Dogs: Related Cases

Case name Citationsort ascending Summary
Brown v. Muhlenberg Tp. 269 F.3d 205 (3rd Cir. 2001)

Pet owners were unreasonably deprived of their Fourth Amendment rights to their pet by police officer. Pennsylvania Court would recognize a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress based upon the killing of a pet.

People v. Cumper 268 N.W.2d 696 (Mich. 1978)

Defendant was convicted under MCL 750.49 for being a spectator at a dog fight.  He argued on appeal that the statute was impermissibly vague and unconstitutionally overbroad, for punishing an individual for mere presence at a dog fight.  The court disagreed, finding that the statute was neither vague nor overbroad because it did not punish the mere witnessing of a dog fight, but attendance as a spectator to a legally prohibited dog fight.  For more, see Detailed Discussion

Downey v. Pierce County 267 P.3d 445 (Wash.App. Div. 2, 2011)

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.

Zuniga v. San Mateo Dept. of Health Services (Peninsula Humane Soc.) 267 Cal.Rptr. 755 (1990)

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.

Siegert v. Crook County 266 P.3d 170 (Or.App., 2011)

An individual appealed County Court’s decision to approve the location of a dog breeding kennel in a zone where such kennels were not permitted. The county interpreted the code that was in effect at the time the kennel began operating to allow dog breeding as animal husbandry, and thus permissible farm use. The Court of Appeals found the county's interpretation to be plausible.

Burkholder v. Department of Agriculture 265 A.3d 863 (Pa. Commw. Ct. 2021) In this Pennsylvania case, James Burkholder, d/b/a Whispering Spring Kennel (Burkholder), petitioned for review of an adjudication of the Secretary of Agriculture (Secretary) that imposed a $19,500 civil penalty on Burkholder for transferring two dogs in excess of the annual limit under his Class IV kennel license in December of 2017. Burkholder raises two arguments: first, the Dog Law does not specify that transfers of more than 60 dogs by a private kennel constitute violations; and two, the penalty imposed is excessive and unreasonable. This court first noted that a Kennel Class IV license clearly does not allow him to transfer more than 60 dogs and thus any transfers in excess violate the Dog Law. As to the excessive penalty argument, the court first examined the distinction between separate and ongoing violations of the Dog Law because it raised a question of first impression under the Dog Law. Relying on the distinction in other contexts, particularly regarding penalties imposed by the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC), the court found that a kennel owner holding too many dogs could remedy the violation simply by transferring the excess dogs. The problem here is that, where an owner has transferred more dogs than his license allows, there is no way to correct the violation. Thus, said the court, a per-day fine is improper. "Each unauthorized transfer of a single dog is a single violation of the Dog Law, not a continuing violation, because it is not ongoing in nature and such transfers can be feasibly segregated into discrete violations so as to impose separate penalties." The court concluded that the Department erred as a matter of law by imposing ongoing penalties for two discrete unauthorized transfers. The order of the Department as to the excess transfers of dogs was affirmed, but the portion as to the amount of the penalty was vacated. The matter was remanded for further proceedings.
HAGEN v. LAURSEN 263 P.2d 489 (Cal.App. 3 Dist. 1953)

Two Irish setters knocked down a neighbor while playing outside.   Previously no one had seen them run into anyone while playing.   They were not shown to have been more boisterous than dogs usually are.   There was no evidence that these dogs were vicious. The court found that there was no foreseeable risk of harm and therefore no duty upon which to base a claim of negligence.

Prays v. Perryman 262 Cal.Rptr. 180 (Cal.App.2.Dist.)

In an action by a commercial pet groomer against a dog owner for injuries suffered by a dog bite, the trial court found as a matter of law that plaintiff had assumed the risk of a dog bite, and on that basis granted summary judgment in defendant's favor. At the time plaintiff was bitten, she had not yet begun to groom the dog and, in fact, had expressed to defendant her concern whether it was safe for her to do so since the dog was excited and growling. The Court of Appeal reversed. Assuming the veterinarian's rule extended to pet groomers, making the defense of assumption of risk available, it held that plaintiff had not as a matter of law assumed the risk of being bitten since, at the time of the bite, the dog was still under the exclusive control of defendant, who had uncaged it and was holding it on a leash.

Bozzi v. City of Jersey City 258 A.3d 1048 (N.J., 2021) This New Jersey case considers whether owning a dog creates an objectively reasonable expectation of privacy such that the owner's personal information in the dog licensing record might be exempt from disclosure under the New Jersey Open Public Records Act (OPRA). Plaintiff Ernest Bozzi, a licensed home improvement contractor, submitted a request to the City of Jersey City (Jersey City) for dog license records to solicit customers for his invisible fencing business. He sought only the names and addresses of dog owners. Jersey City denied his request, objecting on the ground that such a disclosure would violate the dog owners’ reasonable expectation of privacy and that such a disclosure would place dog owners and non-dog owners a risk for theft (e.g., non-dog owners might be singled out for robbery or burglary). The lower court found no privacy interest in disclosing the names to comply with plaintiff's request and the Appellate Division affirmed that order. Upon Jersey City's petition for certification, the New Jersey Supreme Court affirmed that ruling, finding that owning a dog is "substantially a public endeavor in which people do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy." In arguments on appeal, Jersey City contended that disclosure for the purpose of commercial solicitation was protected by the privacy exception of OPRA. The Supreme Court noted that OPRA was designed to promote transparency in the operation of government. In looking at the state legislature's continuing process of amending OPRA, the Court found legislative history that declined against recommendations to withhold addresses or phone numbers in exceptions to the Act. Thus, the Court found that Jersey City has failed to present a colorable claim that disclosure of dog license records would encroach on dog owners' reasonable expectations of privacy. In looking at the OPRA privacy clauses, the Court concluded that owning a dog is "inherently, a public endeavor." In fact, dog owners continually expose themselves through social media, vet visits, public dog parks, bumper stickers, and the like, which militates against the activity being a private activity. While there are other aspects of dog licensing that may expose dog owners to a risk, like disclosure that a dog is a service animal or identifying the particular breed of the dog and exposing an owner to possible theft, the release of names and addresses does not rise to that concern. The Appellate Division's judgment was affirmed.
Augillard v. Madura 257 S.W.3d 494 (Tex.App.-Austin,2008)

This appeal arises from a suit for conversion filed by Shalanda Augillard alleging that Tiffany Madura and Richard Toro wrongfully exercised dominion and control over Augillard's black cocker spaniel, Jazz, who was recovered from New Orleans in the wake of the Hurricane Katrina. The central issue at trial and the only disputed issue on appeal is whether Augillard's dog, Jazz, and the dog that Madura adopted from New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, Hope, are in fact the same dog. Augillard asserts on appeal that the trial court erred in disregarding conclusive evidence, including forensic DNA analysis, establishing that Hope and Jazz are the same dog.

Carter v. Metro North Associates 255 A.D.2d 251, 1998 N.Y. Slip Op. 10266 (N.Y.A.D. 1 Dept.,1998)

In this New York case, a tenant sued his landlords for injuries after he was bitten on face by pit bull owned by another tenant. The lower court denied the landlords' motion for summary judgment and granted partial summary judgment for tenant on issue of liability. On appeal, the Supreme Court, Appellate Division held that the trial court erroneously took judicial notice of vicious nature of breed of pit bulls as a whole. In fact, the court found that the IAS court "erred in circumventing the requirement for evidence concerning the particular animal by purporting to take judicial notice of the vicious nature of the breed as a whole." Thus, the landlords were not strictly liable for the tenant's injuries where there was no evidence indicating that the dog had ever attacked any other person or previously displayed any vicious behavior.

Bushnell v. Mott 254 S.W.3d 451 (Tex.,2008)

In this Texas case, the plaintiff (Bushnell) brought an action against the defendant (Mott) for her injuries sustained when defendant's dogs attacked plaintiff. The district court granted summary judgment to defendant. The Texas Supreme Court reversed, and held that the owner of a dog not known to be vicious owes a duty to attempt to stop the dog from attacking a person after the attack has begun, and Mott's behavior after the attack had begun raises an issue of material fact whether Mott failed to exercise ordinary care over her dogs.

Barton v. State 253 Ga. 478 (1984)

Four defendants were convicted of dog fighting in violation of O.C.G.A. §   16-12-37 and they were also convicted of gambling in violation of O.C.G.A. §   16-12-21(a)(1) . On appeal, the court rejected the constitutional attacks on §   16-12-37. The court affirmed the convictions only with respect to one defendant and reversed the convictions as to the remaining three defendants based upon the sufficiency of the evidence.

Moody v. State 253 Ga. 456 (1984)

Fifty-nine defendants appealed a judgment, which overruled a motion quash an indictment charging defendants with violating the dogfighting statute, O.C.G.A. §   16-12-37 . The court ruled the statute was not unconstitutionally overbroad, and that it required knowing and consensual involvement in dogfighting, therefore intent. The court further ruled that the law prohibited participation by gambling on the act, and the statute did not infringe on constitutionally protected conduct.

Hargrove v. State 253 Ga. 450 (1984)

Defendants were convicted by the Mitchell Superior Court, Robert Culpepper, Jr., Senior Judge, of dogfighting and gambling and two of the defendants were convicted of commercial gambling, and they appealed. The Supreme Court, Clarke, J., held that: (1) the statute prohibiting dogfighting is not unconstitutionally vague, and does not violate equal protection; (2) penalty provided for violating the dogfighting statute does not amount to cruel and unusual punishment; (3) evidence was sufficient to support convictions; (4) dogfighting is not as a matter of law a lesser included offense of commercial gambling; and (5) dogfighting was not as a matter of fact a lesser included offense of commercial gambling.

Banks v. Adair 251 S.E.2d 88 (Ga.App., 1978)
In this Georgia dog bite case, plaintiffs appealed a directed verdict for the defendant. The Court of Appeals held that the verdict was properly directed for defendant where there was no evidence that established the defendant's knowledge of his dog's propensity to bite or injure humans.
Propes v. Griffith 25 S.W.3d 544 (Mo.App. W.D., 2000)

At issue on this appeal to a punitive damages award, is whether defendant's conduct in shooting her neighbors' two dogs was privileged under a Missouri statute that allows a livestock owner to kill dogs that are in the act of chasing sheep.  The court held that there was absolutely no evidence indicating the Propes' dogs, or for that matter that any dog, was the cause of the previous attack on the Griffiths' sheep and more sheep were attacked after the dogs had been euthanized.  Upon review, the court held that the punishment and deterrence of Mrs. Griffith's conduct is the precise reason for assessing punitive damages and the award of punitive damages was not arbitrary.

State v. Fay 248 A.3d 1191 (N.H. Dec. 2, 2020) In this New Hampshire case, Christina Fay appeals her convictions on seventeen counts of cruelty to animals. In 2017, a search warrant executed at her residence resulted in the seizure of over 70 Great Danes. Police learned of the conditions at defendant's residence from defendant's prior employees, who gave accounts of floors covered in layers of feces, dogs being fed maggot-infested raw chicken, and dogs present with injuries/illness. After conducting an investigation, the investigating Wolfeboro's police officer (Strauch) partnered with HSUS because the department did not have the resources to handle a large-scale animal law seizure. Strauch did not include in his affidavit supporting the search warrant's issuance that HSUS would be assisting the police, and the warrant itself did not explicitly state that HSUS was permitted to assist in its execution. On appeal, the defendant argues that the trial court erred in denying her motion to suppress by violating two of her constitutional rights: her right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures and her right to privacy. As to the right to privacy argument, the court first noted that defendant grounded her argument in a recently enacted amendment to the state constitution. However, this new amendment, which states that an individual's right to live free from governmental intrusion in private or personal information is natural, essential, and inherent, did not apply retroactively to defendant. As to defendant's second argument that she had a right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures, the court noted that it has not previously considered the extent to which it is constitutionally reasonable for the police to involve civilians when executing search warrants. The defendant argues that Strauch's failure to obtain express authorization for HSUS's aid from the magistrate who issued the search warrant was constitutionally unreasonable. The court found no instance in which a court has held that the failure to obtain express judicial authorization for citizen aid prior to the execution of a warrant rendered the subsequent search unconstitutional. While other courts have opined that is might be a "better practice" to disclose this matter when applying to the magistrate for a search warrant, failure to do so does not itself violate the Fourth Amendment. The pertinent inquiry is whether the search was reasonable in its execution, and any citizen involvement would be held to that scrutiny. The court concluded that the state did not violate the constitution by failing to obtain authorization for HSUS's involvement prior to the warrant's execution. Affirmed.
Stephens v. State 247 Ga. App. 719 (2001)

Defendant was accused and convicted of 17 counts of cruelty to animals for harboring fighting dogs in deplorable conditions. Defendant challenged the sufficiency of the evidence and the probation terms. The appellate court found, in light of the evidence, any rational trier of fact could have found the elements of cruelty to animals beyond a reasonable doubt. Further, defendant failed to overcome the presumption that the probation the trial court imposed was correct.

State v. Mita 245 P.3d 458 (Hawai', 2010)

Defendant, an owner of two dogs, both boxers, was charged with animal nuisance in violation of Revised Ordinances of Honolulu section 7-2.3. Mita’s counsel objected to the oral charge at trial, arguing "that the arraignment is [not] specific enough to put the defendant specifically on notice of what part of the . . . ordinance she’s being charged with." The district court denied Mita’s motion for judgment of acquittal and sentenced her to pay a $50 fine. Mita appealed. The Intermediate Court of Appeals vacated the judgment of the district court. On certiorari, the Hawaii Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Intermediate Court of Appeals and remanded the case, finding that the definition of animal nuisance in section 7-2.2 does not create an additional essential element of the offense; and, second, the definition of "animal nuisance" is consistent with its commonly understood meaning.

People v. Beam 244 Mich.App. 103 (2000)

Defendant was charged with owning a dog, trained or used for fighting, that caused the death of a person and  filed a motion to dismiss the case on the grounds that M.C.L. § 750.49(10); MSA 28.244(10) was unconstitutionally vague.  The court granted defendant's motion, finding the terms "without provocation" and "owner" to be vague, and dismissed the case. The prosecutor appealed, and the Court of Appeals held that statute was not unconstitutionally vague. Reversed.

Davison v. Berg 243 So.3d 489 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. Mar. 22, 2018) Deborah Davison volunteered at her local Humane Society to help take care of a dog park. Three years later, Rebecca Berg’s dog who was chasing other dogs collided with Davison. Davison suffered a broken leg that required extensive medical care. Davison then filed an action against Berg under a Florida statute that “imposes liability on dog owners for damage their dogs cause to other persons and animals.” The trial court granted final summary judgment in favor of Berg for two reasons. The first reason was that the signs outside of the park sufficiently warned Davison of the risks of injury inside. The second reason was that Davison essentially consented to the risk of potential injuries by being a volunteer for the dog park. On appeal, this court stated that the Florida statute was a strict liability statute that makes an owner the insurer of their dog’s conduct. The only defense to the statute is for an owner to display in a prominent place on his or her premises a sign that includes the words “Bad Dog.” Berg presented evidence that the park had two signs prominently displayed at the entrance to the park with the title “Dog Park Rules.” The two signs listed rules for entrance to the dog park. One of these rules stated that park use is at the dog owner’s risk. Another rule stated that rough play and chasing were not allowed if any dogs or owners were uncomfortable with that behavior. The last rule stated that visitors enter at their own risk. Even though Davison entered the park at her own risk, the purpose of the sign requirement in the statute was to give notice that a bad dog is on the premises. The Court found that the trial court erred in finding that the signs at the dog park were sufficiently equivalent to “Bad Dog” signs to preclude liability under the Florida statute. The trial court also found that by virtue of Davison volunteering at the dog park, she was aware that she could be injured during the course of her work and that she signed a volunteer application form that acknowledged that she could be exposed to “bites, scratches, and other injuries.” Davison had also witnessed a prior collision between a dog and an individual that resulted in a broken leg. After witnessing that, Davison began to warn others at the Humane Society about the dangers of being inside the dog park with dogs chasing each other. The Court held that even though there may be evidence to support the trial court’s conclusion that Davison consented to the risk of injury, “an actual consent or assumption of the risk defense cannot bar liability.” The Court reversed the trial court’s entry of final summary judgment in favor of Berg.
Gonzales v. Kissner 24 So.3d 214 ((La.App. 1 Cir.,2009)

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.

State v. Siliski 238 S.W.3d 338 (Tenn.Crim.App., 2007)

The defendant operated a dog breeding business, “Hollybelle's Maltese,” in which she bred purebred Maltese dogs in her Franklin home, advertised the resulting puppies on an Internet website, and shipped the puppies to buyers located around the country. She was convicted by a Williamson County Circuit Court jury of eleven counts of animal cruelty. The main issue on appeal concerned the imposition of sentence, which included both consecutive terms of probation and a permanently prohibition from engaging in any commercial activity involving animals. The appellate court affirmed the defendant's convictions but concluded that the trial court erred by ordering consecutive periods of probation in conjunction with concurrent sentences. However, the court found that  the trial court's permanent prohibition against her buying, selling, breeding, or engaging in any commercial activity involving animals  was authorized by the animal cruelty statute. As the court stated, "Given this proof and the court's findings, we cannot conclude that the trial court erred in ordering that the defendant be permanently barred from engaging in commercial activity with respect to dogs."

GREEN v. LECKINGTON 236 P.2d 335 (Or. 1951)

In this Oregon case, defendant appeals a judgment of $700 in damages obtained against him after he shot plaintiff’s dog. The dog had gone onto to defendant’s property and was chasing his chickens. On appeal, the Supreme Court found that because it was a general verdict, there was no way to determine a basis for the jury’s verdict; specifically, whether erroneous instructions on exemplary damages and the proper measure of damages influenced the verdict. Because the Court had the whole record before it (and in the interest of “harmony between neighbors”), the Court fixed the damages at the true market value of the dog ($250).

State v. Blatt 235 W. Va. 489 (2015) The Circuit Court of Wayne County ordered that Tinkerbell, a female pit bull terrier, be destroyed pursuant to West Virginia's vicious dog statute, after she injured a neighbor child who was playing in the dog’s yard. The circuit court's decision ordering that Tinkerbell be destroyed relied on a presumption that pit bull dog breeds are inherently vicious. Because extensive debate exists over whether scientific evidence and social concerns justify breed-specific presumptions, the court concluded that courts may not, upon judicial notice, rely solely upon a breed-specific presumption in ordering the destruction of a dog pursuant to West Virginia's vicious dog statute. The adoption of breed-specific presumptions with regard to this statute is the prerogative of the Legislature, not the judiciary, the court stated. In the absence of a breed-specific presumption, the court determined that neither the remaining findings of fact in the circuit court's destruction order nor the facts presented in the record provided satisfactory proof that Tinkerbell must be euthanized. Consequently, the court reversed the circuit court's destruction order.
Colucci v. Colucci 234 A.3d 1226 (Me. 2020) This Maine case is an appeal of a divorce proceeding where one party argues the court erred in awarding the parties' dogs to another. In 2017, Suan Colucci filed a complaint for divorce against her husband, Stephen Colucci. In 2019, the court entered a judgment granting the divorce and awarded both dogs “set aside to [Susan] as her exclusive property.” On appeal by Stephen, this court found that undisputed evidence established that "Louise" the dog was acquired five years before marriage, and thus, was nonmarital property. Because no evidence was presented to which of the parties actually acquired Louise in 2010, the judgment was vacated and remanded for further proceedings to determine ownership of Louise.
Sligar v. Odell 233 P.3d 914 (Wash.App. Div. 1, 2010)

In this Washington case, plaintiff Sligar was bitten on the finger by the Odells' dog after Sligar's finger protruded through a hole in the six-foot high chain link fence that separated their two properties. The court found the dispositive question was whether, pursuant to RCW 16.08.040 and .050 (a law that defines when entry onto the property of the dog owner is for a lawful purpose) Sligar's finger was “lawfully in or on ... the property of the” Odells at the time of the dog bite. The court found that the statute provides that consent may not be presumed where the property is fenced. Concerning the common law negligence claim, Sligar contends that the Odells were negligent in failing to protect her from harm because they failed to erect a solid fence on the property boundary until after the bite occurred. However, the court had previously found that it is not unreasonable to keep a dog in a fenced backyard where the dog has not shown any dangerous propensities.

Waters v. Powell 232 P.3d 1086 (Utah Ct. App., 2010)

In this Utah case, defendant Powell took his dog to a kennel managed by plaintiff Waters to be boarded for a few days. Waters took the dog to a play area to be introduced to the other dogs where the dog bit Waters. Waters filed a complaint against Powell alleging that he was strictly liable for the injury the dog inflicted. On interlocutory appeal, the Court of Appeals held that Waters was a "keeper" of the dog for purposes of the state's dog bite statute (sec. 18-1-1). Waters essentially conceded on appeal that if she is a keeper then she is precluded from asserting a strict liability claim against Powell. Thus, the district court's denial of summary judgment was reversed and the case remanded with instructions that Powell's summary judgment motion be granted.

Amons v. District of Columbia 231 F. Supp 2d. 109 (D.D.C. 2002)

Plaintiff filed a Section 1983 action against D.C. police officers alleging, inter alia , intentional infliction of emotional distress for the unprovoked shooting of his dog inside his home.  The court found that the officers lacked probable cause for the warrantless entry into his home to make the arrest, the arresting officer made "an egregiously unlawful arrest," and the officers were unreasonable in shooting plaintiff's dog without provocation.

People v. Lewis 23 Misc.3d 49, 881 N.Y.S.2d 586 (N.Y.Sup.App.Term,2009) Defendants were charged in separate informations with multiple counts of injuring animals and failure to provide adequate sustenance.   Plaintiff, the People of the State of New York, appealed the lower court’s decision to grant Defendants’ motion to suppress evidence obtained when a special agent of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals approached one of the defendants at his home upon an anonymous tip and inquired about the condition of the animals and asked the defendant to bring the animals outside for inspection, while the incident was videotaped by a film crew for a cable television show.   The Supreme Court, Appellate Term, 2nd and 11th, 13 Judicial Districts reversed the lower court’s decision, finding that Plaintiff met its burden of establishing that the defendant voluntarily consented to the search based on the fact that the defendant was not in custody or under arrest at the time of the search, was not threatened by the special agent, and there was no misrepresentation, deception or trickery on the special agent’s part.
Phillips v. San Luis Obispo County Dept. 228 Cal.Rptr. 101 Cal.App. (2 Dist.,1986)

In this case, the owners of dog petitioned for writ of mandamus requesting vacation of destruction order and declaration that ordinances under which the dog was seized were unconstitutional.  The Court of Appeal held that due process required that owners have hearing prior to seizure of or destruction of dog (a property interest) and that a "courtesy hearing" did not satisfy due process requirements.  Further, the court concluded that the ordinances here were unconstitutional for failing to provide for notice and a hearing either before or after the seizure of an uncontrollable biting or vicious dog. 

Volosen v. State 227 S.W.3d 77 (Tx.Crim.App. 2007)

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

Volosen v. State 227 S.W.3d 77 (Tex. Crim. App., 2007)

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

People v. Chenault 227 Cal. App. 4th 1503, review filed (Aug. 25, 2014) Darrell Chenault was convicted on 13 counts of lewd acts on a child under 14 years of age and sentenced to 75 years to life in prison. On appeal he contended that the trial court abused its discretion by allowing a support dog to be present during the testimony of two child witnesses without individualized showings of necessity, and that the presence of the dog was inherently prejudicial and violated his federal constitutional rights to a fair trial and to confront the witnesses against him. The appellate court concluded that a trial court has authority under Evidence Code section 765 to allow the presence of a therapy or support dog during a witness’s testimony.” The court did “not believe that the presence of a support dog is inherently more prejudicial than the presence of a support person,” citing the New York case of Tohom. Chinault argued that “individualized showings of necessity” should have been required for F. and C. before the support dog could be present in the courtroom. The appellate court concluded however that “a case-specific finding that an individual witness needs the presence of a support dog is not required by the federal Constitution,” for which Tohom was again cited. Based on the court's review of the record, the appellate court concluded that the trial court made implicit findings that the presence of Asta, the support dog, would assist or enable F. and C. to testify completely and truthfully without undue harassment or embarrassment. The court also took measures to reduce any possible prejudice to Chenault by setting forth logistics for the entry, positioning, and departure of the support dog, along with F. and C., during jury recesses so the dog was as unobtrusive and least disruptive as reasonably possible. The judgment was affirmed.
Katsaris v. Cook 225 Cal.Rptr. 531 (Cal.App. 1 Dist., 1986)

Plaintiff's neighbor, a livestock rancher, shot plaintiff's sheepdogs after they escaped and trespassed on his property.  As a matter of first impression, the court construed the California Food and Agricultural Code provision that allows one to kill a dog that enters an enclosed or unenclosed livestock confinement area with threat of civil or criminal penalty.  The court affirmed defendant's motion with regard to the code provision, finding it gave them a privilege to kill the trespassing dogs.  Further, the court found defendants owed no duty to plaintiff thereby denying the claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress as a result of negligence in supervising the ranchhand who killed the dogs.  With regard to the intentional infliction of emotional distress claim, plaintiffs cite the manner in which the dogs were killed and then dumped in a ditch and the fact defendant denied knowing the fate of the dogs.  Relying on the "extreme and outrageous conduct" test, the court held that the defendant's conduct did not fall within the statutory privilege and remanded the issue to the trial court for consideration. 

Milburn v. City of Lebanon 221 F. Supp. 3d 1217 (D. Or. 2016)

Plaintiff Milburn was acquitted of misdemeanor animal abuse on appeal, but a Lebanon police officer removed Milburns’ dog from her possession. While the appeal was pending, the Defendant, City of Lebanon, gave the dog to an animal shelter. The dog was later adopted by a new owner. The Linn County Circuit Court ordered the City to return the dog to Milburn after the acquittal but the Defendant City failed to comply. Milburn then brought this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981 and 1983 against the City of Lebanon. The City moved for dismissal for failure to state a claim, and the United States District Court, for the District of Oregon, granted that motion while giving leave for Milburn to amend her complaint. In the Amended Complaint, Milburn contended that the City’s refusal to return her dog pursuant to the state court order deprived her of property without due process of law, in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. Milburn also asserted a violation of her procedural due process rights. The United States District Court, for the District of Oregon, reasoned that while Milburn alleged a state-law property interest in her dog, she failed to allege that the Defendant City deprived her of that interest without adequate process. Milburn also did not allege state remedies to be inadequate. Those two omissions in combination were fatal to Miburn's procedural due process claim. Also, Milburn's assertion that the court issued an order and that the City did not comply with, is an attack on the result of the procedure. The court reasoned that attacking the result instead of the process of a procedure does not state a procedural due process claim. Milburn’s procedural due process claim was then dismissed. The Court also held that it did not have jurisdiction over Milburn’s injunctive relief claim. Therefore, Milburn's request for injunctive relief was dismissed with prejudice. However, the court held that Milburn could seek monetary damages. While Defendant City’s second motion to dismiss was granted, Milburn was granted leave to amend her complaint within 90 days with regard to her claim for actual and compensatory damages.

 

Brooks v. Jenkins 220 Md. App. 444, 104 A.3d 899 (Md. Ct. Spec. App., 2014) County deputies went to a home with a warrant to arrest a couple's son. While many facts in this case were in dispute, the undisputed result was that a deputy shot the family's chocolate Labrador retriever. While the couple left the house to take the dog to the vet, the deputies entered the house—contrary to the couple's express instructions— and arrested the son. The couple filed a complaint in the Circuit Court seeking damages, on a number of theories, for the wounding of the dog and the officers' alleged unlawful entry into their home. After a trial, the couple prevailed against the deputies and the jury awarded damages totaling $620,000 (reduced, after remittitur, to $607,500). The deputies appeal. The Maryland Court of Special Appeals held the issue of whether deputy acted with gross negligence in shooting dog was for the jury; CJ § 11–110 did not limit the couple's total recovery for the constitutional tort to the capped value of their pet's vet bills; the $200,000 jury award in non-economic damages to the couple on their constitutional tort claim was not excessive in light of the evidence; the deputies were entitled to immunity from the constitutional trespass claim; and the couple could not recover emotional damages on the common law trespass claim. The lower court's decision was therefore affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.
Zelman v. Cosentino 22 A.D.3d 486 (N.Y. 2005)

A repairman was knocked over by a dog while working on a telephone line in the neighbor's yard.  The repairman brought claims against the dog's owner under under theories of strict liability and negligence.  The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the dog's owner and the Court of Appeals affirmed.

State v. Nelson 219 P.3d 100 (Wash.App. Div. 3, 2009)

Defendants in this Washington case appeal their convictions of animal fighting and operating an unlicensed private kennel. They contend on appeal that the trial judge abused her discretion by allowing an expert from the Humane Society to render an opinion on whether the evidence showed that the defendants intended to engage in dogfighting exhibitions. The Court of Appeals held that the judge did not abuse her discretion in admitting the expert's opinion. The opinions offered by the expert were based on the evidence and the expert's years of experience. The court found that the expert's opinion was a fair summary and reflected the significance of the other evidence offered by the prosecution. Further, the expert's opinion was proffered to rebut defendants' contention that the circumstantial evidence (the veterinary drugs, training equipment, tattoos, etc.) showed only defendants' intent to enter the dogs in legal weight-pulling contests. Defendants convictions for animal fighting and operating an unlicensed private kennel were affirmed.

Commonwealth v. Russo 218 N.E.3d 116, review granted, 493 Mass. 1104, 223 N.E.3d 741 (2023) This is a case regarding an animal cruelty charge brought against defendant, the owner of an elderly, terminally ill dog. First, defendant’s family brought the fourteen-year-old dog to an animal hospital. The staff at the hospital examined the dog, which had a large mass on his side, and recommended that the dog have surgery to remove the mass. Defendant did not authorize the surgery, and instead took the dog home. Three weeks later, defendant brought the dog back to the animal hospital, where the staff noticed that his condition had worsened significantly. At this point, the veterinarian recommended humane euthanasia to end the dog’s suffering, but defendant declined and requested the surgery. The veterinarian declined, claiming the dog would not survive the surgery, and defendant took the dog home saying they would have another vet euthanize the dog. The veterinarian reported defendant to the Animal Rescue League of Boston, who conducted a welfare check on the dog and found it in very poor health. When the Animal Rescue League asked defendant to euthanize the dog or get him medical attention, defendant declined and insisted the dog would die at home. Defendants were charged with violating the animal cruelty statute, defendant’s motion to dismiss the complaint was granted, and this appeal followed. The question on appeal is whether defendant’s conduct in refusing to euthanize the dog constitutes animal cruelty under the statute. The Commonwealth argues that the animal cruelty statute covers the conduct of one who has charge of an animal but, rather than inflicting the harm directly, “authorizes or permits” the animal “to be subjected to” harm, and that keeping the dog in a state of suffering rather than euthanizing the dog fits this definition. However, after examining case law, the court could not find a case in which a person's failure to euthanize an animal was interpreted as “subjecting” an animal to harm, and did not want to extend the statute that far. The court affirmed the holding of the lower court.
Wells v. Brown 217 P.2d 995 (Cal.App.4.Dist. 1950)

In this California case, damages were assessed beyond the purchase price of a dog involved in a hit and run case where the defendant negligently ran over and killed a 15 month old pure-bred Waeimaraner. After the defendant ran over the dog, he shot the dog and buried it. The next morning he contacted the veterinarian listed on the collar, as well as the owner of the dog. The court upheld the jury verdict of $1,500 since the purchase price was determined to not reflect the market value at the time of the dog’s death.

Lundy v. California Realty 216 Cal.Rptr. 575 (Cal.App.4.Dist.)

The Court of Appeals held that an owner of a dog may be held liable for injuries inflicted by it on another person without any showing the dog had any especially dangerous propensities or that the owner knew of any such dangerous propensities. However, to impose liability on someone other than the owner, even a keeper, previous knowledge of the dog's vicious nature must appear. Aside from the rental agreement, the property owners knew nothing whatever about the dog. Thus, the facts before the trial court fell far short of creating a triable issue of fact as to defendant property owners' knowledge of any dangerous propensities on the part of the tenant's dog. "Neither do we believe judicial notice may be taken that all German shepherds are dangerous. Nor can defendants' knowledge of any dangerous propensity of the dog be inferred simply because they knew his name was Thunder."

People v. Flores 216 Cal. App. 4th 251, 156 Cal. Rptr. 3d 648 (Cal.App. 1 Dist.), review denied (Aug. 21, 2013)

Defendant Flores appeals his conviction under Penal Code section 399 for allowing a " mischievous animal" owned by him to cause serious injury to another person. In this case, defendant's pit bull dog, "Blue,"attacked defendant's almost 90-year old neighbor on his own property causing deep injuries to his leg. Blue had been previously involved in three other incidents where he either tried to attack other dogs or acted aggressively toward other humans. As a result of these incidents, Sonoma County officials issued defendant a issued a potentially dangerous animal warning. On appeal, defendant argued that there was insufficient evidence that he acted without ordinary care in keeping his dog and that the victim-neighbor did not suffer a serious injury as defined by statute. The court found both of these arguments without merit. While defendant suggested that he acted with "ordinary care" by keeping the dog tethered and chained outside on the day of the incident, the court found the evidence showed Blue had broken free in the past and had "massive strength." Further, even though the potentially dangerous dog designation by the county did not mandate that Blue be kept inside or in a secure enclosure, the ordinance language provides this requirement. Leaving a dog with a history of unprovoked attacks chained next to a public sidewalk in a residential neighborhood supported the jury's conclusion that defendant did not act as reasonably careful person would in the same situation. As to the serious bodily injury claim, the court noted that although the law does not define the term, there was substantial medical evidence to support the jury's determination. Affirmed.

Murga v. Yarusso 215 A.D.3d 979, 187 N.Y.S.3d 762 (2023) This New York case involved action to recover damages for personal injuries sustained after defendant's dog allegedly ran into street and pushed the plaintiff pedestrian to the ground. The plaintiff described the dog as acting like a "big puppy" and the dog did not bite the plaintiff. In contrast, the defendant testified that the dog was chasing a ball in the defendant's front yard and did not actually go in the street. Rather, defendant asserts that plaintiff tripped upon seeing the dog in the yard. The complaint alleged that the defendant was negligent in failing to keep the dog under control and to take protective measures knowing of the aggressive propensity of the dog. The Supreme Court, Suffolk County granted the defendant-owner's motion for summary judgment. On appeal by the plaintiff, the plaintiff also suggested that defendant might be liable for throwing the ball which caused the dog to run in the street and knock the plaintiff down. The Supreme Court, Appellate Division, held that the plaintiff cannot recover under such a theory, as New York does not recognize a common-law negligence cause of action to recover damages for an owner's alleged negligence in the handling of a dog. The summary judgment was affirmed as the court found the owner was not liable to pedestrian for injuries sustained.
People v. Minutolo 215 A.D.3d 1260, 188 N.Y.S.3d 297 (2023) Defendant appealed from a judgment convicting him of animal cruelty in violation of New York Agriculture and Markets Law § 353. The conviction stemmed from defendant's action in repeatedly striking one of his dogs out of "frustration" after the dog failed to come when called. On appeal, defendant called into question the authentication of surveillance video from a nearby gas station showing him striking the dog. The Supreme Court, Appellate Division found the portion of surveillance video showing defendant repeatedly striking one of his dogs was sufficiently authenticated. Further, other evidence established that he "cruelly beat" the dog by punching the dog with a closed fist three to five times. Finally, defendant's challenge to the penalty imposed under Agriculture and Markets Law § 374 (8)(c) (the possession ban provision) that prohibits defendant from owning or otherwise having custody of any other animals for 10 years was rejected by the court. The judgment was unanimously affirmed.
Moore v. Knower 214 So.3d 165 (La.App. 4 Cir., 2017) Bruce Moore and Amy Knower were in a relationship and decided to adopt a dog together. Bruce alleged that they both jointly adopted Abby, a Boston Terrier in 2010. The couple jointly shared expenses for the care and management of the dog. After the parties broke up, they agreed to an arrangement in which each party alternated possession of Abby every week. The parties continued this arrangement even during their brief reconciliation up until July of 2015 when Amy Knower refused to exchange the dog with Bruce Moore. Moore filed suit and the trial court found for him and awarded him the use and management of Abby. Knower alleged that she was the sole owner of Abby. Knower appealed, alleging five assignments of error: (1) the trial court erred in finding that she failed to support her claim of full ownership; (2) the trial court erred in finding that she co-owned Abby with Moore; (3) the trial court erred in failing to accept the testimony of Sheila Ford of the Mississippi Boston Terrier Rescue; (4) the trial court erred by stating that there was no basis in law for her to decide the custody of a dog and then doing just that; (5) the trial court erred by exercising jurisdiction over the matter. The Court determined that the trial court did in fact have jurisdiction over the matter. The Court did not find any errors in the trial court’s findings. It concluded that Abby was indeed co-owned by Moore and Knower and ultimately held that Knower had no right to unilaterally end the arrangement. Knower did not supply sufficient proof to support her claim of full ownership. Moore was awarded Abby and the right to solely determine use and management of the dog.
Larsen v. McDonald 212 N.W.2d 505 In this case twelve neighbors brought a private nuisance claim against another neighbor for keeping numerous dogs in a residential area. Mr. and Mrs. McDonald rescued unwanted dogs by keeping them on their property; Ms. McDonald provided food and shelter and attempted to place the animals in new adoptive homes. At the time of trial there were 40 dogs on the property. The neighbors had called the police and complained of frequent barking and the smell of urine. The McDonalds argue that they had priority of location over the defendants. When they moved to the neighborhood in 1952 it had been sparsely settled. However, over the years the neighborhood had become residential, and while many of the neighbors also had dogs, none of them exceeded three dogs. Ultimately the court held that for the McDonalds to be operating a shelter or kennel style facility was inconsistent with the character of the neighborhood, and after reviewing the testimony, the evidence in this case was sufficient to show a normal person would find the situation was a nuisance. The court upheld the lower court’s injunction to limit the number of dogs that the McDonalds could keep.
Dillon v. Ohio Dep't of Rehab. & Correction 211 N.E.3d 746 (Ohio App. 10 Dist., 2023) Plaintiff-Appellant, Anna Dillon, a certified “senior dog handler” through a rehabilitation program for inmates in Ohio, was attacked by a dog named Roosevelt, a German Shepherd/Husky mix owned by an Ohio Reformatory for Woman (ORW) corrections officer. Dillon had previously interacted with Roosevelt without incident on multiple occasions, but in March 2018, Roosevelt attacked her, causing 16 puncture wounds. On March 19, 2018, while attempting to put on Roosevelt's leash and collar, he displayed signs of anxiety and suddenly attacked Ms. Dillon, biting her multiple times. After the incident, Roosevelt was removed from the program. In August 2018, Ms. Dillon requested records pertaining to Roosevelt but was unable to obtain his handler folder. The dog’s handler folder included the dog’s training history, breed, eating habits, type of collar, preferences, personality, demeanor, and incidents of aggression, and was retained by the handler assigned to that dog. Ms. Dillon filed a civil action against ODRC in 2020, alleging negligence and spoliation of evidence. The trial court found in favor of ODRC in a decision issued in September 2021. Ms. Dillon appealed that decision, asserting several assignments of error. In her first and second assignments of error, Ms. Dillon argues that the trial court's findings in favor of ODRC on her negligence claim were against the manifest weight of the evidence. The court evaluated whether there was sufficient evidence to support the determination that Roosevelt was not a vicious dog prior to the incident. The court referred to Ohio's statutory definition of a vicious dog, which states that it is a dog that has killed or caused serious injury to a person without provocation. The court found that none of Roosevelt's previous behaviors, such as mouthing, baring teeth, or lunging, met the definition of serious injury as defined by the statute. The trial court concludes that Ms. Dillon failed to prove that Roosevelt met either standard before the incident. The court noted that no evidence or testimony showed that Roosevelt had attacked or seriously injured anyone before March 2018 and Ms. Dillon's reliance on the case of Pickett, which dealt with a traditional negligence claim - a claim that she had abandoned in this case - was not relevant. In her second assignment of error, Ms. Dillon challenged the trial court's finding regarding the negligent keeping of Roosevelt, but since the first assignment of error has been resolved, the second assignment is also overruled. The trial court did not make any findings regarding ODRC's knowledge or negligent keeping of Roosevelt because it found him not to be a vicious dog. As to the spoliation of evidence claim, Ms. Dillon alleged that the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (ODRC) willfully destroyed evidence, specifically the handler folder of a dog named Roosevelt, to disrupt her case. The court outlined the elements of intentional spoliation of evidence, which include pending litigation, knowledge of litigation by the defendant, willful destruction of evidence, disruption of the plaintiff's case, and damages caused by the defendant's actions. The court found that Ms. Dillon failed to prove the willful destruction of the handler folder or that her case was disrupted by its disposal. It was determined that the inmate-secretaries involved in the program managed the handler folders, and there was no evidence that ODRC employees reviewed or accessed them. A failure to follow records retention schedules is separate from a spoliation claim. The court concluded that the plaintiff did not provide evidence to support her claim of willful destruction or disruption of her case and that the trial court's findings were supported by credible evidence. The judgment was affirmed.
Bess v. Bracken County Fiscal Court 210 S.W.3d 177 (Ky.App.,2006)

The primary issue in this Kentucky case is whether a Bracken County ordinance which bans the possession of pit bull terriers is inconsistent with the state law that addresses dangerous dogs. The lower court denied the plaintiff's motion and dismissed the complaint. On appeal, the Court of Appeals held that the ban of breed was a legitimate exercise of police power and did not deny dog owners procedural due process. Further, the ordinance did not infringe on constitutional right to travel because traveling with a pet is not a fundamental right and the ordinance does not treat residents and non-residents differently.

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