Cases

  • This New York case consists of an action to recover damages for personal injuries. The plaintiffs appeal the granting of the motion of the defendant for summary judgment dismissing the complaint insofar as asserted against him and the cross motion of the defendants Petco. The infant plaintiff allegedly sustained personal injuries when she was bitten by a dog owned by the defendant Kenneth Coughlin at a Petco store. The court held that the evidence submitted established that the defendants were not aware that this dog had ever bitten anyone or exhibited any aggressive behavior.

  • Local ordinance prohibiting animal sacrifices under the guise of an anti-cruelty concern was an unconstitutional infringement on church's First Amendment rights because (1) ordinances were not neutral; (2) ordinances were not of general applicability; and (3) governmental interest assertedly advanced by the ordinances did not justify the targeting of religious activity.

  • Citizens wanted access to University records dealing with biomedical research using cats and dogs.   These records were created, as required by federal Law, but access to the records was requested under state law.   According to the New York Freedom of Information Act (FOIL), documents held by an “agency” should be disclosed.   The lower Appellate Division held that s ince the University did not fall under the definition of “agency" under New York Public Officers Law, it was not required to turn over such documents.  The New York Court of Appeals, however, found that the Appellate Division's rationale for denying FOIL disclosure was inconsistent with precedent, and that the legislative goal behind FOIL of was liberal disclosure, limited only by narrowly circumscribed specific statutory exemptions.  Thus, in reversing the Appellate Division's decision, the Court of Appeals held that the records were subject to disclosure.

  • Upon the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks’s decision to relocate a brucellosis-free herd of bison out of Yellowstone National Park and into tribal lands, plaintiffs sought an injunction to halt this movement until the department complied with MCA § 87-1-216.  The District Court granted the plaintiffs a preliminary injunction.  Upon appeal by defendants and defendant intervenors, however, the Supreme Court of Montana held that MCA § 87-1-216 did not apply and that the District Court relied on erroneous grounds for issuing a preliminary injunction under MCA § 27-19-201(2). The case was therefore reversed, the preliminary injunction vacated and the case was remanded back to the District Court.

  • Plaintiffs Citizens for Better Forestry brought an action against Defendant U.S. Department of Agriculture alleging failure to adhere to certain procedures required by NEPA and the ESA after Defendant promulgated regulations governing the development of management plans for forests within the National Forest System upon preparation of an allegedly insufficient Environmental Impact Statement and without preparation of a Biological Assessment or consultation with the Fisheries and Wildlife Service or the National Marine Fisheries Service. On parties’ cross motions, the United States District Court granted Plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment and denied Defendant’s motion for summary judgment, finding that Plaintiffs had standing, that Defendant did not comply with its requirements under the NEPA because the Environmental Impact Statement prepared by Defendant did not adequately evaluate the environmental impacts of the proposed regulations, and that Defendant did not comply with its requirements under the ESA because Defendant did not prepare an adequate Biological Assessment.

  • A citizen groups filed a declaratory judgment action against the State of Washington seeking a determination that the 2000 initiative 713 barring use of body-gripping traps, sodium fluoroacetate, or sodium cyanide to trap or kill mammals was unconstitutional.  The Supreme Court found that appellants did not show beyond a reasonable doubt that Initiative 713 violated the constitution, and thus affirmed the superior court's denial of the summary judgment motion.  The court also held that the initiative was exempt from the constitutional provision prohibiting legislation that revises or amends other acts without setting them forth at full length.

  • The primary issue addressed by the court was whether a dolphin, named Kama, had standing under the MMPA. The court found the MMPA does not authorize suits brought by animals; it only authorizes suits brought by persons. The court would not impute to Congress or the President the intention to provide standing to a marine mammal without a clear statement in the statute.

  • In 1898, this court affirmed a verdict for $200 after defendant train killed plaintiff’s dog. The Court reasoned that, "Large amounts of money are now invested in dogs, and they are extensively the subjects of trade and traffic. They are the negro's associates, and often his only property, the poor man's friend, and the rich man's companion, and the protection of women and children, hearthstones and hen roosts. In the earlier law books it was said that "dog law" was as hard to define as was "dog Latin." But that day has passed, and dogs have now a distinct and well established status in the eyes of the law."

  • This is an action for negligently injuring and killing a dog by the driver of a streetcar. The Supreme Court of Tennessee affirmed a verdict for $200 after defendant train killed plaintiff’s dog. The Court reasoned that since large amounts of money are now invested in dogs, and since they are regarded as companions to many in society, they now have "a distinct and well established status in the eyes of the law." Thus, the owner of a dog has property rights in that dog to maintain an action at law. The Supreme Court of Tennessee found that the defendant company was guilty of negligence in the killing of Dew's dog, that his death could have been prevented by the exercise of proper care and diligence.

  • The respondent, an owner of a brindle boxer dog, was charged with the dog attacking a person and for having the dog in a public place without a leash. The dog had escaped from the respondent's house and allegedly ran to and lunged at a lady delivering pamphlets. On appeal, the question of whether the dog's behaviour constituted an 'attack' for the purposes of the Dog Act 1976 (WA) s 33D(1) was a question of fact to be determined by the trial judge and, accordingly, the appeal was dismissed.

  • This very short case concerns the disposition of defendant Heidi Erickson's six animals (four living and two dead) that were seized in connection with an animal cruelty case against her. After Erickson was convicted, the city withdrew its challenge to the return of the living animals and proceeded only as to the deceased ones. A single justice denied the city's petition for relief, on the condition that Erickson demonstrate “that she has made arrangements for [t]he prompt and proper disposal [of the deceased animals], which disposal also is in compliance with health codes.” Erickson challenged this order, arguing that it interfered with her property rights by requiring her to discard or destroy the deceased animals. However, this court found no abuse of discretion, where it interpreted the justice's order to mean that she must comply with all applicable health codes rather than forfeit her deceased animals.

  • Detainee brought civil rights action against city, alleging violation of her right to receive necessary medical attention while in police custody. The Supreme Court held that inadequacy of police training may serve as basis for § 1983 municipal liability only where failure to train amounts to deliberate indifference to rights of persons with whom police come into contact.

  • Defendant plead no contest to failure to confine and insure her dog after her pit bull attacked a mail carrier.  The trial court's decision to have the dog turned over to the city and destroyed was reversed.  The Court of Appeals found Defendant's no contest plea was not entered knowingly, intelligently or voluntarily.

  • In this Florida case, the city of Delray Beach appealed from a judgment for damages in favor of appellee plaintiff, who was injured by two loose dogs. The theory of liability was based on the city's knowledge, from prior complaints, that these dogs were loose from time to time and dangerous. The plaintiff suggested that the city's failure to impound the dogs after prior numerous complaints contributed to the attack. The court concluded that decisions made by the city's animal control officer and police to not impound the dogs were discretionary decisions, and therefore the city was immune.
  • In this Florida case, the city of Delray Beach appeals a judgment for damages in favor of  plaintiff, who was injured by two loose dogs. Plaintiff was attacked and severely injured by two large dogs owned by a resident of Delray Beach, when the dogs escaped from the resident's fenced yard. The theory of liability was based on the city's knowledge, from prior complaints and an actual visit by an animal control officer, that these dogs were loose from time to time and dangerous. This court agreed with the city, finding that the decision of an animal control officer was discretionary and therefore immune from liability under these circumstances.

  • Police officers were trespassers and could be held civilly liable for damages when they entered a dog owner's property with the intent to unlawfully kill the dog. Reports had been made that the dog was attacking other animals but because the attacks were not imminent, in progress, or recent, the killing of the dog was not lawful.

  • A city veterinarian who worked for the Bureau of Animal Regulation and Care (BARC) brought an action against the city, arguing that he was wrongfully terminated under the Whistleblower’s Act. The vet contended that he reported several instances of abuses by BARC employees to the division manager. In upholding the trial court’s decision to award Levingston over $600,000 in damages, the appellate court ruled the evidence was sufficient to support a finding that the veterinarian was terminated due to his report . Contrary to the city’s assertion, the court held that BARC was an appropriate law enforcement authority under the Act to report violations of section 42.09 of the Texas Penal Code committed by BARC employees. Opinion Withdrawn and Superseded on Rehearing by City of Houston v. Levingston , 221 S.W.3d 204 (Tex. App., 2006).

  • This opinion substitutes City of Houston v. Levingston, 2006 WL 241127 (Tex.App.-Hous. (1 Dist.)), which is withdrawn.

  • A city's ordinance did not allow a kennel, defined as a place containing more than four dogs and cats, to be operated within 100 feet of a residence, school, or church. A woman kept as many as 100 cats at a time in a shelter within 100 feet of three homes, and she was criminally charged under the ordinance. The court found that the ordinance did not violate the plaintiff's constitutional rights because there was no right to use her property in any manner that she chose.

  • To keep excessive numbers of large dogs from becoming a public nuisance, the City of Marion, South Dakota passed an ordinance that, among other things, limited households to four dogs, only two of which could weigh over 25 pounds.  Schoenwald owned three dogs: one shepherd-collie mix weighing 75 pounds and two golden retrievers, weighing 30 pounds and 20 pounds.  She was then notified that by housing three dogs weighing over 25 pounds she was in violation of the ordinance.  She failed to comply with the City's order to remove one dog and was issued a citation.  The Supreme Court reversed the lower court's ruling in Schoenwald's favor and found that South Dakota law permits municipalities broad power to regulate the keeping of dogs; thus the weight limitation included in the City's comprehensive pet ordinance was within its authority. 

  • In this South Dakota case, the owner of a dog declared by an animal control officer to be "dangerous" pursuant to Pierre City Ordinance § 10-3-111 challenged the conviction on the basis that the ordinances themselves were unconstitutional and that his constitutional right to procedural due process has been violated. The court held that the ordinances themselves were constitutional, noting the broad authority municipalities have to regulate pet ownership as a legitimate exercise of police power.  The court reversed and remanded for determination on the factual issue of the dog's dangerousness.  Specifically, if the City opts for a civil hearing, absent exigent circumstances, the owner of a dog is entitled to a due process hearing on the issue of dangerousness. 

  • City's animal control ordinance banning the keeping of pit bulls was not preempted by state Penal Code provisions governing the keeping of vicious dogs.

  • In this Illinois case, the Plaintiff, City of Rolling Meadows, brought an action against defendant for keeping an undomesticated animal, a monkey, in her home in violation of a city ordinance. The lower court entered judgment in favor of plaintiff. At issue on appeal is the construction and application to be given the phrase “other than domesticated house pets” as set forth in the ordinance in question. The court was required to adopt the common and approved usage of the term 'domesticated.' The court concluded that the evidence presented established as a matter of law that Yondi is a domesticated animal. Thus, the trial court erred in finding defendant in violation of ordinance 4-28 because the monkey was a domesticated house pet.

  • In considering standing under the MMPA, the court found that the plaintiff city had only pure economic injury and had not shown that any harm would result to marine mammals protected under the MMPA. 

  • A City sought to prevent the National Park Service from implementing a development plan in a nearby recreational area claiming the Park service had violated various environmental statutes.  The trial court held the City did not have standing to assert most of its claims and lost on the merits of the remaining claims.  The Court of Appeals held the City did have standing to assert all of its claims, but lost on the merits of all its claims except those under the Coastal Zone Management Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act. 

  • Appellants filed b ill of complaint seeking to enjoin enforcement of city's dog leash ordinance.  The court summarily held that Mississippi Code Annotated s 21-19-9 (1972) authorizes municipalities to regulate the running at large of animals of all kinds. The ordinance here was enacted pursuant to that authority, it meets the constitutional requirements, and the demurrer should have been sustained on that question.
  • Defendant was charged with violation of two ordinances of the City of Whitehall, one charge being of keeping or harboring noisy dogs, and the other being a charge of keeping or harboring more than three dogs.  After a jury trial, defendant was found not guilty of keeping or harboring noisy dogs but guilty of keeping or harboring more than three dogs.  Of the ten points raised on appeal, defendant raised a constitutional challenge to the zoning ordinance, claiming that the trial court erred by not holding Whitehall Municipal Ordinance 505.13 (possessing more than three dogs) was unconstitutional.  In denying her claim, the court fist noted that this type of ordinance passes facial constitutionality based on previous caselaw.  Further, there was no evidence that this ordinance was enacted or enforced with a discriminatory intent.

  • A Parish Sheriff informed game clubs the parish ordinance against cockfighting would be enforced, despite the fact that cockfighting tournaments had been held at the game clubs since 1991.  The game clubs filed for and received a preliminary injunction against enforcement of the parish ordinance.  The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court decision.  Reversed by Savage v. Prator , 921 So.2d 51 (La., 2006).

  • In this Ohio case, the defendant was convicted in the Cleveland Heights Municipal Court of keeping more than two dogs at his single-family residence contrary to an ordinance that limited the keeping of more than two dogs at a single-family residence (defendant was found to have three dogs, one of whom he said was "visiting" his daughter). In affirming defendant's conviction, the court found no merit to defendant's challenge that the term "kept" was ambiguous. Further, the evidence adduced at trial was sufficient to support defendant's conviction where the officer witnessed the dogs at the residence and defendant admitted to having three dogs in his home even without ownership of the third.
  • In this Colorado case, an inexperienced horse rider who was injured in fall from horse during a horse roundup, brought an action under the Colorado Equine Activities Statute against the owners of riding stable. The lower court, after a jury trial, entered a judgment for the stable owners. On appeal at the Supreme Court, the Court found that the Equine Statute places a two-pronged duty on sponsors; a sponsor is liable when he or she fails to make reasonable efforts to determine either a participant's ability to engage in the equine activity or a participant's ability to manage a particular horse. Here, a new trial was in order because the result may have been different if court had properly instructed the jury regarding the exception from civil liability for the sponsor.

  • In this case, the Washington Court of Appeals determined the appellant had a statutory right to appeal a county board’s dangerous dog declaration because the board had acted within its ordinary and usual duties. The availability of the right to appeal, however, foreclosed a statutory and constitutional writ of review/writ of certiorari.  Furthermore, given the court’s finding that a prior proceeding constituted an appeal as of right, the appellant’s dangerous dog declaration could only be appealed under a discretionary review. The court therefore granted the appellant leave to file a motion for discretionary review.

  • The New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division, held that the owners established that their dog did not have a propensity to jump up on people, and that they were not negligent in the manner in which they handled the dog at the time of the alleged accident.  The judgment granting defendants' motion for summary judgment was affirmed.

  • Police officer was injured by homeowner's dog and sued for damages.  The Supreme Court held that public policy does not dictate extending the firefighter's rule to the police officer, and therefore, that the officer could sue for injuries received as a result of the bite.  Reversed and remanded.

  • Plaintiff, a licensed horse exercise rider sued the operator of a horse racing facility after he had been injured when he was thrown off a horse that he had been exercising, when the horse became spooked by a kite on the Defendant’s premises.   The court determined that the Equine Activity Liability Act (EALA) did not offer protection of immunity to the Defendant because the exercising was found to be an activity in preparation for a horse race and the EALA does not apply to “horse race meetings.”   However, the Plaintiff had previously signed a release, which covered “all risks of any injury that the undersigned may sustain while on the premises,” therefore, the Defendant was released from liability of negligence.

  • Infant child attacked and bit by dog when he was a guest in the owner's home.  After defenses motion for summary judgment was denied, the Appellate Court reversed, and this court affirms.

  • The plaintiffs, dog owners and related canine and humane associations (dog owners), filed a complaint in the Denver District Court against the defendant, City and County of Denver (city), seeking both a declaratory judgment on the constitutionality of the "Pit Bulls Prohibited" ordinance, Denver, Colo., Rev.Mun.Code § 8-55 (1989), and injunctive relief to prevent enforcement.  The dog owners in this case claim the ordinance is unconstitutional, violating their rights to procedural and substantive due process and equal protection, is unconstitutionally vague, and constitutes a taking of private property.
  • In this action, the plaintiffs (associations organized to protect wild horses and one equine veterinarian) challenged the decision of the BLM to remove all the wild horses from the West Douglas Herd Area in Colorado. Plaintiffs argued that the BLM's decision violated the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act. Defendants countered that BLM's decision was a reasonable exercise of BLM's discretion and was thus entitled to Chevron deference. This Court held that BLM's decision to remove the West Douglas Herd exceeded the scope of authority that Congress delegated to it in the Wild Horse Act.

  • In this Georgia case, Woolfolk brought a suit to recover the value of a dog that he alleged was willfully and wantonly killed by the running of a street car on defendant's line of road. The defendant demurred specially to the paragraph that alleged the value of the dog to be $200. Defendant argued that the measure of damages could not be based on the value of the dog because dogs have no market value. The court disagreed, first noting that, by the common law a dog is property, for an injury to which an action will lie and the modern trend is to value dogs in the same way other domestic animals are valued. Further, the court found a "better rule" for ascertaining the measure of damages: “The value of a dog may be proved, as that of any other property, by evidence that he was of a particular breed, and had certain qualities, and by witnesses who knew the market value of such animal, if any market value be shown. Judgment affirmed.
  • An Ohio dog owner was convicted in the Municipal Court, Franklin County, of harboring an unreasonably loud or disturbing animal as prohibited by city ordinance. On appeal to the Supreme Court, the owner contended that the term “unreasonable” in the ordinance “does not provide enough explanation to allow the average person to know what behavior is permissible.” The Supreme Court held that the ordinance was not unconstitutionally vague on its face, and was not unconstitutionally vague as applied.

  • In this case, the defendants argued that the police powers granted to a private entity, the Erie Humane Society, was an improper delegation of government authority. On appeal, the defendants’ asserted several arguments including a claim that Pennsylvania’s delegation of government authority is in violation of the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution and the Pennsylvania Constitution The appeals court rejected each of defendants’ four arguments. Specifically, the court rejected defendants' assertion that the Erie Humane Society operates as "vigilantes," finding that the Society's actions are regulated by the Rules of Criminal Procedure with requirements of probable cause and the constraints of case law.

  • In this Pennsylvania case, defendant appeals from convictions for licensing violations under the state's Dog Law and for violation of the Rabies Prevention and Control in Domestic Animals and Wildlife Act after a copier repair person was attacked by defendant's three German Shepherds. Because the Department of Health dog warden could not gain access to either question defendant about the dogs' vaccinations or quarantine the dogs, the victim had to receive a series of rabies shots. Based on the testimony of the dog warden that he finally saw vaccination certificates, and the fact the Commonwealth did not present any contrary evidence, the fines imposed under the Rabies Act were reversed. However, the court sustained the convictions for licensing violations under the Dog Law since defendant failed to show proof of licenses for 2005 (when the attack occurred).

  • In this Massachusetts case, the defendant was found guilty of six counts of animal cruelty involving one dog and five cats after a bench trial. On appeal, defendant challenged the warrantless entry into her apartment and argued that the judge erred when he failed to grant her motion to suppress the evidence gathered in the search. The Court of Appeals found no error where the search was justified under the "emergency exception" to the warrant requirement. The court found that the officer was justified to enter where the smell emanating from the apartment led him to believe that someone might be dead inside. The court was not persuaded by defendant's argument that, once the officer saw the dog feces covering the apartment that was the source of the smell, it was then objectively unreasonable for him to conclude the smell was caused by a dead body. "The argument ignores the reality that there were in fact dead bodies in the apartment, not merely dog feces, to say nothing of the additional odor caused by the blood, cat urine, and cat feces that were also found."

  • Defendant was convicted and sentenced to 6 months to 2 years jail following a jury trial in the Court of Common Pleas of cruelty to animals resulting from his shooting of a loose dog more than five times. On appeal, appellant contends that the use of a deadly weapon sentencing enhancement provision does not apply to a conviction for cruelty to animals since the purpose is to punish only those offenses where the defendant has used a deadly weapon against persons. The Commonwealth countered that the purpose behind the provision is immaterial because the plain language applies to any offense where the defendant has used a deadly weapon to commit the crime, save for those listed crimes where possession is an element of the offense. This Court agreed with the Commonwealth and held that the trial court was not prohibited from applying the deadly weapon sentencing enhancement to defendant's conviction for cruelty to animals.
  • Dog owner appealed conviction of harboring a dangerous dog that attacked a child in violation of the Dangerous Dog Statute. The Commonwealth Court held that the statute imposes strict liability for the dog’s first bite if a dog inflicts severe injury on a human being without provocation.

  • Defendant appealed a conviction for criminal conspiracy to commit cruelty to animals after Defendant provided a gun and instructed her boyfriend to shoot and kill their dog after the dog allegedly bit Defendant’s child.   The Superior Court of Pennsylvania reversed the conviction, finding the relevant animal cruelty statute to be ambiguous, thus requiring the reversal under the rule of lenity.   Concurring and dissenting opinions were filed, in which both agreed that the statute is unambiguous as to whether a dog owner may destroy his or her dog by use of a firearm when that dog has attacked another person, but disagreed as to whether sufficient evidence was offered to show that the dog in fact attacked another person. (See Supreme Court order - Com. v. Kneller, 978 A.2d 716, 2009 WL 5154265 (Pa.,2009)).
  • The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania took up this appeal involving the defendant's criminal conspiracy to commit cruelty to animals after the defendant provided a gun and instructed her boyfriend to shoot and kill their dog after the dog allegedly bit the defendant’s child. The Supreme Court vacated the order of the Superior Court and remanded the case to the Superior Court (--- A.2d ----, 2009 WL 215322) in accordance with the dissenting opinion of the Superior Court's order. The Court further observed that the facts revealed no immediate need to kill the dog and that there was "unquestionably malicious beating of the dog" prior to it being shot.

  • Defendant intentionally hit a duck with his car and was convicted of cruelty to animals. The conviction was upheld by the Appeals Court because all that must be shown is that the defendant intentionally and knowingly did acts which were plainly of a nature to inflict unnecessary pain. Specific intent to cause harm is not required to support a conviction of cruelty to animals.

  • Defendant was convicted of violating the dog law for failing to properly confine his dog after it escaped from his property and attacked another dog. On appeal, the Superior Court affirmed, holding that 1) scienter was not a necessary element of the violation because the statutory mandate to confine a dog was stated absolutely, and 2) a dog attack is not a de minimis infraction that would preclude a conviction.

  • This Pennsylvania case construes the term "owner" for purposes of the state's Dog and Rabies Laws. Gretta R. Seyler appeals from an order of the trial  court, which found her guilty of two counts each of violating Dog Law and guilty of two counts of violating Section 8 of the Rabies Prevention and Control in Domestic Animals and Wildlife Act after a pit bull jumped out of a window of her home and attacked a neighbor. First, the court found that there was no question that Seyler was caring for the dogs at the time the incident occurred or was permitting them to remain “on or about” the premises occupied by her.  Although Seyler argues that the record clearly indicates that the two dogs were owned by her adult sons, the court found that the argument is without much force, as no paperwork showing the sons' ownership of the dogs was introduced at the hearing. Further, the court observed that the plain and unambiguous intent of Sections 8 of the Rabies Act and 305 of the Dog Law is that dogs be vaccinated and confined at all times. Thus, if the person having the property interest in a dog does not perform that function, then the statutes clearly require one harboring or caring for the dog, here Seyler, to perform it. 

  • In this Massachusetts case, the defendant was convicted of cruelty to an animal, in violation of G.L. c. 272, § 77. On appeal, the defendant contended that the evidence was insufficient to establish his guilt; specifically, that the state proved beyond a reasonable doubt that his actions exceeded what was necessary and appropriate to train the dog. A witness in this case saw defendant beat his dog with a plastic "whiffle" bat on the head about 10 times. The defendant told the officer who arrived on the scene that he had used the bat on previous occasions, and did so to “put the fear of God in [the] dog.” At trial, a veterinarian testified that the dog suffered no trauma from the bat, but probably experienced pain if struck repeatedly in that manner. The court found that defendant's behavior fell under the ambit of the statutes because his actions were cruel, regardless of whether defendant viewed them as such. Judgment affirmed.

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