U.S.C. § 342(a) and an injunction prohibiting the USDA from allowing non-ambulatory animals to be used for human consumption. Defendants have moved to dismiss the complaint, inter alia, on the grounds that plaintiffs lack standing to sue. For the reasons discussed, the Government's motion is granted.

  • Court held that intensive egg-laying facilities did not constitute buildings used for 'agricultural purposes' and were not exempt from county zoning ordinances.

  • In this New York case, the plaintiff commenced this negligence action seeking damages for injuries sustained when defendants' bull knocked him to the ground while plaintiff was chasing the bull from his own property. Defendants moved for summary judgment dismissing the complaint on the ground that plaintiff's activities in chasing the bull constituted primary assumption of the risk. This court concluded that Supreme Court properly denied defendants' motion. The record established that plaintiff was fully familiar with defendants' bull and had in fact chased the bull from plaintiffs' property on prior occasions. At no time had the bull ever acted aggressively toward plaintiff, and thus plaintiff had no reason to assume that the bull would do so on this particular occasion.

  • This Hawaii case involves a suit against owners of dog to recover for injuries sustained when the plaintiffs, in an attempt to avoid what was believed to be an imminent attack by dog, fell off a natural rock wall.  Defendants' property abutted this rock wall and defendants considered those people who used the rock wall "trespassers."  After defendant's motion for a directed verdict were granted, the plaintiffs appealed.  On appeal, the Supreme Court observed that, in an action against an owner or harborer of a dog for injury inflicted by such animal, defendant's scienter (i. e. actual or constructive knowledge) of the vicious or dangerous propensities of the dog is (except where removed by statute) an essential element of the cause of action and a necessary prerequisite to recovery.  The evidence in the record established the fact that the Payton family not only knew of their dog's propensity to run and bark at strangers utilizing the 'short-cut' via the human-made seawall and the natural rock wall, but also expected such activity from their German shepherd dog.  Indeed, it was predictable that Mrs. Farrior would become frightened and would retreat to a precarious position.

  • Reaffirms that purpose of the Taylor Grazing Act (TGA) is to stabilize the livestock industry and protect the rights of sheep and cattle growers from interference and that the Secretary of the Interior may reasonably classify lands under the TGA as suitable for agriculture.

  • Petitioners, Japanese fishing federation, fisherman's association, and environmental group, filed motions for a preliminary injunction against respondent Secretary of Commerce who entered a final decision that approved the federation for an incidental take permit under the MMPA and adopted regulations that authorized the taking of Dall's porpoise within the fishery conservation zone.

  • In this New York case, a cat owner brought suit against an animal shelter and its employee for their alleged misconduct in knowingly placing a champion cat stolen from her home for adoption by unidentified family. In ruling that the lower court properly denied the plaintiff's cross motion for summary judgment, the appellate court found that there are questions of fact, inter alia , as to whether “Lucy” is “Kisses." However, the Shelter defendants are correct that the plaintiff may not recover damages for the emotional harm she allegedly suffered from the loss of her cat.
  • Pending before the Court is Defendant American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, et al.'s (“ASPCA”) Motion to Temporarily Stay All Proceedings. The suit arises from Feld Entertainment, Inc. (“FEI”) claim against the ASPCA and other defendants, including Tom Rider, alleging violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (“RICO”). The gravamen of plaintiff's complaint is that defendant Tom Rider has been bribed by the organizational defendants to participate in the ESA Action against FEI in violation of federal law. The court agreed that the public interest in the ESA claim weighs in favor of granting the temporary stay.

  • In this New York case, the plaintiff sued to recover damages for injuries he sustained when defendant's dog jumped onto his back and knocked him to the ground at defendant's service station. The court found that the lower court properly denied that part of defendant's motion for summary judgment for strict liability in harboring a vicious animal. Here, defendant failed to meet her initial burden on the motion with respect to strict liability because she failed to establish as a matter of law that the dog had no vicious propensities where she submitted the deposition testimony that the dog was chained at the place of business to prevent the dog from “jumping on cars. . .”

  • In August 2002, plaintiffs’ dog escaped while being exercised at defendant-kennel’s boarding facility. Birchmount appeals from the judgment claiming the court applied the wrong standard of care, and that the court erred in law in awarding the plaintiffs damages for pain and suffering. The reviewing court found that the evidence would likely have led to the same conclusion regardless of whether a “bailment” standard was used. Further, this court was satisfied that the trial judge did not err in law or in fact in making findings and in awarding general damages where there was evidence that the plaintiffs experienced pain and suffering upon learning of the dog’s escape.

  • This replevin action concerns ownership of an "indoor/outdoor" cat named "Sylvester" or "Marshmallow," depending on perspective. In September 2018, plaintiffs found an unidentified, thin, white cat hanging around their house looking for food. After several months of feeding the cat, in January 2019, plaintiffs decided to bring the cat inside and take it to a vet, where he was de-wormed, vaccinated, treated for fleas, microchipped, and dubbed "Sylvester." A few weeks later, Sylvester accidentally got out of plaintiff's house where plaintiff found out from a neighbor that the cat was taken back by the Defendant, who claimed that Sylvester is actually "Marshmallow" and had been plaintiff's indoor/outdoor cat since 2009. Plaintiff then filed a replevin action against defendant to recover legal possession of Sylvester, aka Marshmallow. The City Court, New York, Jamestown, Chautauqua County first noted that, regardless of how people feel about their dogs and cats, New York law treats them as personal property and even "chattel." While the court observed that the trend has been the "de-chattelization" of household pets in New York, it has not gone so far as to adopt a "best interests" standard to replace the superior possessory rights standard. The court noted that there is inherent difficulty in applying a best interests standard with pets because there is no practical way of gauging a pet's feelings and assessing its interests. The court further stated that New York Courts have developed a “quasi-interests based standard” for pets that considers highly subjective factors. Significantly, the court declared the following: "[w]hile it appears the Appellate Division, Fourth Department, has not addressed the issue, this Court concludes that it is time to declare that a pet should no longer be considered “personal property” like a table or car." Thus, using a "best for all concerned" articulated in Raymond v. Lachmann in 1999, this court weighed the factors whether to place Sylvester/Marshmallow with plaintiff or defendant based on the care provided by both parties. The court found, in a very close decision, that the “best interests of all concerned” test leaves the custody of the cat, Sylvester/Marshmallow, with the defendant. While the court was convinced that plaintiffs were genuinely concerned for Sylvester's/Marshmallow's welfare and spent time and money on his care, it appears that Sylvester/Marshmallow may have “voted with his feet” to return to his home of ten years with the defendant and her children. The Court found in favor of the defendant, and plaintiff's claim was dismissed.
  • In this New York case, a customer brought a negligence action against the owner of a retail store after she was allegedly attacked by a stray cat while shopping at store. The owner of the store moved for summary judgment. The Civil Court of the City of New York, Bronx County, held that a genuine issue of material fact existed as to whether the presence of a stray or feral cat in a retail store constituted a particular danger for unassuming visitors and/or customers whose presence on premises was foreseeable precluded summary judgment.

  • Two pet llamas owned by the plaintiff Fisher were attacked on two separate occasions by dogs, including by a dog owned by the defendant Liptak, causing the death of one llama and, two weeks later, injury to the second llama. After the first attack, Liptak's dog returned covered with saliva and blood, although it had no bleeding wounds; he suspected the dog had been in a fight or attack but did not investigate. His dog was later discovered injuring the second llama. The court ruled that Liptak's finding indications of  the first attack put him on notice that the dog had a 'vicious or mischievous propensity to attack other animals,' sufficient to make him strictly liable under the doctrine of scienter, for the second llama's injuries, but not for the first, for which Liptak lacked the requisite knowledge. Similarly, Liptak was not liable in negligence in the first attack, since in that rural area all the local owners let their dogs run at large and Liptak had no prior reason to suspect his dog would attack; the judge did not discuss whether Liptak was liable in negligence for the second attack.

  • The trial court approved a divorcing couple’s agreement for dogs to be with their children (and so travel to the husband's and wife’s houses as part of a shared custody agreement of their children).  The wife did not abide by the agreement, so the Supreme Court remanded back to the trial court to determine sole ownership of the dog.
  • Defendant-Respondents appeal a judgment by the Town of Stony Creek Justice Court declaring their dog to be a "dangerous dog" and ordering euthanasia. On December 30, 2017, defendants’ dog bit their 12-year-old grandson on the upper lip. The child and defendants’ dog were side-by-side on a couch when the child reached over toward the dog. The dog unexpectedly jumped up and bit the child on the left side of the mouth. The child received emergency care and was eventually given injections and stitches to close the wound. Testimony revealed that pain only last the first day after the incident and the stiches dissolved within ten days. The dangerous dog was action was commenced by James Fitzgerald, Sr. who was the dog control officer for the town of Stony Creek, and was completed a few months after the incident. At the close of the hearing, the trial judge found by clear and convincing evidence that the dog was dangerous and caused "serious physical injury." This resulted in the court ordering that the dog be "killed" within 30 days absent any appeal. Here, the defendants do not challenge the dangerous dog determination, but instead challenge the euthanasia order based on a finding of "serious physical injury." Under Agriculture and Markets Law § 108(29), "serious physical injury" means "serious or protracted disfigurement." The court examined two different definitions for "serious physical injury" in the Agriculture and Markets Law and the Penal code as well as relevant cases exploring the nature of a “protracted” injury. Here, this court found the evidence at trial did not show the size of the wound or the number of sutures, nor was there evidence scar was distressing to the victim or any person observing him. As such, there was insufficient evidence to show the injury was of a "protracted" nature. Therefore, the court modified the judgment by reversing the finding of aggravated circumstances and the order for humane euthanasia of the dog. The owners are now required to keep the dog held in leash by an adult 21-years old or older and maintain liability insurance of $50,000 - 100,000.

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