Cases

  •  Employee brought a negligence action against employer for injuries suffered when administering medicine to an untamed horse.  District Court granted summary judgment stating that the plaintiff was considered a "participant" under the Equine Act.  Plaintiff appealed.  Court of Appeals reversed and remanded the case stating that the Equine Act did not apply because the Act covered consumers, not employees. 

  • This appeal is by the Dog Federation of Wisconsin and others who contest a City of South Milwaukee ordinance that imposes restrictions on the ownership and keeping of “pit bulls.” The Federation claims that the “pit bull” aspects of the ordinance are facially invalid because:  the definition of “pit bull” is impermissibly vague; the ordinance is overbroad; and the ordinance violates their right to equal protection. The court found that reference to recognized breeds provides sufficient specifics to withstand a vagueness challenge. With regard to equal protection, the court held that the ordinance is founded on “substantial distinctions” between the breeds of dog covered by the ordinance and other breeds of dog. Moreover, the ordinance is “germane” to the underlying purpose of the ordinance to protect persons and animals from dangerous dogs. Finally, the ordinance applies equally to the affected class of persons owning or keeping pit bulls.

  • This matter is before the Court on the motion of Defendant United States Department of Agriculture's Motion to Dismiss. The Horse Protection Act (HPA) is federal legislation which outlaws the practice of “soring” (harm to the feet or limbs of horses in order to enhance the attractiveness of a light-stepped or high-stepping gait during horse-show performances), which is a particular concern for the breed of Tennessee Walking Horses. Plaintiffs seek to have the Court define “sore” and “scar” beyond the definitions provided in the regulations (specifically the “scar rule”). The court found, however, that any alleged or threatened injury based on the HPA or the Scar Rule has not yet occurred. Mere uncertainty about the HPA and Scar Rule alone does not create an injury in fact.

  • Animal rights group brought action challenging validity of regulation exempting breeders who sell dogs from their residences from licensure under Animal Welfare Act. The United States District Court for the District of Columbia, Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, J., held that regulation was invalid, and appeal was taken. The Court of Appeals, Randolph, Circuit Judge, held that regulation was reasonable interpretation of Congressional intent.
  • The federal district court here considered the constitutionality of Connecticut’s Hunter Harassment Act (Conn.Gen.Stat. Section 53a-183a) of 1985. The plaintiff was arrested under the Act after she approached hunters who were hunting waterfowl in public lands adjacent to her property and attempted to verbally dissuade them from hunting. The charge was ultimately dismissed, but plaintiff brought a Section 1983 action to adjudicate the constitutionality of the Act. In finding the Act unconstitutionally vague and overbroad, the Court found that it criminalized constitutionally protected speech. Specifically, the Court found that the Act failed to define “interference” and did not adequately limit the reach of “acts in preparation” to hunt.

  • Dog owner sued county challenging county's dangerous animal declaration (DAD) proceedings.  The Court of Appeals held that charging a fee to obtain an initial evidentiary review of a DAD violated owner's due process rights because it impacted owner's property and financial interests and potentially subjected her to future criminal sanctions. The court also held that the lack of an adequate evidentiary standard regarding review of DADs violated due process because the ordinance required only that the reviewing auditor determine if there was sufficient evidence to support the DAD.

  • Appellant dog owners challenged the decision of the County Court at Law No. 2 of Tarrant County (Texas), which granted summary judgment in favor of appellee veterinary clinic in appellants' negligence, misrepresentation, and Deceptive Trade Practices Act claims. The court affirmed the grant of summary judgment in favor of appellee veterinary clinic because appellee's veterinarians provided affidavits that were sufficiently factually specific, describing experience, qualifications, and a detailed account of the treatment, so that appellee negated the element of the breach of the standard of care, and because Deceptive Trade Practice Act claims did not apply to state licensed veterinarians.

  • In this New York case, a minor child was injured when he was kicked by defendant's horse while defendant was in the process of the setting up a petting zoo at a picnic. The court was posed with the question of whether limited circumstances exist to support a negligence claim where a person is injured by a domestic animal and there is no proof of the animal's vicious propensities (the pony in this case never kicked anyone or showed any vicious propensities). The court answered the question in the affirmative. Here, defendant is subject to the enhanced duty of horse owners to young children. There were triable issues of fact as to defendant's negligence in the manner in which the horses were unloaded while in the presence of children that precluded summary judgment for defendant.

  • Plaintiff, engaged in religious solicitations, was knocked down by dog owner's pit bull on the defendant's driveway.  She argued that the superior court should have instructed on negligence in addition to strict liability.  The court agreed, finding that a negligence cause of action arises whenever there is insufficient control of a dog in a context in which it could be reasonably expected that injury could occur and injury did proximately result from the negligence.  Thus, the court reversed the decision for defendant dog owners.

  • Plaintiffs brought action against Defendant for damages after Defendant shot and killed Plaintiffs’ dog.   The Trial Court set aside a jury verdict granting Plaintiffs $100,000 in actual and $25,000 in punitive damages, on the ground that the verdict was excessive.   On appeal, the District Court of Appeal, First District, Division 1, California, affirmed the Trial Court decision, finding that the Trial Court was justified in holding that both the actual and punitive damages awards were grossly excessive, given the circumstances under which the incident occurred.   In making its decision, the Court of Appeal pointed out that, although this particular dog had been in the motion picture industry, dogs are nonetheless considered property, and as such, are to be ascertained in the same manner as other property, and not in the same manner as human life.
  • Plaintiffs sued defendants to recover value of a horse that was wrongfully taken from them. The Court held that evidence was admissible to establish the value of the horse at the time of the wrongful taking to fix the damages amount. The peculiar value of the horse as a sire was established by evidence as to the horse’s racing history and to its progeny’s character and racing ability. Owners were entitled to recover damages for the reasonable value of the horse’s use during the period they were wrongfully deprived of it.

  • Photographer brought § 1983 claim and several state law claims against city, police officers, and chief of police alleging unlawful arrest. The Court of Appeals, D.W. Nelson, Circuit Judge, held that: (1) photographer established prima facie case of her unlawful arrest by police officers at animal rights demonstration; (2) police lacked probable to cause to arrest photographer for trespassing under California law; (3) police lacked probable cause to arrest photographer under California's unlawful assembly statute; and (4) police chief could be held liable in his individual capacity.

  • After a dog injured a city inspector during an inspection of a property, the inspector sued the homeowners. Inspector alleged strict liability, premises liability, and negligence. The Supreme Court entered summary judgment for the defendants on the premises-liability and negligence claims because the inspector failed to show that homeowners had knowledge of their dog's vicious propensities. These claims were subject to the common law one-bite rule (and not strict liability) because the injuries occurred within an enclosed area on the owner’s property.

  • This case involved a plaintiff who sued for damages when a bull strayed into, or broke into the plaintiff's enclosures, and the plaintiff, with two other men, went to drive the bull away.  The court held that the owner of a domestic animal is not generally liable for injuries resulting from the vicious disposition of the animal, unless he is chargeable with notice.

  • A complaint regarding the welfare of horses led to the defendant being convicted of 6 charges of animal cruelty, all of which were class A misdemeanors. Upon appeal, the defendant argued that he had not knowingly waived his right to a jury trial, that Indiana’s animal cruelty law was unconstitutionally vague and that there was no sufficient evidence to overcome a defense of necessity. The appeals court agreed that the defendant did not knowingly waive his right to a jury trial and therefore reversed and remanded the case on that issue; however, the appeals court disagreed with the defendant on the other issues.  The case was affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.

  • This matter involves the Defendant Kootenai County's motion for summary judgment this federal civil rights case filed by Dunham. The facts underlying the case stem from 2008, when county animal control officers went to Dunham's residence to investigate complaints of possible animal cruelty. During their investigation, Defendants entered Dunham's property to ascertain the condition of the horses residing there in a round-pen. Despite the conditions of the horses which necessitated their removal and relocation to an equine rescue facility, Dunham was ultimately charged and found not guilty of charges of animal cruelty. Dunham claims that Defendants violated her Fourth Amendment rights when they searched her property and seized her horses without a warrant. Defendants counter that the search was constitutional based on the open fields doctrine, and that the seizure was constitutional based on the plain view doctrine. Based on the open fields doctrine, the Court concluded that Dunham did not have an expectation of privacy in the searched area.

  • Plaintiff horse owner appealed from the orders of the Merrimack County Superior Court (New Hampshire), which dismissed his action for veterinarian malpractice for failure to designate an expert medical witness to prove that the owner's horse was permanently injured, and that defendant veterinarians' negligence caused such injury. On appeal, the court agreed that no medical expert testimony was necessary to determine whether a veterinarian was negligent in operating on the wrong animal. However, the court held that expert testimony was necessary to assist jurors in this case on the issues of causation and injury, and generally as to the standards of veterinary care.

  • A rescue organization had adopted out a dog. The new owners were walking the dog unleashed when it attacked another dog. The plaintiff's filed a complaint of common law negligence and recklessness, which alleged that the rescue organization should have known and should have warned them of the dangerous tendencies of the specific dog but failed to do so. Connecticut law imposed strict liability on an owner or keeper of such an animal, and the statute had not been expanded to include the seller or transferor. The issue then was whether the court should expand the scope of such a negligence claim and create a duty of care owed by transferors or sellers of dogs with known and/or unknown propensities for aggression. The court found that there was no support for expanding liability in common law negligence when the organization in this case did not own, possess, harbor or control the dog. The court declines to impose a duty on the rescue agency to inform adoptive families.
  • Plaintiff claimed damages for the death of five pedigreed Norwegian Elkhound puppies resulting from the negligence of defendant, Hugh L. Caraway, a duly licensed veterinarian. Specifically, defendant allegedly failed to make proper diagnostic tests, failed to give proper treatment for coccidia from which the puppy died, although the defendant had professional knowledge that the puppy was suffering from that disease, and failed to exercise the standard of care required by the average prudent veterinarian in the community. The court first noted the difficulty in diagnosing distemper. It also found the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur in applicable in the instant case, primarily for the reason that the instant case involves a question of diagnosis and treatment of a professional nature which in itself requires judgment.

  • The plaintiff brought civil rights action against municipality and police officer after officer shot and killed his pet dog.  Specifically, he alleged a violation of his substantive due process and Fourth Amendment rights, and the negligent and intentional infliction of emotional distress. On the defendants' motion for summary judgment the court held that the shooting and killing of pet dog was not unreasonable seizure, and the officer was entitled to qualified immunity.

  • Lee and Becky Cox, owners of Pixy Pals Kennel, petitioned for review of a decision of the Department of Agriculture suspending their license for ninety days, imposing a $12,000 civil fine, and ordering the Coxes to cease and desist from specified violations of the Animal Welfare Act. The Coxes claim that (1) the suspension violated s 558(c) of the Administrative Procedure Act because there was insufficient evidence to support the Department's finding that their violations of the Animal Welfare Act were willful; (2) they were unconstitutionally penalized for exercising their first amendment rights; and (3) the sanctions imposed on them were excessive. In affirming the USDA decision, the Eighth Circuit held that the definition of "willfulness" was not called into question; rather the Department had presented substantial evidence to demonstrate willfulness. Further, since petitioners' first amendment claim concerned the Department's "motivations," the court held that proof of motivation is a question of fact rather than law, not subject to de novo review. The sanction imposed by the Department, although severe, was not excessive given the size of petitioners' business and the severity of the violations.

  • Plaintiffs' son was seriously injured when he was bitten in the face by a dog that belonged to defendant Susan Piowaty.  Plaintiffs brought action on behalf of their son against Piowaty and the animal shelter from which Piowaty had adopted the dog two weeks prior to the incident, alleging that they had constructive notice of the dog's vicious propensities because of a minor incident earlier that week.  However, this court agreed with the denial of plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment because there remains a triable issue as to the defendants' notice of the dog's vicious propensities at the time of the son's injury.
  • Plaintiff, groups seeking to protect animals, sought to enjoin implementation of a final finding of defendant, the Secretary of Commerce and his Assistant Administrator of Fisheries, that the encirclement of dolphins with purse seine nets was not having an adverse impact on dolphin stocks as arbitrary, capricious, and an abuse of discretion. The court granted the groups' motion for preliminary injunction, enjoined the Secretary from taking any action to allow any tuna product to be labeled as "dolphin safe" that was harvested using purse seine nets, pending final disposition of the groups' action, and defined what "dolphin safe" would continue to mean.
  • Plaintiffs sought to prevent the Secretary of Commerce from allowing the American Tunaboat Association ("ATA") to continue killing northeastern offshore spotted dolphins that had been listed as depleted.  Defendants argued that such killings were permissible under the ATA's permit, and that the MMPA provisions relied on by the plaintiffs were irrelevant to the dispute.  The court concluded that Congress did not intend to allow the continued taking of dolphin species or stock, once the Secretary had determined that their population level was depleted. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • A veterinarian agreed to house, transport, and care for an elephant at no charge other than the actual expenses incurred therewith. One evening, the elephant ingested some poison left in its stall by the veterinarian and later died.  On appeal of the trial court award to plaintiff, the Court disagreed with defendant’s contention that he, as a gratuitous depositary, could only be held liable for gross negligence, willful misconduct, or fraud. In fact, the civil code in Louisiana, states the burden of a depositary is "that of ordinary care which may be expected of a prudent man."  However, an  agreement between the parties was found to release Dr. Cane of liability from negligent acts.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • A woman was horseback riding at a ranch in New York and was injured when she fell off the horse. The woman had signed a Horse Rental Agreement and Liability Release Form before the accident.  The court determined that the rider assumed the risk of injury and the lower court's decision to deny defendant's motion for summary judgment was reversed. 

  • A postal worker brought an action against dog owners to recover for injuries allegedly sustained when dog jumped on her while she was delivering mail to the owners' home. In affirming the denial of defendant’s motion for summary judgment, the court found that there factual issues as to whether the owners were aware of the potential danger from the dog and whether they took reasonable measures to prevent the dog from jumping on the plaintiff.

  • In this New York, the neighbors of a five-year-old child who was mauled to death by a leopard that was at a circus held on school property filed suit against the operators of the circus seeking compensation for emotional damages. On defendants' appeal, this court held that defendants were strictly liable to plaintiffs. The court first began with the proposition that wild animals are presumed to have a dangerous propensity and the keepers of such have been held strictly liable. Using a products liability analogy, the court found that as a matter of public policy, it would be 'unthinkable' to refuse to insulate individuals who put a defective car on the road and 'then tell one injured by a wild beast that he has no claim against those who put that beast on the road.' The judgment was affirmed.

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

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

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

  • The Wild and Free-Roaming Horse Act does not require that wild horses be prevented from straying onto private land, only that they be removed if they do stray onto private land.  

  • Dog bite victim sued homeowners insurer.  Held:  courts may factor traditional public policy to bar a claim under the dog bite statute, and in this case, public policy precludes imposing liability on homeowners even though the dog bite statute appears to impose strict liability.

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

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

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