Cases

  • Friends of Animals (“FOA”) appeals an order of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York granting summary judgment in favor of defendants-appellees William Clay in his official capacity as a Deputy Administrator in the Department of Agriculture-APHIS and the FWS. FOA challenged FWS's issuance of a “depredation permit” to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey authorizing the emergency “take” of migratory birds that threaten to interfere with aircraft at JFK Airport. FOA argues that FWS's own regulations unambiguously prohibit it from issuing such a permit and that the permit should therefore be set aside as the product of agency action that was “arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law.” The District Court granted summary judgment for defendant FWS. On appeal, this court affirmed that ruling. FOA pointed out that the "emergency take" regulation at 50 C.F.R. § 21.41 does not authorize FWS to issue a permit that allows the emergency take of a migratory bird irrespective of its species, but instead requires a "species-specific" inquiry. However, this court disagreed, finding that "§ 21.41 does not place Port Authority officials in the untenable position of having to choose between violating federal law and deliberately ignoring serious threats to human safety." Further, the court found the specific requirements in § 21.41 concern only applicants seeking a permit and not the FWS itself. In this situation, the court found the 2014 permit's emergency-take provision satisfied § 21.41. The District Court's order was affirmed.
  • Friends of Animals (FOA) filed a citizen petition under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) to get the Department of Interior to determine whether the spider tortoise and flat-tail tortoise were endangered species. After waiting two years for an answer, FOA filed suit, arguing the Department’s silence had caused the group various injuries. The district court, however, found the supposed harms did not rise to the level of “concrete and particularized” injuries in fact, and granted the Department's motion to dismiss FOA's complaint for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction.
  • Plaintiffs brought an action against the Department of Interior and the Fish and Wildlife Service of the Department of Interior (“Defendants”) alleging that Defendants unlawfully promulgated a rule (the “Rule”) under the Endangered Species Act (“ESA”) exempting three endangered antelope species from the import, take and other prohibitions under the ESA.   On the parties’ cross motions for summary judgment, the United States District Court, District of Columbia granted Defendants’ motion in part and denied Defendants’ motion in part, finding Plaintiffs lack representational standing with respect to wild antelope and antelope in captivity, but have organizational standing under Section 10(c) of the ESA.   The Court granted Plaintiffs motion with respect to their Section 10(c) claim, finding that the promulgated rule violates Section 10(c) of the ESA.
  • Friends of Animals (“FOA”) filed a Complaint against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service under the ESA and APA seeking declaratory and injunctive relief. At issue is the petition FOA filed with the FWS in January 2008 to list thirteen species of foreign macaws, parrots and cockatoos as threatened or endangered due to the caged pet bird trade. In July 2009, FWS placed on public inspection at the Federal Register its 90-Day Finding for the Thirteen Species and also moved to dismiss FOA's lawsuit as moot. While the Court held that FOA's substantive claims must be dismissed, it considered FOA's argument that an award of fees and costs is appropriate here because its suit served as the “catalyst” for FWS's subsequent remedial actions. The Court allowed FOA to file a motion for fees and costs and defendants to respond to such motion.

  • Friends of Animals (FOA), an animal advocacy group, brought an action against the Secretary of the Interior, et al, (Defendants) under the Endangered Species Act seeking declaratory and injunctive relief by claiming that the Secretary failed to make statutory 90-day and 12-month findings related to the petition to have 13 species of birds listed as threatened or endangered. The Court found that FOA's claim that Defendants failed to make a 90-day finding on its endangered-species petition was moot, and its claim that Defendants failed to meet the 12-month deadline provided by the ESA had to be dismissed due to FOA's failure to provide Defendants with proper notice. The Court did find, however, that FOA's lawsuit was the catalyst prompting Defendants to ultimately issue a 90-day finding as required. Thus, the Court here considers FOA's motion for attorneys' fees and costs. The Court held that FOA could recover fees for work on the notice letter, complaint, and petition for fees to the extent it related to the claim that prompted the 90-day finding. However, the court reduced the amount of time spent on the complaint by fifty percent.

  • Friends of Animals, a non-profit animal advocacy organization, sued the United States Fish and Wildlife Service when the Service began issuing permits that allowed the scientific taking of barred owls, both lethally and non-lethally, for the purpose of preserving the habitat of the northern spotted owl, a threatened species. The two species compete with each other in the same territory within Oregon and Northern California. Friends of Animals alleges that these permits are a violation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA), which limits the removal of birds from their habitat only for scientific purposes. The theory set forth by the plaintiff is referred to as the ‘same-species theory,’ meaning that the removal of a bird must be for the scientific purposes pertaining to the very species that was taken. This theory is based on language found in the Mexico Convention which is referenced in the MBTA. The lower court granted FWS' motion for summary judgment. On appeal, the Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court, holding that the plain text of the MBTA and Mexico Convention do not demand the same-species theory in the removal of a bird. Specifically, the court concluded that the “used for scientific purposes” exception in Article II(A) of the Mexico Convention includes taking birds to study whether their absence benefits another protected bird species.
  • In 1985, after scientists had found only 10 living squirrels, the Virginia northern flying squirrel was listed as endangered under the ESA. In 2006, after scientists had captured 1,063 squirrels, the FWS went through the procedure to delist the squirrel. Friends of Blackwater filed a complaint against the Secretary of Interior in district court, challenging the Secretary's rule to delist the squirrel. Subsequently, the Secretary of Interior appealed the district court's grant of summary judgment. The D.C. circuit court of appeals reversed the district court's decision, holding that the Secretary's determination the West Virginia Northern Flying Squirrel was no longer endangered was neither arbitrary and capricious nor in violation of the Act.

  • An animal protection officer received a complaint that two dogs were not receiving proper care. Officer Barry Thiessen, an animal protection officer employed by the S.S.P.C.A., observed that dogs appeared malnourished and in distress from lack of food and water. Upon returning the next day, Thiessen determined that the conditions were unchanged and the dogs were then seized pursuant to the warrant. The appellant dog owner brought an application for declaration that the officer seized dogs in contravention of an owner's rights under s. 8 of Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and in excess of officer's authority. In dismissing his application, the court found that the warrant was lawfully obtained pursuant to provisions of the Animal Protection Act, 1999. The officer had a legitimate reason to come to property of the dog owner to investigate after he received a complaint, and it was there that he saw the dogs’ condition in "plain view" according to the court.

  • Plaintiff's action results from defendant's alleged negligence in blowing the train whistle in a excessive manner such that it cause plaintiff's horses to run away with the plaintiff's carriage. There was judgment for plaintiff in a less sum than he thought he was entitled to, and both parties appeal. In reversing the lower court's decision, this court found that the lessened market value of the horses in consequence of the runaway was a proximate and legitimate element of damage.

  • Between 2006 and 2011, Congress prevented commercial equine slaughter by prohibiting the use of funds for inspection of equine slaughterhouses.  In 2012, Congress lifted the ban on funding and the Food Safety Inspection Service  (FSIS) , which is a branch of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), issued grants of inspection to two commercial equine slaughter facilities: Valley Meat Company, LLC and Responsible Transportation, LLC. Plaintiffs, Front Range Equine Rescue, the Humane Society of the United States, and several other individuals and organizations (collectively, “Front Range”) sued officials of the USDA (“Federal Defendants”). Plaintiffs were seeking a declaration that the grants of inspection violated the National Environmental Policy Act and requested that the court set aside the grants of inspection.  The United States District Court for the District of New Mexico,  granted Front Range's motion for a temporary restraining order (TRO), which prohibited the Federal Defendants from sending inspectors to the equine slaughterhouses  or providing equine inspection services to them. The district court also ordered Front Range to post injunction bonds for Valley Meat and for Responsible Transportation and denied Front Range's request for a permanent injunction. Front Range appealed but the appeal was dismissed as moot. However, Valley Meat and Responsible Transportation then filed a motion in the district court to recover the injunction bonds. The motion was denied. Valley Meat then appealed the denial of damages on the injunction bond.  The United States Court of Appeals, Tenth affirmed the district court and held that Valley Meat was not entitled to recover. The Appeals Court reasoned that even if Valley Meat suffered damages, it cannot recover against the bond unless it first showed wrongful enjoinment. Valley Meat failed to do so and therefore could not collect damages.

  • In this case, the City of Sioux City had adopted a local ordinance that made it "unlawful for any person to own, possess, keep, exercise control over, maintain, harbor, transport or sell within the City ... any pit bull." The ordinance goes on further to define pit bulls based on appearance and certain listed characteristics. Plaintiffs alleged that the ordinance is unconstitutional under the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment because it: (1) is unconstitutionally vague; (2) violates their rights under the equal protection clause; and (3) violates their rights under the due process clause, both in substance and procedure. Here, the district court found that the due process and equal protection claims survived the defendant's motion to dismiss, but found that the ordinance was not facially unconstitutionally vague. As a result, defendants' Motion to Dismiss was DENIED in part and GRANTED in part. Plaintiffs' claim that the ordinance is unconstitutionally vague was DISMISSED, and plaintiffs may proceed with their remaining equal protection clause and due process clause claims.
  • The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) offers federal funds to States in exchange for “free appropriate public education” (FAPE) to children with certain disabilities. The Act also establishes formal administrative procedures for resolving disputes between parents and schools. When trained service dog, Wonder, attempted to join Plaintiff E.F. in kindergarten, officials at Ezra Eby Elementary School refused. Plaintiff E.F. is a child with severe cerebral palsy; Wonder assists her with various daily life activities. E.F.'s parents, Plaintiffs Stacy and Brent Fry, removed E.F. from the school and filed a complaint with the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR). The Plaintiffs claimed that the exclusion of E.F.'s service dog violated her rights under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and § 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. OCR agreed, and school officials invited E.F. to return to the school. Yet, the Plaintiffs filed suit in federal court against the Defendants, Ezra Eby's local and regional school districts, and the principal, (collectively, the school districts). In the federal suit, Plaintiffs alleged that the Defendants violated Title II and § 504 and sought declaratory and monetary relief. The Defendant school districts filed a motion to dismiss. The United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan granted the motion. The Plaintiffs appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit where the District Court's motion to dismiss was affirmed. Certiorari was granted. The Supreme Court of the United States vacated and remanded. The Supreme Court held that, on remand, the Appeals Court should: (1) establish whether (or to what extent) the plaintiff parents invoked the IDEA's dispute resolution process before bringing this suit; and (2) decide whether Plaintiffs' actions reveal that the gravamen of their complaint is indeed the denial of FAPE. The court reasoned that Exhaustion of the IDEA's administrative procedures is unnecessary where the gravamen of the Plaintiffs' suit is something other than the denial of the IDEA's core guarantee of a FAPE.

  • After several administrative, trial court, and appeals hearings, the California court of appeals upheld a county’s decision to seize the plaintiffs’ horses for violation of Cal. Penal Code § 597.1(f).  Notably, the appeals court failed to extend the law of the case, which generally provides that a prior appellate court ruling on the law governs further proceedings in the case, to prior trial court rulings. The appeals court also held that the trial court’s "Statement of Decision" resolved all issues set before it, despite certain remedies remaining unresolved and the court’s oversight of the plaintiffs' constitutionality complaint, and was therefore an appealable judgment. The appeals court also found the trial court lacked jurisdiction to extend the appeals deadline with its document titled "Judgment."

  • Motion for leave to amend § 1983 civil rights complaint to add claims that police officer violated Fourth Amendment by shooting pet dog and by pointing gun at one plaintiff was denied and the United States District Court for the Northern District of California entered summary judgment in favor of police officers and city. Plaintiffs appealed. The Court of Appeals held that: (1) killing of pet dog stated Fourth Amendment violation, but (2) no seizure of plaintiff occurred when police pointed gun.

  • Environmental organization sued United States Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), alleging it failed to comply with National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requirements when it opened and expanded hunting in national wildlife refuges. The District Court held that FWS's environmental assessments (EA) adequately identified and measured the cumulative impact of hunting in the refuge system. Therefore, FWS's finding of no significant impact (FONSI) was not arbitrary and capricious.

  • The Fund for Animals and others brought an action challenging public resource depredation order (PRDO) issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service concerning a species of migratory bird known as the double-crested cormorant. On appeal, the Second Circuit affirmed the grant of summary judgment, finding that the depredation order did not violate MBTA because the Order restricts the species, locations, and means by which takings could occur, thereby restricting the discretion exercised by third parties acting under the Order. Further, the depredation order did not conflict with international treaties (specifically the Mexico Convention) because the Treaty only mandates a close season only for game birds, which the parties agree do not include cormorants. Finally, the agency's adoption of the order was not arbitrary and capricious and complied with National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

  • The Fund for Animals petitioned the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to list as endangered the trumpeter swans living in Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho.  The Fish and Wildlife Service denied the petition without giving a good explanation why, so the Fund for Animals sued.  The court found that because the Fish and Wildlife Service had subsequently provided a letter finding that the swans were not "markedly separated from other populations" and were part of the Rocky Mountain population, which was growing in numbers, the FWS had provided a sufficient explanation and the case against it was therefore moot. 

  • A government agency was killing mute swans, because of their impact on the environment, and the plaintiffs sued, alleging that this action violated the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (that implements international treaties the United States has with Canada and Mexico). The Court found that the government agency may kill mute swans because the Migratory Bird Treaty Reform Act, implemented in 2004, modified the Migratory Bird Treaty Act to allow for the killing of non-native birds. Mute swans are non-native to the United States because they were brought over from Europe.

  • The Bureau of Land Management has responsibility for managing the numbers of horses and burros under the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act. The Bureau issued a memorandum detailing how it was going to remove excess horses and burros from public land, and acted on that memorandum by removing some horses from public lands.  Several non-profit groups sued, and the court found that it could not judge the memo because the Bureau had not made any final agency action and because the memo was only to be in force for a temporary time. Additionally, because the Bureau was simply acting according to its mandate under the Act, the court found for the Bureau.

  • Defendant appealed conviction of cruelty to animals for shooting and killing a neighbor's dog. The Court of Appeals held that the restitution award of $3,000 was warranted even though the owner only paid $750 for the dog. The dog had been trained to hunt and retrieve, and an expert testified that such a dog had a fair market value between $3,000 and $5,000.

  • In this case, plaintiffs filed a suit for damages on behalf of their son against the defendant, PetSmat, Inc., after their son contracted rat bite fever from the pet rats his parents purchased from PetSmart. Plaintiff’s purchased the pet rats in September of 2011 and their son was diagnosed with rat bite fever in April of 2012. Defendants moved for summary judgement and the court granted the motion. Ultimately, the court found that the plaintiffs needed to provide evidence from expert testimony in order to establish that their son had contracted rat bite fever from the pet rats. The defendants established that rat bite fever could be contracted in other ways aside from rats, including mosquitoes and ticks. As a result, the court found it crucial to have expert testimony in order to determine whether or not the rat bite fever was actually contracted from a rat. Since the plaintiffs had not introduced any expert testimony or other evidence to establish that the rate bite fever in fact was contracted from a rat, the court dismissed plaintiffs claim and held for the defendant.

  • A Texas horse owner brought action against horse farm for negligence and breach of implied warranty in connection with the death of a horse in care of horse farm. On appeal of a decision in favor of the horse owner, the Court of Appeals held that by asking veterinarian if veterinarian told the horse owner that the horse died because it was not brought to veterinary clinic soon enough, the horse farm opened the door, and thus, the previously-rejected hearsay testimony regarding horse owner's conversation with veterinarian was admissible for limited purpose of impeaching veterinarian's testimony. Thus, the evidence was legally and factually sufficient to support the jury's verdict.

  • The police found marijuana seedlings and plants in various stages of growth around the homes of defendant and co-defendant. The court upheld the trial court's determination that the items were admissible within the "plain view" exception to the requirement of a search warrant. The court concluded that the police were not trespassers when they walked around to the back of co-defendant's house to determine whether anyone was home after receiving no response at the front door.

  • In this New York Case, the plaintiffs appeal from an order of the Supreme Court, Nassau County which granted the defendants' motion for summary judgment dismissing the complaint for personal injuries and damages due to a dog bite. The court reaffirmed New York law that to recover in strict liability in tort for a dog bite or attack, the plaintiff must establish that the dog had vicious propensities and that the owner knew or should have known of the dog's propensities. The fact that the subject dog was brought to the animal shelter because another dog in the owner's household did not get along with it is not indicative that it had vicious propensities.

  • Appellant Galindo pleaded guilty to cruelty to nonlivestock animals and a deadly-weapon allegation from the indictment. The trial court accepted his plea, found him guilty, and sentenced him to five years in prison. The facts stem from an incident where Galindo grabbed and then stabbed a dog with a kitchen knife. The indictment indicated that Galindo also used and exhibited a deadly weapon (a knife) during both the commission of the offense and flight from the offense. On appeal, Galindo argues that the deadly-weapon finding is legally insufficient because the weapon was used against a "nonhuman." Appellant relies on the recent decision of Prichard v. State, 533 S.W.3d 315 (Tex. Crim. App. 2017), in which the Texas Court of Appeals held that a deadly-weapon finding is legally insufficient where the sole recipient of the use or exhibition of the deadly weapon is a nonhuman. The court here found the facts distinguishable from Prichard. The court noted that Prichard left open the possibility that a deadly-weapons finding could occur when the weapon was used or exhibited against a human during the commission of an offense against an animal. Here, the evidence introduced at defendant's guilty plea and testimony from sentencing and in the PSIR are sufficient to support the trial court's finding on the deadly-weapons plea (e.g., the PSI and defense counsel stated that Galindo first threatened his girlfriend with the knife and then cut the animal in front of his girlfriend and her son). The judgment of the trial court was affirmed.
  • In this Pennsylvania case, the parents of a 7-month old child sued the landlords of tenants who owned a ferret that bit the child on the face causing injury. The court stated that the resolution of this motion for summary judgment depended first on whether the ferret is deemed a wild animal. In ruling that the ferret is indeed a wild animal, the court noted that ferrets have been known to return to a feral state upon escaping and people have kept ferrets as house pets only in recent years. In Pennsylvania, the general rule is that a landlord out of possession is not liable for injuries caused by animals kept by tenants when the tenant has exclusive control of the premises except where the landlord has knowledge of the presence of the dangerous animal and where he or she has the right to control or remove the animal by retaking possession of the premises. The court found that since a ferret is a wild animal, the landlords were aware of the presence of the ferret, and plaintiffs may be able to prove that the landlords had the ability to exercise control over the premises prior to the incident, the landlords may be held liable under a theory of negligence. The motion for summary judgment was denied.

  • Motorist injured when cattle strayed onto highway in violation of state law.  The lower court allowed the defendant's to assert the affirmative defense of comparative negligence, reducing Motorists damages, but the jury still found in favor of the Motorist.  Both sides appealed, and the Court held that (a) comparative negligence affirmative defense was valid; and (b) jury's damage configuration was legally inconsistent.

  • In 2008, defendants' dog allegedly left their yard by passing through an underground "invisible" electrical fence system and bit the plaintiff who was sitting on her bike on the adjacent property. Plaintiff filed suit seeking damages for injury based on common-law negligence and strict liability. The lower court granted defendants' motion for summary judgment based on the fact that they had no prior knowledge of the dog's alleged vicious propensities. On appeal, the court found that even defendants' own depositions raised an issue of fact as to notice of their dog's alleged vicious propensities. Specifically, one defendant admitted he used a "bite sleeve" obtained through his employment as a police officer to encourage the dog to bite and hold a perpetrator's arm. This evidence that the dog was encouraged to leap up and bite a human arm created a sufficient issue of fact for the jury despite defendants' claim that this was a "play activity" for the dog.

  • Plaintiffs appeal from a judgment upholding the constitutionality of an ordinance of the Village of Tijeras, New Mexico banning the ownership or possession of a breed of dog “known as American Pit Bull Terrier.” The District Court of Bernalillo County upheld the ordinance and plaintiffs appealed. The Court of Appeals found that plaintiffs had notice that the ordinance proscribes the conduct in which they were engaged; thus, it was not void for vagueness. With regard to the argument that the ordinance violated substantive due process, the court found that ordinance was rationally related to legitimate village purpose of protecting the health and safety of the community. Finally, the court found that the ordinance did not violate procedural due process where the ordinance provides that a hearing is held after impoundment to determine whether the dog is a pit bull.

  • Carrollton, Texas municipal code prohibited the keeping of more than three pets on property within the city limits. Yvette Garza, a member of an animal rescue organization, challenged the determination that she had violated the city code by keeping more than three dogs. She argued that the code was unconstitutionally vague and that her actions were necessary. The court held that although the term "keep" was not defined in the statute, a person of ordinary intelligence would understand the law because "keep" has a common sense meaning. Garza also failed to produce evidence proving when the scheduled euthanasia of the dogs was going to occur, she therefore failed to establish the elements of her necessity defense.
  • In this New York case, plaintiffs surrendered their maltreated horse to defendant Sullivan County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Inc. on March 4, 2005. Shortly thereafter, they commenced this action seeking return of the horse and damages, including punitive damages. Defendants' answer failed to respond to all paragraphs of the 38-paragraph complaint, which included six causes of action, prompting plaintiffs to move for summary judgment on the ground that defendants admitted "all" essential and material facts. At oral argument before this Court, plaintiffs' counsel consented to defendants filing an amended answer. The court found that since this amended pleading will presumably contain denials to all contested allegations in the complaint, plaintiffs' request for summary judgment on the procedural ground that defendants' failed to deny certain facts must fail. Moreover, as correctly noted by Supreme Court, conflicting evidence precludes summary judgment in plaintiffs' favor.

  • Defendant was charged with the possession of game birds, for the purpose of transporting them beyond the state, which birds had been lawfully killed within the state.   The sole issue which the case presents is, was it lawful, under the constitution of the United States (section 8, art. 1) (the Commerce Clause), for the state of Connecticut to allow the killing of birds within the state during a designated open season, to allow such birds, when so killed, to be used, to be sold, and to be bought for use, within the state, and yet to forbid their transportation beyond the state?  The Court held that, aside from the authority of the state, derived from the common ownership of game, and the trust for the benefit of its people which the state exercises in relation thereto, there is another view of the power of the state in regard to the property in game, which is equally conclusive. The right to preserve game flows from the undoubted existence in the state of a police power to that end, which may be none the less efficiently called into play, because, by doing so, interstate commerce may be remotely and indirectly affected.  This decision was later overruled in Hughes v. Oklahoma, 441 U.S. 322.

  • In this case, the District Court for the Northern District of Georgia denied the Georgia Aquarium’s application for a permit under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) to import 18 beluga whales from Russia’s Sea of Okhotsk for public display. The Aquarium challenged the defendant National Marine Fisheries Service's (NMFS) decision to deny a permit to import the beluga whales as arbitrary and capricious under the Administrative Procedures Act (APA). The Court found that defendant National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) was correct in following the statutory mandate of the MMPA after it found that the Sakhalin-Amur stock of the whales is likely declining and is experiencing adverse impacts in addition to Russian live-capture operations. Further, some of the beluga whales destined for the import were potentially young enough to still be nursing and dependent upon their mothers.
  • The President of the New Jersey SPCA brought an action to have several county SPCA certificates of authority revoked.  The county SPCAs brought a counterclaim alleging the revocation was beyond the state SPCA's statutory authority.  The trial court revoked one county's certificate of authority, but the Court of Appeals held the revocation was an abuse of discretion.

  • In this Connecticut case, a tenant, who was bitten by a neighbor's dog, brought a common law negligence action against the landlord, the housing authority of the town of Wallingford. The tenant then appealed after the lower court granted the landlord's motion to strike the complaint. On appeal, this Court held that the tenant properly stated a claim under common law negligence against the landlord. Relying on Auster v. Norwalk United Methodist Church, 286 Conn. 152, 943 A.2d 391 (2008) , the court concluded that a common-law negligence action brought against a landlord in a dog bite case should not be striken simply because the landlord was the the owner or keeper of the dog.

  • Plaintiff brought various claims against Defendants after Plaintiff’s cat was euthanized prior to the standard 72 hour waiting period.   On Defendants’ motion to dismiss, the United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania found that Defendants were not acting under color of law.   Because any and all claims for which the Court had original jurisdiction were being dismissed, the Court declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiff’s State law claims.  

  • This case dealt with a condo owner and his son who lived in a condo and relied on a service dog for treatment of PTSD. The Plaintiffs filed suit against the condo trust, Board of Trustees, Board members, and others, alleging violation of the Fair Housing Act (FHA) by not allowing the Plaintiffs to keep the dog in their condo unit. The father attempted to communicate with the Trustees about a reasonable accommodation for the service dog, but was met with silence from the Trustees. After the dog had already moved into the condo, the Board sent correspondence stating that fines would be assessed if the dog was not removed after a certain date. After complications with securing the requisite medical info, the dog was ultimately allowed to say, but fines had accrued. The Court held that 1) plaintiffs stated claim that defendants violated FHA; 2) owner was an aggrieved person under the FHA, and thus owner had standing to bring claim; 3) district court would decline to dismiss claim on exhaustion grounds; and 4) under Massachusetts law, claims against attorney and law firm were barred by the litigation privilege. Thus, the court the Court denied the Board and Trust's motion to dismiss and granted Attorney Gaines and the Law Firm's motion to dismiss.
  • Defendant, a Native American, challenged the constitutionality of the limitation of eagle parts through the permit system to members of federally recognized tribes.  The limitation under the federal eagle permit system to federally recognized Indian tribes does not violate RFRA because the government has a compelling interest in protecting a species in demise and fulfilling pre-existing trust obligations to federally-recognized tribes in light of the limited supply of eagle parts.  For further discussion on free exercise challenges under the BGEPA, see Detailed Discussion of Eagle Act.

  • Plaintiff was injured when she was thrown from her horse while she was riding her horse in a city field.   Plaintiff sued Defendant for her injuries because she was thrown from her horse after the horse was startled by the Defendant’s dogs, which were chasing the horse.   The Defendant claimed that she was immune from liability under Ohio’s Equine Activity Liability Act.   However, in this case of first impression, the court found that the EALA did not apply to Defendant because Plaintiff was not engaged in an “equine activity” at the time of the injury and the statute is not meant to apply to all third parties involved in an accident in which an equine was present.

  • The prospective buyer of a home was bitten by the homeowner's dog.  The prospective buyer filed a claim against the homeowners, real estate agents, real estate brokers and the real estate agency.  The State Court entered summary judgment in favor of Defendants and the Court of Appeals affirmed the decision.

  • This is a record review case in which the Appellants, an assortment of environmental organizations, challenge six biological opinions (BiOps) issued by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service pursuant to the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  The BiOps in question allowed for timber harvests in specified Northwest forests and also authorized incidental "takes" of the Northern spotted owl, a threatened species under the ESA.  With regard to appellants' challenge of the jeopardy analysis under the ESA, the court concluded that the jeopardy analysis conducted by the FWS in the six BiOps at issue in this case was permissible and within the agency's discretion.  However, the critical habitat analysis in the six BiOps was fatally flawed because it relied on an unlawful regulatory definition of "adverse modification."  The Court reversed the judgment of the district court and remanded the case to the district court to grant summary judgment to the Petitioners on the critical habitat inquiry.

  • This is an appeal of a trial court's ruling in favor of a landlord finding that the tenant violated two material terms of her residential rental agreement. One of the material violations involved the keeping of a pet in violation of a no-pets policy. The facts show that the dog, "Dutchess," initially came to the tenant's apartment in 2009 with the tenant's son. While the dog never attacked another person or pet, it did display aggressive behavior, including lunging, baring her teeth, and rearing up on her hind legs. Other tenants expressed fear of Dutchess. After the son moved out in 2013, the dog stayed, and, in 2014, the landlord sent tenant a letter indicating the keeping of the dog was a violation of the lease. Two months after that notice, an informal meeting was held and tenant then claimed the dog as a reasonable accommodation for her disability. The landlord's attorney sent paperwork to effectuate this request, which the tenant said she never received. Months later, the landlord served the tenant with an eviction action to which tenant responded with a request to keep her dog as a reasonable accommodation. The request to keep a pet as a reasonable accommodation was granted shortly thereafter by landlord; however, the landlord did not approve of Dutchess as the specific animal due to concerns of behavior and hostility toward other residents. At an eviction hearing in June of 2016, the landlord's request to terminate the tenant's lease was granted by the court, which concluded that the reasonable accommodation for an assistance animal did not extend to Dutchess. On appeal, the Vermont Supreme Court noted that a request for an assistance animal as a reasonable accommodation may be denied if "the specific assistance animal in question poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others." While there was no dispute in this case that the tenant has a disability-related need for an ESA, there was credible evidence that supported the lower court's decision that Dutchess posed a threat and/or would cause substantial physical damage to the property. This included testimony from other tenants and tenant's own statements that she might not be able to control Dutchess. The court stated: "[l]ike the trial court, we acknowledge tenant's attachment to Dutchess and her need for an emotional support animal, but the court properly weighed the evidence regarding Dutchess's aggressive behavior against landlord's concerns for the safety and wellbeing of the other residents." The court concluded that the lower court did not err in affirming landlord's denial of tenant's reasonable accommodation request.
  • Plaintiffs sought to recover property damages and damage and for mental anguish sustained when Brown allegedly shot and killed a donkey owned by the Gills.  By alleging that Brown's conduct was reckless and that they thereby suffered extreme mental anguish and trauma, the court held that the Gills have alleged facts that, if proven, could permit recovery under an intentional infliction of emotional distress cause of action. Accordingly, the court held that the district court erred by striking the Gills' claim for damages caused by mental anguish and the cause was remanded.

  • In this Georgia case, the Court of Appeals held that, on issue of first impression, an alligator farm was not a "farm" within meaning of the state statute that exempted "farm laborers" or their employers from coverage under the Workers' Compensation Act (Gill was bitten while cleaning out a pen and subsequently developed both a bone infection and salmonella). In construing the relevant statutes, the court found that in the chapter on Employment Security Law (ESL), the legislature meant that individuals who raise or tend wildlife perform "agricultural labor," but only when they do so on a "farm," which is "used for production of stock, dairy products, poultry, fruit, and fur-bearing animals." Accordingly, the court concluded that when Gill cleaned out the alligator pens, he was caring for wildlife and thus performing "agricultural labor." However, his employer, an alligator farm, was not a "farm" because alligators are "wildlife," not "[live]stock ... [or] fur-bearing animals." 

  • The Slensky's took their ill beagle to Defendant's Animal Hospital for routine vaccinations and examinations due to the dog's loose stools for four days.  X-rays of the dog were taken, and when the dog was returned to the Slensky's, where it then collapsed.  Defendant instructed them to take the dog to the emergency clinic, where it later died.  The family filed a complaint with the Nevada State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners, and Defendant was later convicted of gross negligence and incompetence, an ethics violation, and for using an unlicensed veterinary technician.  His license was suspended and he was placed on probation.  The Court held that Defendant:  (1) could be assessed costs of the proceeding; (2) he could not be assessed attorney's fees; (3) the Board could award expert witness fees above the statutory cap; (4) the Board failed to justify the imposition of costs for an investigator; and (5) statutes did not permit the employment of an unlicensed veterinary technician.

  • While pet sitting for Defendants Bruce and Jodi Smith, Plaintiff Josephine Gilreath was attacked and injured by the Smiths' rooster, which caused a serious infection with long-term consequences. Plaintiff Gilreath filed suit, but the trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the Defendants on the ground that Gilreath assumed the risk. Gilreath appealed to the Court of Appeals of Georgia. The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court and reasoned that Gilreath assumed the risk of injury based on the state statutes of owners of land under OCGA § 51-3-1, as keepers of a vicious or dangerous animal under OCGA § 51-2-7, and as required by a Roswell city ordinance. The Court reasoned that at prior pet-sittings at the Defendants home, Gilreath had been warned that the rooster would attack and that a garbage can lid was useful for controlling the rooster. Second, Gilreath has not raised an issue of fact regarding whether the Smiths had superior knowledge of the risks associated with the danger. Gilreath, a professional pet sitter with at least nine years of experience, admitted that she had a responsibility to educate herself about the animals she takes care of yet she failed to do so for roosters. Third, Gilreath admitted that she chose to take the job knowing that she had been told that the rooster would attack. Gilreath also contends that the Smiths violated a Roswell city ordinance, but she failed to introduce a certified copy of the ordinance and thus failed to prove this claim.

  • In this case, Sylvia Weber filed suit against Monika Glover for injuries sustained when Weber’s daughter fell off a horse owned by a third party and boarded on Glover’s land. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Weber. Glover appealed the trial court’s decision, arguing that she was immune from liability under the Equine Activities statute. The court of appeals reviewed the issue and reversed the trial courts decision and granted summary judgment in favor of Glover. The main issue of the case whether or not Glover fell under the definition of “equine activity sponsor” provided in the act. Weber argued that Glover was not an “equine activity sponsor” because she was not participating in a public or group-based equine activity or a professional equine activity. The court of appeals disagreed with Weber’s argument and determined that noting in the plain language of the statute requires the equine activity to be public or group-based or professional to be covered under the statute. For this reason, the court of appeals found that Glover was considered a “equine activity sponsor” under the act and was therefore immune from liability.

  • Plaintiff sued American Airlines for emotional distress damages, inter alia , after his dog suffered a fatal heatstroke while being transported in the cargo hold of defendant's airliner (the temperature reached 140 degrees Fahrenheit in violation of the airline's cargo hold guidelines).  Plaintiff relied on the state case of Brousseau v. Rosenthal  and Corso v. Crawford Dog and Cat Hosp., Inc  in support of his negligent infliction of emotional distress claim.  The court observed that none of the decisions cited by plaintiff, including Corso, recognize an independent cause of action for loss of companionship, but rather, they provide a means for assessing the "intrinsic" value of the lost pet when the market value cannot be determined.  As a result, the court rejected plaintiff's claim for loss of companionship as well as pain and suffering without any prior authority that established the validity of such claims. 

  • This Louisiana case concerns an action for personal injuries sustained by an animal control officer who was mauled about the head and neck by defendants' dog while investigating a complaint of an attack by the dog from the previous day. The dog's owners argued on appeal that the trial court failed to apply the Professional Rescuer's Doctrine, sometimes referred to as the “fireman's rule." Because under the facts here, where the dog had previously escaped after being confined in the house and the defendants failed to properly lock the house and/or restrain the dog, the court did not find that Ms. Gonzales' recovery for injuries was barred by the Professional Rescuer's Doctrine. The court held that based upon the record before this court, there was no error on the part of the trial court that warranted reversal of the plaintiff's motion for a partial summary judgment as to the liability of the dog's owners.

  • Veterinarian contacted State Police after allegedly observing deplorable conditions in Plaintiff's barn. The premises were subsequently searched, and a horse and three dogs were removed and later adopted. Plaintiff commenced an action in City Court for, inter alia, replevin, and several defendants asserted counterclaims based on Lien Law § 183. The Lockport City Court entered partial summary judgment in favor of owner and ordered return of animals. On appeal, the Niagara County Court, reversed and remanded. Owner appealed to the Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Fourth Department, New York. The Court found the Niagara County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Inc. (SPCA) was not required to bring a forfeiture action to divest Plaintiff of ownership of the seized animals because the animals were kept in unhealthful or unsanitary surroundings, the plaintiff was not properly caring for them, and the plaintiff failed to redeem the animals within five days before the SPCA was authorized to make the animals available for adoption. The city court’s order was affirmed as modified.

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