Cases

  • On July 7, 1995, a grand jury returned an eight-count indictment against the defendant charging him with violations of the Lacey Act; defendant has filed a motion to dismiss the indictment.  The court found that the Lacey Act embodies Congress' valid exercise of commerce power even when applied to a recreational hunter who purchased hunting guide services in violation of state law.

  • Victor Bernal and Eduardo Berges were convicted of various crimes in connection with an attempt to export two endangered primates--an orangutan and a gorilla--from the United States to Mexico in violation of the Lacey Act Amendments of 1981 and the Endangered Species Act of 1973.  While the main issue before the court was a downward departure in sentencing guidelines, the court found the purpose of the Lacey Act is protect those species whose continued existence is presently threatened by gradually drying up international market for endangered species, thus reducing the poaching of those species in their native countries.

  • An importer of 144,774 pounds of cooked, frozen blue king crab was charged with violating the Lacey Act for taking the crab in violation of Russian fishing regulations.  The crab is subject to forfeiture under the Lacey Act on a strict liability basis, but the importer asserted an "innocent owner" defense.  The trial court denied the owner's defense and the Court of Appeals affirmed, reasoning if the crab was illegally taken under Russian law then it is considered contraband for Lacey Act purposes regardless of its status under U.S. law.

  • Defendants were caught illegally over-fishing off the coast of South Africa and selling the fish in the United States, in violation of the Lacey Act. The United States Government could not seek compensation for South Africa under the Mandatory Victims Restitution Act because the fish were not property belonging to South Africa. However, the United States Government may be able to seek restitution for the South African Government under the discretionary Victim and Witness Protection Act.  Opinion Vacated and Remanded by: U.S. v. Bengis, 631 F.3d 33 (2nd Cir., 2011).

  • This case involves a conspiracy charge to defraud a corporation in which the United States was a stockholder.  The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in United States v. Mitchell referred to this Supreme Court case when it found that the nature of the MMPA does not compel its application to foreign territories.

  • During a search related to a controlled substances violation, undercover agents seized eagle feathers from defendant.  The court held that Congress exercised valid Commerce Clause power in enacting the BGEPA, as the incentive of interstate commerce in eagle parts would threaten eagles to extinction, thus depleting the future commercial potential of activities such as eagle-based tourism and educational research.  For discussion on the Eagle Act and the Commerce Clause, see Detailed Discussion .

  • 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 2016, Carrano, who was president of the United Gamefowl Breeders Association (“NYUGBA”), became the subject of an investigation by NYPD officers, ASPCA agents, and USDA agents for suspected cockfighting activities. In that investigation, these 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. Defendant argues that the "substantial evidence against him, including the training videos, the vitamin supplements, the gaffs and postizas, and the dubbed birds" are consistent with showing chickens at a poultry show, rather than cockfighting. 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. The court also found defendant's argument as to a defect in the superseding indictment was waived and meritless. Even considering the substance of the argument, the court found proof that defendant's conduct impacted interstate commerce. The court also held that defendant failed to prove his ineffective assistance of counsel claim on appeal. Defendant's motion for a judgment of acquittal or in the alternative a new trial was denied.
  • Defendant Charette was convicted by bench trial of taking a grizzly bear behind his home in Montana in violation of the federal Endangered Species Act. On appeal, defendant challenges his conviction on three grounds: (1) there was insufficient evidence to infer that he did not have a permit to take the grizzly bear; (2) his request for a jury trial was improperly denied; and (3) the lower court incorrectly analyzed his self-defense claim under an objective standard as opposed to the correct subjective standard. On appeal here, the court observed that the plain language of the ESA and legislative history makes it clear that permits and exceptions under the ESA are affirmative defenses, and not elements of the crime. In this case, Charette had the burden of proving the existence of a valid permit, which he did not do at trial. The court also quickly dispensed with the Sixth Amendment jury trial issue, finding that the taking of a grizzly bear is a petty offense. As to defendant's last argument on his self-defense claim, this court did find that the trial court erred in applying an objectively reasonable standard. This error was not harmless because it affected defendant's decision to testify as to his subjective belief in the need for self-defense. As a result, this court reversed the district court's decision, vacated defendant's conviction, and remanded the case for further proceedings.
  • In this case, Brian F. Charette filed an appeal after he was sentenced to six months of imprisonment and ordered to pay $5,000 in restitution for shooting and killing a grizzly bear in violation of the Endangered Species Act. Charette argued three issues on appeal: (1) that the trial court's denial of a jury trial violated his constitutional rights; (2) that the trial court erred in defining the elements of his charged offense; and (3) that the trial court erred in denying Charette's Rule 29 motion for a judgment of acquittal. The court found that the trial court did not err in denying a jury trial because Charette’s offense was considered a petty offense because it carried a maximum sentence of six months. For all crimes that are considered petty offenses, the Sixth Amendment right to a trial by jury is not triggered. Lastly, the court addressed Charette’s Rule 29 motion which calls for an acquittal if the essential elements of the offense are not proven beyond a reasonable doubt. In order for someone to be convicted of knowingly taking an endangered species the government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt, that: (1) the defendant knowingly killed the animal; (2) the animal was engendered; (3) the defendant had no permit to kill the animal; and (4) the defendant did not act in self-defense or defense of others. Charette argued that the government failed to prove that he did not have a permit to kill the grizzly bear. The court ultimately found that the government did prove this element on the basis that Charette told officers that he did not report shooting the bear because he did not want to deal with the “hassle.” The court found that it was reasonable to believe that had Charette had a permit to kill the grizzly bear, he would not have found reporting it to be a hassle and therefore the government sufficiently established this element. As a result, the court affirmed the lower court’s decision. 

  • Defendant sought review of a decision from a United States district court, which during a second trial convicted defendant of armed robbery. Armed with a gun defendant went to the teller's window and handed the teller a cloth bag with a note saying that it was a holdup. Two photographs were admitted into evidence that showed agents in the relative positions of defendant and the savings and loan employees at the time of the robbery. The court found no prejudicial effect in the admission of the photographs especially in light of the positive identification of defendant by the teller in the courtroom.

  • The Defendant was convicted in the District Court of Hennepin county for the unlawfully malice killing of a dog.  The Defendant appealed the descision to the Supreme Court of Minnesota to determine whether a dog has value and thus would be cover by the Minnesota cruelty to animal statute.  The Supreme Court of Minnesota found that a dog has no value and would not be covered by the statute.

  • This is an order vacating the opinions issued in Wilgus , Saenz , and Hardman .  The Tenth Circuit requested the attorneys in the above cases to brief the issues outlined by the court.  For further discussion regarding religious challenges to the BGEPA, see Detailed Discussion of Eagle Act .

  • This case stems from a United States Fish and Wildlife Service's investigation into illegal trafficking of rhinoceros horns and ivory called "Operation Crash." Defendant James Hess, a taxidermist in Maquoketa, Iowa, agreed to sell a pair of lack rhinoceros horns in 2011 to another individual involved in the trafficking operation. As a result of his role, he was charged with one count of Lacey Act Trafficking for knowingly engaging in conduct involving the sale and purchase of wildlife with a market value exceeding $350 that was transported and sold in violation of the Endangered Species Act. Hess was ultimately sentenced to 27 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release. On appeal, Hess first argued that the District Court made an “unsustainable finding on the record presented” when it stated that Hess "helped establish a market for these black rhino horns, and that is a serious offense against the planet." Because Hess failed to object at sentencing, this issue was reviewed for plain error. This court found no plain error, as the record supported the statement that Hess' action contributed to furthering a market for black rhinoceros horns. As to defendant's argument that his sentence was unreasonable, the court found that he failed to overcome the presumption of reasonableness in his bottom of the guidelines sentencing range. The judgment of the district court was affirmed.
  • The defendant had adopted 109 wild horses through the federal Adopt-a-Horse program, whereby excess wild horses were adopted out to private individuals under the stipulation that the horses would be treated humanely and not used for commercial purposes.  The defendant was charged under the criminal provisions of the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act and with conversion of government property after he sold a number of the adopted horses to slaughter.  At trial, the defendant argued that he could not be found guilty of conversion because the federal government did not have a property interest in the horses, as the power to regulate wild horses on public lands does not equate to an ownership interest in the horses by the federal government.  The court held that, regardless of whether the WFRHBA intended to create an ownership interest in wild horses, the government has a property interest in wild horses that it has captured, corralled, and loaned out.  

  • In this case, the United States Government brought an action against Kent State University alleging that the University’s failure to have any policy in place that would allow for the University to consider emotional support animals violated the Fair Housing Act. The parties resolved their differences in the form of a consent decree and asked the court to approve the decree. The court approved the consent decree but suggested that the parties make a few additions to the decree. The first suggestion that the court made was to specify what type of qualifications were necessary to make someone a “qualified third-party” for the purpose of making a statement to the University about an individuals need for an emotional support animal. Secondly, the court suggested that the University begin reviewing the logistics of how the University would manage having animals in its housing and how the animals would be properly cared for. Lastly, the court urged the University to look at whether or not the University offered sufficient break times between classes so that a student would have enough time to check on the animal and ensure that the animal was not neglected on a routine basis.

  • Two hunters were convicted of violating the Lacey Act after they hunted on a federal wildlife refuge, killed a deer and transported the carcass out-of-state.  The trial court imposed sentences of probation and fines.  The District Court affirmed the conviction and sentences holding they were reasonable.

  • Defendant convicted for conspiracy to smuggle endangered wildlife into the United States.  Government moved for upward departure from sentencing range.  Held:  Court would not depart upward to reflect cruel treatment of animals (other holdings generally unrelated).

  • Defendant violated the Lacey Act by presenting false information to gain a hunting permit.  He was convicted in United States District Court for the District of Idaho.  The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the District Court decision holding the District Court and Tribal Courts have concurrent jurisdiction over Indians for violations of the Lacey Act.

  • Defendant McKittrick shot and killed a wolf in Montana.  Defendant claimed that the federal government's importing of wolves from Canada violated the Endangered Species Act because that Act required that imported "experimental populations" had to be "wholly separate" from any other populations of the same species.  McKittrick claimed that because there had been lone wolf sightings in the area before the wolves were brought from Canada to the Yellowstone region, the new population was not "wholly separate" from an existing population.  The court held that the regulations importing the wolves from Canada were valid because a few lone wolves do not constitute a "population", and that therefore defendant was guilty of unlawfully taking a wolf.

  • This appeal turns on whether the Marine Mammal Protection Act ("MMPA"), and related regulations, apply to an American citizen taking dolphins within the territorial waters of a foreign sovereign state. The defendant-appellant, Jerry Mitchell, is an American citizen convicted of violating the Act by capturing 21 dolphins within the three-mile limit of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas. The court held that the criminal prohibitions of the MMPA do not reach conduct in the territorial waters of a foreign sovereignty and reversed the conviction.

  • This case addressed issues relating to searches and seizures and violations of Fourth Amendment rights.

  • In this case, defendants were charged with conspiracy to distribute marijuana and conspiracy to launder money after the defendant’s vehicle was searched by law enforcement during a traffic stop. During the stop, the police officer used a service dog while searching the vehicle. The defendants argued that any evidence gained by the police officer be suppressed on the grounds that the search of the vehicle was not constitutional. Specifically, the defendants argued that the police officer did not have reasonable suspicion to use the service dog while searching the vehicle. Ultimately, the court found that the search by the police officer and his service dog did not violate the defendant’s constitutional rights because the police officer had reasonable suspicion to search the vehicle. The court focused on the fact that the officer had legally stopped the vehicle and while talking to the driver and passengers he had established a reasonable suspicion that the defendants were transporting drugs. Once the police officer had a reasonable suspicion that the vehicle was transporting drugs, the police officer was legally allowed to use the service dog to search the vehicle. As a result, the court held that none of the evidence found during the search should be suppressed for violating the defendant’s constitutional rights. 

  • This case was vacated by the Tenth Circuit in the Hardman order.  Defendant in this case sold golden eagle skins to undercover agents in New Mexico.  On appeal, defendant contended that the district court failed to consider the facts under a RFRA analysis.  The Tenth Circuit disagreed, finding that defendant never claimed that his sale of eagle parts was for religious purposes and that the sale of eagle parts negates a claim of religious infringement on appeal.  For further discussion on religious challenges to the BGEPA, see Detailed Discussion.

  • This case considers whether student housing at the University of Nebraska–Kearney (UNK) is a “dwelling” within the meaning of the FHA. The plaintiff had a service dog (or therapy dog as the court describes it) trained to respond to her anxiety attacks. When she enrolled and signed a lease for student housing (an apartment-style residence about a mile off-campus), her requests to have her service dog were denied, citing UNK's "no pets" policy for student housing. The United States, on behalf of plaintiff, filed this suit alleging that UNK's actions violated the FHA. UNK brought a motion for summary judgment alleging that UNK's student housing is not a "dwelling" covered by the FHA. Specifically, UNK argues that students are "transient visitors" and the student housing is not residential like other temporary housing (migrant housing, halfway houses, etc.) and more akin to jail. However, this court was not convinced, finding that "UNK's student housing facilities are clearly 'dwellings' within the meaning of the FHA."
  • 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). In the morning, defendant discovered bears had killed over half of his chickens maintained in a coop. Later that evening, the bears returned, heading toward the coop. Defendant's children, who were playing outside at the time, headed inside and defendant proceeded to scare the bears away with his truck. Later that night, the bears returned and were shot by defendant. According to testimony by enforcement officers, defendant gave two different accounts of what happened that night. Ultimately, defendant was charged for killing the bears in violation of the ESA and convicted by a magistrate judge after raising an unsuccessful self-defense argument. 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. With regard to (1), that he was entitled to a jury trial because the offense was serious, rather than petty, the appellate court rejected the argument. The possibility of a five-year probation term and $15,000 restitution did not transform the crime, which had a maximum 6-month imprisonment, into a serious offense. On the second and third arguments, 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. Then, the ultimate question becomes whether that subjective good faith belief was reasonably held in good faith. Said the Court, "[u]nder 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. As to whether defendant is entitled to a jury trial on remand, the court found that the outcome of the prior proceedings conducted by a magistrate do not constitute a showing of bias or partiality. Thus, he is not entitled to trial by jury. The conviction was vacated and proceedings remanded.
  • In this New York case, the petitioner, University Towers Associates commenced this holdover proceeding against the rent-stabilized tenant of record and various undertenants based on an alleged nuisance where the tenants allegedly harbored pit bulls. According to petitioner, the pit bull is an alleged “known dangerous animal” whose presence at the premises creates an threat. The Civil Court of the City of New York held that the landlord's notice of termination did not adequately apprise the tenant of basis for termination; further, the notice of termination and the petition in the holdover proceeding did not allege objectionable conduct over time by the tenant as was required to establish nuisance sufficient to warrant a termination of tenancy.
  • *1 The First Amendment restrains government to “make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech.” U.S. Const. amend. I. Speech, as expression, “arcs toward the place where meaning may lie,”1 and when that meaning is hurtful or dislikable—meaningful, perhaps, to the bigot, or the flag burner—courts must be vigilant to affirm First Amendment protection. See Snyder v. Phelps, ––– U.S. ––––, ––––, 131 S.Ct. 1207, 1219, 179 L.Ed.2d 172 (2011); Texas v. Johnson, 491 U.S. 397, 404–405, 109 S.Ct. 2533, 105 L.Ed.2d 342 (1989).

  • The plaintiffs-appellants (Utah Animal Rights Coalition (UARC) and five individuals) filed this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim for alleged violations of their First Amendment rights to free speech and to peaceably assemble after the individual plaintiffs attempted to protest a circus in South Jordan, Utah. The district court entered summary judgment against the plaintiffs. On appeal, this court held that, without a showing of harm, the UARC did not meet its burden to demonstrate an injury in fact. The court did find that the individuals properly pleaded harm to establish standing. With regard to the § 1983 action, this court ruled that the district court correctly determined that county officials were entitled to judgment as a matter of law.

  • Plaintiff agreed to watch a couple’s dog while they were out of town. While plaintiff was caring for the dog, the animal bit her on her lower lip. Plaintiff filed a claim with the couple's insurance company. The insurance company rejected the claim because the plaintiff was also "insured," defined to include “any person ... legally responsible” for covered animals, and the policy excluded coverage for bodily injuries to "insureds." Plaintiff filed an action for declaratory judgment against the insurance company, seeking a determination that the policy covered her claim. The insurance company moved for summary judgment, and the district court sustained the insurance company's motion, reasoning that plaintiff was “legally responsible” for the dog because she fed and watered the animal and let it out of the house while the couple was away. The Supreme Court of Nebraska affirmed and held the insurance company was entitled to summary judgment.
  • Village criminal ordinance, which prohibited the owning or harboring of pit bull terriers or other vicious dogs within village limits, was not overbroad, even though identification of a "pit bull" may be difficult in some situations, as there are methods to determine with sufficient certainty whether dog is a "pit bull.".

  • While on a guided trail ride, plaintiff's horse brushed up against a tree that the plaintiff was unable to push away from. As a result, plaintiff's leg and hip sustained injuries and the plaintiff sued the ranch and the ranch's owners. Defendants’ appealed the Wayne County Supreme Court denial for the defendants' motion for summary. On appeal, the court found the Supreme Court properly denied the defendants' motion for summary judgment. First, the court found the defendants failed to meet their initial burden of establishing entitlement to judgment as a matter of law on the issues of the horse's vicious propensity and defendants' knowledge of that propensity.

  • Court awarded custody of rottweiler to wife, after considering testimony adduced (husband was not treating the dog very nicely) and the state of the husband’s home (scrap metal yard and fact 5-year-old child visits regularly).  This decision was made notwithstanding the fact that dog was gift from wife to husband and the dog was registered to husband with AKC.
  • Defendant appealed a conviction for cruelty to animals after several dogs that appeared malnourished and emaciated with no visible food or water nearby were found on Defendant’s property by a police officer and an Animal Control officer.  The Court of Appeals of Texas, Houston, 14th District confirmed the conviction, finding that Defendant waived any error with respect to her motion to suppress evidence by affirmatively stating at trial that Defendant had “no objection” to the admission of evidence. Finally, the Court’s denial of Defendant’s request to show evidence of Defendant’s past practice and routine of caring for stray animals and nursing them to health did not deprive Defendant of a complete defense.

  • On March 30, 2012, Plaintiff and the Fair Housing Center of West Michigan (“FHCWM”) brought suit against Defendants, a university, alleging unlawful discrimination under the Fair Housing Act (“FHA”), Federal Rehabilitation Act, and Michigan Persons with Disabilities Civil Rights Act (“PWDCRA”), for denying Plaintiff’s request to keep an emotional support animal in on-campus housing. All claims brought against the individual defendants were brought against them in their official capacities as university administrators. Plaintiffs sought both injunctive and compensatory relief. Defendants filed a motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), lack of subject matter jurisdiction, and 12(b)(6), failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. The District Court decided the following would be dismissed: (1) all claims under the PWDCRA against all defendants; (2) all claims for compensatory damages under the FHA brought against all defendants; (3) all claims for injunctive relief under the FHA brought against the institutional defendants; (4) all claims for relief under the Rehabilitation Act by the FHCWM; and (5) all claims for relief under the Rehabilitation Act by Plaintiff that depended on disparate treatment. The following claims remained: (1) Plaintiff and the FHCWM's claims under the FHA seeking injunctive relief from the individual defendants; and (2) Plaintiff's claims against all defendants for compensatory damages and injunctive relief under the Rehabilitation Act pursuant to the failure to accommodate theory.
  • Minor sued farmer horse-owner for negligence after farmer's horse bit him. The Appellate Court reversed summary judgment, holding that a fact issue remained as to whether the farmer had notice that the horse belonged to a class of domestic animals that possessed a natural propensity to bite. Such knowledge may make certain injuries foreseeable, giving rise to a duty to use reasonable care to restrain the animal to prevent injury.

  • Court upheld United States Forest Service's decision to allow cattle grazing on land designated as "wilderness" because grazing had been established on the land and because the federal agency had taken the necessary "hard look" at the environmental consequences caused by grazing.

  • Appeal of agency determination of veterinarian malpractice for failure to detect ring worms in a cat. Long case with full discussion of process of administrative hearing and the standards by which to decide if an action is malpractice.

  • A commercial fisherman brought a claim against the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission alleging substantive due process violations.  The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission instituted licensing requirements and restrictions on lobster trapping certificates in order to alleviate an overpopulation of lobster traps.  The court held in favor of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, reasoning fishing was not a fundamental right.

  • The court in this case denied summary judgement for the defendant after two police officers shot plaintiff’s dog four times which ultimately resulted in the dog’s death. The court denied summary judgment because it believed that there was a question as to a material fact of the case. The material fact in this case was whether or not the officers reasonably feared for their lives when the dog was shot the third and fourth time. After the dog was injured from the first two shots, there was inconsistent testimony as to whether the dog was still acting in an aggressive manner, which may have warranted the third and fourth shots. Due to the inconsistent testimony, the court held that a ruling of summary judgment was not appropriate. Defendants' motion for summary judgment was granted as to all claims except the claim that the third and fourth shots constituted an illegal seizure.
  • Virginia Viilo sued the City of Milwaukee and two of its police officers under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 after an officer shot and killed her dog 'Bubba.' The district court denied the defendants' motion for summary judgment on the basis of qualified immunity and the defendants took an interlocutory appeal challenging this denial. The court found that defendants' interjection of factual disputes deprived the court of jurisdiction. The court further held that it is a violation of the Fourth Amendment for a police officer to shoot and kill a companion dog that poses no imminent danger while the dog’s owner is present and trying to assert custody over her pet.  

  • In this Illinois case, the defendant, Joseph R. Fiala, appealed a violation of the Village Code of Carpentersville, which prohibited the ownership of more than two adult dogs at his single-family residence.  In a hearing, one of defendant's neighbor's testified that the defendant was maintaining 15 large red dogs (Irish setters).  The Illinois Appellate Court held that the village had statutory authority to enact any ordinance necessary for the promotion of health, safety and welfare of the community and that a municipality may also pass ordinances that "define, prevent, and abate nuisances."  Further, the court also held that the village ordinance is not unconstitutional as violative of equal protection based on a classification between single-family residences and single-family units within multiple housing buildings, where such considerations of indoor and outdoor space, density, and proximity to others, noise levels, and structural differences, are rationally related to the object of the ordinance.

  • Viva, an animal protective organization, filed action against Adidas shoe retailer alleging that it was violating a state statute banning the import of products made from Australian kangaroo hide into California. On cross motions for summary judgment, the original court sided with Adidas, on the ground that state statute was preempted by federal Endangered Species Act of 1973.  The appeals court affirmed, however the California Superior Court reversed, holding that the state statute was not preempted by federal law. 
  • In this Texas case, the trial court found Appellant Mircea Volosen guilty of animal cruelty for killing a neighbor's dog. The sole issue on appeal is whether the State met its burden of presenting legally sufficient evidence that Volosen was "without legal authority" to kill the dog. By statute, a dog that "is attacking, is about to attack, or has recently attacked ... fowls may be killed by ... any person witnessing the attack." The court found that no rational trier of fact could have determined beyond a reasonable doubt that the dog was not attacking or had not recently attacked chickens in a pen in Volosen's yard; thus, the evidence is legally insufficient to establish that Volosen killed the dog "without legal authority" as required to sustain a conviction for animal cruelty.  Judgment Reversed by Volosen v. State , 227 S.W.3d 77 (Tex.Crim.App., 2007).

  • Appellant killed neighbor's miniature dachshund with a maul when he found it among his chickens in his backyard, and he defends that Health & Safety Code 822 gave him legal authority to do so.  At the bench trial, the judge found him guilty of animal cruelty, but on appeal the court reversed the conviction because it found that the statute gave him legal authority to kill the attacking dog.  However, this court held that appellant did not meet his burden of production to show that the statute was adopted in Colleyville, TX and found as a matter of fact that the dog was not "attacking."

  • The appellant/defendant mauled a miniature dachshund to death after the dog entered a yard where the appellant kept his chickens. The State of Texas prosecuted the appellant/defendant for cruelty to animals on the ground that the appellant/defendant killed the dog without legal authority. The appellant/defendant, however, argued that section 822.033 of the Texas Health and Safety Code, an entirely different statute, provided that authority. After the appeals court reversed the district court’s decision to convict the defendant/appellant, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals found that the appellant/defendant had failed to meet his burden of production to show the applicability of his claimed defense and thus reversed the court of appeals’ judgment and remand the case back to that court.

  • Judicial officer is not required to accept ALJ's findings of fact, even when those findings are based on credibility determinations, and judicial officer is authorized to substitute his or her judgment for that of ALJ.
  • This case involves an action by a dog owner against farmer for wrongfully impounding dogs and against town constable for wrongfully killing the dogs.  The Vermont Supreme Court held that farmer had acted in a reasonable and prudent manner by contacting the constable, where he never intended to "impound" the dogs when he secured them overnight in his barn after finding them in pursuit of his injured cows.  However, the issue of whether the dogs were wearing a collar as required by state law precluded the granting of a directed verdict for the constable.  (Under state law, a constable was authorized to kill dogs not registered or wearing a prescribed collar.)  The court held that it was necessary for the jury to make this determination.

  • This case involves a defendants' appeal from a judgment entered in the Superior Court wherein the dog officer of the town of Lincoln was found to have negligently destroyed a Great Dane dog and her pup.  The court held that the Rhode Island statute that mandated an officer kill a dog at large preempted the local ordinance that allowed impoundment.  Despite the dog owners' arguments that the statute was outdated and archaic, the court refused to invalidate it.  It thus reversed the jury award to the dog owners.
  • Plaintiff sued dog owners for injuries from a dog attack.  The jury ruled in favor of plaintiff for medical expenses, and plaintiff sought a new trial as to damages only.  The court held that a new trial on damages was appropriate because the jury's failure to award damages for pain and suffering was against the manifest weight of evidence as defendant's liability was established by the viciousness of the dog repeatedly biting plaintiff about the head and face, which was out of proportion to the unintentional act of plaintiff falling onto the sleeping dog.  Unintentional or accidental acts can
    constitute provocation, but not if the dog responds with a vicious attack, as it did here, that is out of all proportion to the unintentional acts involved.

  • Public school student circulated a petition during class and recess that opposed a school field trip to the circus. School officials prevented her from circulating the petition, and she complained of a violation of her First Amendment right to free speech. The Court of Appeals affirmed summary judgment for the school, holding that the student's rights had not been violated because a school may regulate the times and circumstances a petition may be circulated when it interferes with educational goals or the rights of other students.

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