Cases

  • In 1991, the plaintiff, Zoological Society of Cincinnati, transferred a western lowland Gorilla named Ndume who had been living at the Zoo to The Gorilla Foundation (TGF) in Northern California. Ndume was sent to TGF in hopes that he and another gorilla there, named Koko, would mate and produce offspring. That never happened. In 2015, the Zoo and TGF entered into a new written agreement which expressly superseded any prior agreements. The agreement provided that upon the death of Koko, Ndume was to be placed at an institution that is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). TGF is not an AZA accredited institution. KoKo died and the Zoo now wants to transfer Ndume back to the zoo. TGF has not made arrangements for a transfer to be carried out. The Zoo brought this suit seeking specific enforcement of the 2015 agreement and contends that it is entitled to summary judgment in its favor. TGF argued that the agreement was illegal and unenforceable because the transfer would harm Ndume. TGF identified a number of potential risks, particularly, that Ndume has a Balantidium Coli infection. TGF contended that stress could trigger an outbreak which could be fatal. The court was unpersuaded and stated that TGF signed the 2015 agreement less than 3 years before the present dispute arose and that all of the circumstances that TGF contends makes compliance with the agreement risky existed when the agreement was negotiated. TGF also contended that the agreement is impracticable due to unreasonable (non-monetary) costs. However, the Court again stated that TGF knew these facts and circumstances when it entered into the agreement. The Court granted the Zoo's motion for summary judgment and denied TGF's request for a continuance to permit it to take discovery. The parties were ordered to confer and attempt to reach a consensus on as many aspects of the protocol for transporting Ndume to the Zoo as possible. If within 30 days of the date of the order the parties cannot reach a consensus, they will have to file a joint statement setting out any issues on which they have reached a stalemate.
  • This case arose after twelve-year old Samantha Zuckerman sustained injuries when she fell the pony she was riding during a horseback riding lesson at Camp Laurel in Mount Vernon, Maine. Samantha alleged that her instructors improperly saddled the pony, which caused her saddle to slip. In appealing the Magistrate's recommended decision, Camp Laurel again claims that it is immune from liability under Maine Equine Activities Act because a slipping saddle is a risk inherent to the sport of horseback riding. Camp Laurel contends that the faulty tack exception is limited to situations where the tack cracks, breaks, or frays and does not include  an “improperly tightened girth” or an “inappropriate pony” or “faulty horse.” This Court agreed with the Magistrate Judge that the record raises a genuine issue of material fact concerning the “faulty” tack exception. The Court found that the negligence here was tied to an exception to the liability shield - faulty tack.

  • In this California case, the owner of a dog that had been seized pending criminal dogfighting charges sought a writ of mandate challenging a county hearing officer's decision finding that puppies born to the dog while she was impounded were dangerous animals. The trial court denied the writ. The Court of Appeal reversed and held that there was insufficient evidence that the puppies were “dangerous animals." The evidence received by the hearing officer relates mainly to appellant's actions and his mistreatment of the parent animal, and the only evidence relevant to the puppies' “inherent nature” was the observed aggressive behavior toward each other while caged together and certain possible assumptions about their nature from the condition and use of their mother.

  • “Abogados y Funcionarios de defensa Animal” (AFADA) brought a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of Cecilia, a 30 year old chimpanzee that lived in the Mendoza Zoo alleging that the chimpanzee had been illegitimately and arbitrarily deprived of her right to ambulatory freedom and right to have a dignified life on the part of authorities of the Zoo of the City of Mendoza, Argentina. The court granted habeas corpus to Cecilia, ruling that Cecilia was a living being with rights and instructing defendants to immediately free her and to relocate her to the Great Ape Project Sanctuary in Brazil. Until this moment, only humans illegally detained had been granted this writ.

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