Animal Welfare Act: Related Cases

Case name Citationsort ascending Summary
Redcliffe, St Mary the Virgin (Petition) [2020] ECC Bri 1 Finding that a 'non-lethal' electric shock pest control system set up to deter pigeons in a church may cause suffering, but the suffering is not unnecessary suffering under s4 of the Animal Welfare Act 2006. It was held that the conduct could not be reasonably avoided in the particular circumstances of the case, including damage caused to a grade I listed church, the chance of distress caused by the fouling of the birds, and that other pest control methods had failed. "Any suffering caused would be for a legitimate purpose ... that is the protection of property. ...the suffering is proportionate to preserve the building and to avoid distress to staff, visitors to the church and members of the congregation."
R v. Woodward [2017] EWHC 1008 (Admin) A group of abattoir slaughter-men were charged with causing unnecessary suffering to a number of sheep under Section 4(1) the Animal Welfare Act 2006. The abattoir owners were charged with failing to prevent the acts by their employees which caused the animals to suffer contrary to Section 4(2) of the Animal Welfare Act 2006. The charges followed undercover footage obtained by Animal Aid, which was then passed onto the Food Standards Agency, and the Crown Prosecution Service. In this case, the Crown brought an appeal against the district judge’s decision to dismiss the prosecution on the grounds that the sixth-month time limit under the 2006 Act had expired. The appeal was allowed.
RSPCA v. McCormick [2016] EWHC 928 (Admin) It was held that for an animal fight to have taken place, contrary to Section 8 of the Animal Welfare Act, the following must have occurred: a "protected animal" must have been placed with another animal in an environment where the ability of both to escape is restricted and controlled by some person or persons connected with that activity or by some artificial restraint. ‘Placed with’ is to be construed as a ‘matter of normal language.’
Gray v. RSPCA [2013] EWHC 500 (Admin) Mr Gray appealed against the police seizure of 115 horses from his horse trading premises, pursuant to section 18 of the Animal Welfare Act 2006. Gray had been convicted of numerous counts of cruelty, specifically under sections 4 and 9 of the Animal Welfare Act 2006. Mr Gray argued that an offence under sections 4 and 9 required either actual knowledge or a form of constructive knowledge that the animal was showing signs of unnecessary suffering, and that negligence was not sufficient. It was held that the plain effect of section 4(1) of the Act is to impose criminal liability for unnecessary suffering caused to an animal either by an act or omission which the person responsible knew would, or was likely to, cause unnecessary suffering, or by a negligent act or omission. Further, it was held that section 9(1) of the Act sets a purely objective standard of care which a person responsible for an animal is required to provide.
Ward v RSPCA [2010] EWHC 347 (Admin) RSPCA inspectors attended Mr Ward’s smallholding to find two horses in a severely distressed condition, with a worm infestation. Veterinarian advice had not been sought following failed attempts to home treat. The farmer was convicted of unnecessary suffering pursuant to section 4 of the Animal Welfare Act 2006, and disqualified from owning, keeping, participating in the keeping of, or controlling or influencing the way horses or cattle are kept for a three year period, pursuant to section 34 of the Animal Welfare Act 2006. The defendant brought an appeal to the Crown Court and the High Court in respect of the disqualification. The High Court dismissed the appeal and held that the Animal Welfare Act 2006 was intended to promote the welfare of animals and part of the mechanism of protection is the order of disqualification following convictions for offences under the Act.
Kollman v. Vilsack Slip Copy, No. 8:14-CV-1123-T-23TGW, 2016 WL 4702426 (M.D. Fla. Sept. 8, 2016)

The Animal Welfare Act (AWA) (7 U.S.C. §§ 2131–2159) regulates the housing, sale, transport, treatment, and exhibition of animals. Defendants, United States Secretary of Agriculture, licensed Plaintiff, Lancelot Kollman, as an exhibitor under the AWA. However, after the death of two lions and Kollman’s failure to contest charges, the Secretary revoked Kollman's license. Still, Hawthorn, a company that holds an exhibitor license, hired Kollman to train a “tiger act” for performance at circuses throughout the United States. Hawthorn then asked Kollman to travel with the tigers and perform the act. However, the USDA received complaints about Kollman's participation in the act, despite having his license revoked. The USDA investigated and determined that Kollman was prohibited from exhibiting animals as an employee of Hawthorn. Kollman, sued Thomas J. Vilsack, the United States Secretary of Agriculture, and Chester A. Gipson, a deputy administrator of animal care.  Kollman sued for a declaration that, at a circus maintained by his employer, Hawthorn Corporation, he could publicly perform the tiger act. The Defendants moved for summary judgment.  The United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Tampa Division, held that the Defendants' motion for summary judgment was Granted. The court reasoned that Kollman was barred from presenting animals on behalf of Hawthorn because regardless of his status as a Hawthorn employee, Section 2.10(c) of the Animal Welfare Act clearly prohibited Kollman, as an individual with a revoked license, from exhibiting an animal. Secondly, Section 2.10(c) was unambiguous.

People for Ethical Treatment of Animals, Inc. v. Wildlife in Need & Wildlife in Deed, Inc. Slip Copy, 2018 WL 828461 (S.D. Ind. Feb. 12, 2018) In this case, the Plaintiff (PETA) filed a complaint for injunctive relief against the Defendants (WIN) alleging violations of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) relating to the declawing of the Defendants' captive Big Cats (lions, tigers, and hybrids). WIN operates as a AWA-USDA licensed wildlife exhibitor and charges the public a fee to directly interact with the Big Cat Cubs. Notably, the court indicates that WIN has been cited for more than 50 times for failing to meet minimum standards under the AWA. Defendants "routinely" declaw the Big Cats, not out of medical necessity, but because it "makes them easier to handle." Testimony showed that two Big Cat Cubs died as the result of complications from declawing and Defendants do not provide post-surgical pain medication or antibiotics. In October of 2017, the court issued a temporary restraining order preventing Defendants from declawing, and, the following December, Plaintiffs filed the present Motion for Preliminary Injunction. The court held a hearing in January 2018 in which the court heard evidence and arguments. In reviewing the factors supporting issuance of a preliminary injunction, the court found there was a likelihood of success in proving the declawing and baby cat "play" time constituted takings under the ESA. In addition, there were no adequate remedies available at law and the court held irreparable harm would result from the declaws. Thus, the court GRANTED Plaintiff’s motion for preliminary injunction.
Missouri Primate Foundation v. People for Ethical Treatment of Animals, Inc. Slip Copy, 2018 WL 1420239 (E.D. Mo. Mar. 22, 2018) This matter is a motion of counterclaim by defendants Missouri Primate Foundation to dismiss PETA's (the counterclaim plaintiff) assertion that two chimpanzees were being held in conditions that deprived the chimpanzees of adequate social groups, space, and psychological stimulation, putting them at risk of and causing physical and psychological injury, such as deteriorated cardiovascular and musculoskeletal health, stress, anxiety and depression. PETA also alleges that the chimpanzees were denied a sanitary environment, proper ventilation, a healthy diet, and adequate veterinary care. PETA claimed that the Missouri Primate Foundation (MPF) (the counterclaim defendants) were holding the two chimpanzees in conditions that “harm” and “harass” the chimpanzees, thus violating the “take” prohibition of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). MPF's motion contends that PETA’s counterclaim is based on allegations that they failed to comply with the Animal Welfare Act, not the ESA. MPF further contends that because the chimpanzees at its facility were lawfully in captivity and under the auspices of the AWA as administered by the USDA–APHIS, so the chimpanzees cannot be subject to a “take” under the ESA. They further argued that PETA lacked standing as the AWA preempts or supersedes the ESA as to animals held at USDA licensed facilities. Because the AWA does not allow citizen suits, MPF argued, the case must be dismissed. After examining similar cases, this court concluded that claims under the AWA and ESA are complementary and do not conflict, and that the ESA protects captive animals regardless of whether the alleged violator is an AWA licensed entity. The court found that the allegations by PETA are sufficient at this stage of the case and issues of proof are reserved for trial. As such, the court denied the motions of the counterclaim defendants.
Animal Legal Defense Fund, Inc. v. Thomas J. Vilsack Slip Copy, 2017 WL 627379 (D.D.C., 2017)

In this case, the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) sought to intervene on a proceeding dealing with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and a family owned-zoo in Iowa for alleged violations of the Animal Welfare Act. The USDA was seeking enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act against the Iowa zoo and the ALDF sought to intervene because it has long criticized the zoo's care and handling of its animals. The ALDF was prevented from intervening by the administrative law judge (ALJ) that was presiding over the matter. The ALJ did not allow the ALDF to intervene in the matter on the basis that the “ALDF’s stated interests were beyond the scope of the proceeding.” The ALDF filed suit challenging this decision according to Section 555(b) of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), which allows “interested persons” to participate in agency proceedings “so far as the orderly conduct of the public business permits.” The court found that the ALDF should have been allowed to intervene in the proceeding according to 555(b) because the ALDF’s "demonstrated interest in the welfare of the zoo's animals falls squarely within the scope of the USDA enforcement proceeding.” The court also found that there was no evidence to suggest that having ALDF intervene would "impede the orderly conduct of the public business permits.” As a result, the court held in favor of the ALDF’s motion for summary judgment and remanded the case back the case back to USDA for further consideration of ALDF's motion to Intervene. 

U.S. v. Felts (unpublished) Slip Copy, 2012 WL 124390 (N.D.Iowa)

Defendant kennel operator was found to violate the AWA on multiple occasions when inspected by APHIS representatives. From 2005 to 2009, defendant repeatedly failed inspections where APHIS found that he provided inadequate veterinary care, did not maintain complete records on the dogs, and did not properly maintain the housing facilities for the dogs. The Administrator of APHIS filed and served on Defendant an administrative complaint for violations. Defendant never filed an answer, and so a Default Decision and Order was entered against Defendant. The Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment was granted in part because Defendant failed to file an answer to the administrative complaint, and so was deemed to have admitted the allegations in the complaint.

Pearson v. U.S. Dept. of Agriculture Slip Copy, 2011 WL 559083 (C.A.6,2011)

Petitioner seeks review of the decision and order of the Secretary of the USDA, terminating his license to own and exhibit wild animals (82 lions, tigers, and bears), issuing a cease and desist order, and imposing civil sanctions in the amount of $93,975 in violation of the AWA. In 2006, inspection showed 280 incidents of non-compliance. On appeal, the Sixth Circuit first held that there was no abuse of discretion in failing to grant the continuance after a fire at Petitioner's home because he is unable to resulting establish prejudice. Further, the Court discounted Petitioner's challenge that the revocation of his license was not supported where the court found the evidence "substantial, perhaps overwhelming." 

R (on the application of Patterson) v. RSPCA EWHC 4531 The defendants had been convicted of a number of counts of animal cruelty in 2011, to include unnecessary suffering pursuant to Section 4, and participation in a blood sport under Section 8 of the Animal Welfare Act 2006. Mr Patterson was found to have breached an attached disqualification order under Section 34 of the Animal Welfare Act 2006, on which this appeal is based. The order covered all types of animals for a period of five years. This prohibited him from owning, keeping, participating in the keeping of, or being a party to an arrangement under which he would be entitled to control or influence the way in which animals are kept. A number of animals were found and seized at the home. The appeal was allowed on the basis that Mr Patterson was not entitled to control or influence the way in which the animals were kept by his wife on the facts.
James v. RSPCA EWHC 1642 Defendant was charged with unnecessary suffering towards three horses found in terrible conditions. It was held that where a protected animal is found in distress, a veterinarian's certificate need not be in writing for a constable or inspector to exercise powers under Section 18 of the Animal Welfare Act 2006 (namely seizure and detention). Oral certification of suffering will suffice in certain circumstances, for example where the protected animal requires urgent treatment and there is not sufficient time to produce a written certificate.
Hernandez-Gotay v. United States 985 F.3d 71 (1st Cir. Jan. 14, 2021) Plaintiffs filed suit to enjoin the enforcement and challenge the constitutionality of Section 12616 of the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (“Section 12616”), which bans the “sponsor[ship]” and “exhibit[ion]” of cockfighting matches in Puerto Rico. The district court upheld Section 12616 as a valid exercise of Congress's Commerce Clause power. On appeal here, the court first determined whether the plaintiffs had sufficient standing to challenge the law. It concluded that plaintiff Ángel Manuel Ortiz-Díaz, the owner of two cockfighting venues and a breeder and owner of more than 200 gamecocks, has standing to challenge Section 12616. Ortiz faces a credible threat of prosecution under Section 12616 because he regularly sponsors and exhibits cockfighting matches. Finding standing, the court considered plaintiffs' claim that Congress exceeded its authority under the Commerce Clause in enacting Section 12616. The court found that cockfighting is an activity that substantially affects interstate commerce and Congress passing Section 12616 was a legitimate exercise of Commerce Clause power. Finally, plaintiffs contend that Section 12616 infringes on their First Amendment freedoms of speech and association. In rejecting this argument, the court held that plaintiffs failed to identify the necessary "expressive element" in cockfighting activities that would render it subject to First Amendment protections and, even if they made such a showing, Section 12616 is a permissible restraint on such speech. Finally, nothing in Section 12616 infringes on the associational right to assemble since it does not prevent individuals from gathering to express their views on cockfighting. The judgment of the district court was affirmed.
Hawthorn Corp. v. U.S. 98 F.Supp.3d 1226 (M.D. Fla., 2015) Plaintiff's complaint was based on government employees’ duty to exercise reasonable care in the execution of their official duties. Government moved to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The district court found the action was barred by three exceptions to the Federal Torts Claims Act: the misrepresentation exception, the discretionary exception, and the interference with contracts exception. Government motion was granted.
Am. Anti-Vivisection Soc'y et. al. v. USDA et. al. 946 F.3d 615 (D.C. Cir. 2020) Congress passed the Animal Welfare Act (“AWA”) in 1966 to insure that animals intended for use in research facilities, for exhibition purposes, or for use as pets were provided humane care and treatment. Initially the definition of the word “animal” excluded birds according to the USDA. In 2002, Congress amended the AWA to make it known that birds were to be protected as well. The USDA promised to publish a proposed rule for public comment once it determined how to best regulate birds and adopt appropriate standards. Eighteen years later, the USDA has yet to issue any standards regarding birds. The American Anti-Vivisection Society and the Avian Welfare Coalition sued to compel the USDA to either issue bird-specific standards or to apply its general standards to birds. These animal-rights groups argued that the USDA’s utter failure to promulgate any bird specific standards amounted to arbitrary and capricious agency action. Their second argument was that USDA unlawfully withheld and unreasonably delayed action. The district court dismissed their complaint for failure to state a claim to which the animal-rights groups appealed. The Court of Appeals found that the AWA, when it was amended in 2002, required the USDA to issue standards governing the humane treatment, not of animals generally, but of animals as a defined category of creatures including birds not bred for use in research. The USDA failed to take “discrete action” issuing standards to protect birds that the AWA requires it to take. The Court ultimately affirmed the district court as to the arbitrary and capricious claim but reversed and remanded as to the unreasonable delay claim to determine whether the issuance of bird-specific standards has been unreasonably delayed.
Cox v. U.S. Dept. of Agriculture 925 F.2d 1102 (8th Cir. 1991)

USDA had suspended a kennel owner’s license for 90 days and imposed a fine on the owner for violating AWA regulations.   These violations included delivering dogs for transportation in commerce, that were under eight weeks old, failing to hold dogs for at least five days after acquiring them, and refusing APHIS inspections.   Owner claimed that such sanctions were excessive.   However, the court found that there was willful violation of the AWA, since inspections were refused.   Also, ignorance is not considered a defense, and although the owners claimed they did not know the age of the eight-week old puppies, they could have found out.   Thus, the sanction was appropriate.

Citizens for Alternatives to Animal Labs, Inc. v. Board of Trustees of State University of New York 92 NY2d 357 (NY, 1998)

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

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals v. United States Dep't of Agric. & Animal & Plant Health Inspection Serv. 918 F.3d 151 (D.C. Cir. Mar. 15, 2019) The plaintiffs, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, sought documents from the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (“APHIS”), the entity within the United States Department of Agriculture (“USDA”) that administers the Animal Welfare Act (“AWA”). The USDA took a large amount of documents off of its website relating to AWA compliance. The USDA claimed that the removal was for the purpose of removing certain personal information and although they did not say that the removal was temporary, the agency described the removal as provisional which suggests that it is temporary in nature. The plaintiffs filed suit asking for declaratory and injunctive relief and invoking a provision known as FOIA’s reading room provision (5 U.S.C. section 552(a)(2)). The provision requires that agencies make available for public inspection in an electronic format five categories of documents. The plaintiffs allege that the agency removed (1) research facility annual reports; (2) inspection reports; (3) lists of entities licensed under the AWA; and (4) regulatory correspondence and enforcement records that had not yet received final adjudication. Category 4 and the portion of category 2 consisting of animal inventories were dismissed and not discussed in this case. Categories 1-3 appeared to be reposted by the agency which is why the district court dismissed them as moot. The appeal centers on the reposted records and the dismissal of the plaintiff’s claims by the district court. Ultimately the Court held that for the reposted records featuring new redactions, the complaint was most plausibly read as requesting that USDA repost all information that those records contained before their takedown. The Court stated that the district court should proceed to the merits on remand. As to “voluntary cessation,” the Court affirmed the mootness dismissal as to the research reports but remanded for further explanation as to the inspection reports and the entity lists. If the agency unambiguously commits to continued posting of those documents, plaintiffs' claims should be dismissed as moot, without discovery, even if USDA continues to regard its postings as voluntary.
Daul v. Meckus 897 F. Supp 606 (D.C. 1995)

Plaintiff, proceeding pro se, has brought this Bivens action seeking to hold government agents liable in their individual capacities for alleged constitutional violations under the AWA. Plaintiff lost his Class A license of a dealer under the AWA, due to failure to submit the required license fee and annual report.  The court held that, even construing plaintiff's allegations in the light most favorable to him, Mr. Daul appears merely to allege without proof that each of these defendants exceeded the scope of his authority.  Thus, plaintiff's conclusory allegations failed to show that any defendant violated any clearly established constitutional or statutory right.  The named defendants from the USDA were also granted both absolute and qualified immunity in the decision.

Jurewicz v. U.S. Dept. of Agriculture 891 F.Supp.2d 147 (D.D.C, 2012)

Using the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), the United States Humane Society requested that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) disclose a certain Animal Welfare Act form. Arguing that two FOIA exemptions prevented the USDA from releasing certain information on this form (the number of dogs that they buy and sell each year and their annual revenue from dog sales), three Missouri dog breeders and dealers sought to prevent this information’s disclosure. After finding that the public interests in disclosing the information outweighed the privacy concerns for the breeders, the district court granted the USDA's and the U.S. Humane Society's motion for summary judgment.    

N.Y. Pet Welfare Ass'n, Inc. v. City of N.Y. 850 F.3d 79 (2d Cir. 2017)

In 2015, New York City enacted a group of laws aimed at dealing with problems associated with the companion animal business in the city by regulating the sale of dogs and cats in pet shops. On the day the laws were to go into effect, the New York Pet Welfare Association (NYPWA) filed suit challenging two of the laws. The first law, the “Sourcing Law,” required that pet shops sell only animals acquired from breeders holding a Class A license issued under the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA). The second law law, the “Spay/Neuter Law,” required that pet shops sterilize each animal before releasing it to a consumer. NYPWA argued that the Sourcing Law violated the “dormant” Commerce Clause and is preempted by the AWA, and that the Spay/Neuter Law is preempted by New York law. The district court dismissed NYPWA’s complaint and the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the district court’s decision. First, the 2nd Circuit determined that the Sourcing Law did not violate the Commerce Clause because it did not discriminate against interstate commerce. The 2nd Circuit found that the Sourcing Law may make it difficult for certain out of state breeders to sell to city shops, but so long as breeders from other states are allowed to sell in the city, then it is not considered to be discriminatory. Also, the 2nd Circuit found that NYPWA was unable to show that any incidental burden that the Sourcing Law placed on out of state breeders was excessive and therefore the law passed under the Pike Balancing test. Lastly, the 2nd Circuit determined that the Spay/Neuter Law was not preempted by New York Law because NYPWA failed to identify a single New York statute or case that suggests that the new law would be preempted in any way. As a result, the 2nd Circuit affirmed the district court’s ruling.

Big Cats of Serenity Springs, Inc. v. Rhodes 842 F.3d 1280 (D.C. Cir. 2016)

Plaintiff, Big Cats of Serenity Springs is a Colorado-based non-profit that provides housing, food, and veterinary care for exotic animals. The facility is regulated by the Defendant, United States Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). Three APHIS inspectors accompanied by sheriff's deputies broke into the Big Cats facility to perform an unannounced inspection of two tiger cubs. But at the time the inspectors entered the facility, the cubs were at a veterinarian's office receiving treatment. Big Cats sued the APHIS inspectors for the unauthorized entry and asserted that the entry was an illegal search under the Fourth Amendment and sought declaratory judgment and compensatory and punitive damages. The United States District Court for the District of Colorado,  granted APHIS's motion to dismiss in part and denied in part. APHIS appealed. The Court of Appeals, held that: (1) Big Cats could assert a Bivens claim; (2) Big Cats adequately alleged that the inspectors violated their Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures; and (3) Big Cats had clearly-established the constitutional right to be free of unreasonable searches or seizures, thus weighing against the inspectors' claim of qualified immunity; but (4) the inspectors did not act under the color of state law, as required for § 1983 liability. The Court of Appeals reasoned that Big Cats' complaint stated a claim for relief under Bivens because No APHIS inspector would reasonably have believed unauthorized forcible entry of the Big Cats facility was permissible. Also, the Court reasoned that when the agents cut the locks to conduct a non-emergency inspection without a warrant, the federal officials did not act under color of state law, and the district court erred in denying the government's motion to dismiss the § 1983 claim. Therefore, the Court of Appeals affirmed the district court's order denying the government's motion to dismiss the Bivens claim and reversed the trial court's order denying the government's motion to dismiss the § 1983 claim.

Luethans v. Washington University 838 S.W.2d 117 (Mo.App. E.D. 1992) Plaintiff, a licensed veterinarian, appeals from the circuit court's order dismissing his case in a wrongful discharge case. Plaintiff contends that as an at-will employee he stated a cause of action for wrongful discharge under Missouri's public policy exception to the employment at-will doctrine. Specifically, he pleaded that he was retaliated against and discharged because he performed a regulatory protected activity, i.e., reporting violations of the Animal Welfare Act, 7 U.S.C. § 2143. The court agreed and reversed and remanded.
Hoctor v. Dept of Agriculture 82 F.3d 165 (7th Cir. 1996)

A dealer raised exotic animals (mainly big cats), and USDA ordered that the dangerous ones be fenced, with fencing being a minimum of eight-feet high.   However, the animal housing standard only required that the fencing be sturdy enough to prevent the animals from escaping.   The eight-foot rule established by USDA was considered arbitrary, and it did not have to be followed.    

Eckhart v. Department of Agriculture 8 A.3d 401(Pa. Commw. Ct., 2010)

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.

Animal Protection Institute of America v. Mosbacher 799 F.Supp 173 (D.C. 1992)

Wildlife protection organizations, including the API, brought action against Secretary of Commerce to challenge permits for importing false killer whales and belugas for public display. Zoo association and aquarium seeking the whales intervened.  The District Court the whale watchers had standing and the permits were not abuse of discretion.

IPPL v. Institute for Behavioral Research, Inc. 799 F.2d 934 (1986)

Private individuals and organizations brought action seeking to be named guardians of medical research animals seized from organization whose chief was convicted of state animal cruelty statute violations. The United States District Court for the District of Maryland, John R. Hargrove, J., dismissed action, and individuals and organizations appealed. The Court of Appeals, Wilkinson, Circuit Judge, held that: (1) individuals and organizations lacked standing to bring action, and (2) Animal Welfare Act did not confer private cause of action. Case discussed in topic: US Animal Welfare Act.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals v. U.S. Dept. of Agriculture 797 F.3d 1087 (D.C. Cir., 2015) Ten years after the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) took steps to apply Animal Welfare Act (AWA) protections to birds, the task remained incomplete. The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) sued the USDA, arguing that its inaction amounted to agency action “unlawfully withheld,” in violation of section 706(1) of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). The District Court granted the USDA's motion to dismiss, concluding that the USDA's enforcement decisions were committed by law to its discretion. On appeal, the court found PETA had standing, but had failed to plausibly allege that the USDA's decade-long inaction constituted agency action “unlawfully withheld” in violation of the APA. The United States Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit, therefore affirmed the District Court's judgment of dismissal. For the District Court's opinion, see People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals v. U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, 60 F.Supp.3d 14 (D.D.C. 2014).
Knapp v. U.S. Dept. of Agriculture 796 F.3d 445 (5th Cir. 2015) The United States Secretary of Agriculture (“Secretary”) fined Petitioner $395,900 after finding that he bought and sold regulated animals without a license, in violation of the Animal Welfare Act (“AWA”) and implementing regulations. In his petition for review, Petitioner argued that his activities were lawful, and that the Secretary abused its discretion in its choice of sanction. The petition was granted and denied in part.
Woudenberg v. U.S. Dept. of Agriculture 794 F.3d 595 (6th Cir., 2015) According to Department of Agriculture regulations promulgated under the federal Animal Welfare Act (with certain exceptions not applicable here), persons who were in the business of buying and selling dogs and cats (i.e. class B dealers) may not obtain dogs or cats from an individual donor “who did not breed and raise them on his or her premises.” Another provision required a dealer in such a case to “obtain [ ] a certification that the animals were born and raised on that person's premises.” The question in this case was whether there was a violation when the dealer obtained the required certification, but the certification was false. The regulatory language was clear that a dealer violated the law by obtaining a dog or cat from an individual donor who did not breed or raise it on the donor's premises and it was still a violation even when the dealer in good faith obtained certifications that the animals had been so bred and raised. The certification requirement was an enforcement mechanism for the prohibition, not an exception. The Department of Agriculture therefore properly entered a cease-and-desist order against the petitioner.
Animal Legal Defense Fund v. U.S. Dept. of Agriculture 789 F.3d 1206 (11th Cir. 2015) Animal Advocacy Organizations argued the district court erred in ruling United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)'s decision to renew an exhibitor’s license did not violate the Animal Welfare Act (AWA). According to the organizations, the USDA may not renew a license when USDA knows an exhibitor is noncompliant with any animal welfare standards on the anniversary of the day USDA originally issued the license. The 11th Circuit, however, found it had subject matter jurisdiction to review the organizations' challenge to the renewal under the Administrative Procedure Act, and that the USDA's interpretation—which did not condition renewal on compliance with animal welfare standards on the anniversary of the license issuance date—was a reasonable one. The district court’s decision was therefore affirmed.
In Defense of Animals v. Cleveland Metroparks Zoo 785 F.Supp. 100 (N.D. Ohio, 1991)

This case involves a challenge by several organizations to the proposed move of Timmy, a lowland gorilla, from the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo to the Bronx Zoo in New York for the purposes of mating Timmy with female gorillas at the Bronx Zoo. Plaintiffs filed this lawsuit on October 25, 1991, in the Court of Common Pleas of Cuyahoga County, and moved for a temporary restraining order.  The District Court held that the claim was preempted under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) and that plaintiffs failed to state a claim under the ESA.  Further, the court held that plaintiffs had no private cause of action under the AWA. 

Salzer v. King Kong Zoo 773 S.E.2d 548 (N.C. Ct. App. July 7, 2015) The Plaintiffs appeal from an order granting dismissal of their complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. In 2014, Plaintiffs filed a civil suit under North Carolina's anti-cruelty "citizen suit" provision, N.C. Gen.Stat. § 19A–1, against King Kong Zoo. Plaintiffs contended that the zoo kept animals in "grossly substandard" conditions. King Kong Zoo is an Animal Welfare Act (“AWA”) licensed exhibitor of wild and domestic animals. The district court granted Defendants' motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, finding that the applicable law here is the AWA and “N.C. Gen.Stat. § 19A–1 ... has no application to licensed zoo operations.” On appeal, this Court found in a matter of first impression that the AWA does not expressly preempt claims under N.C. Gen.Stat. § 19A. Instead, the AWA "empowers Section 19A to work in conjunction with the AWA." The Court also found no conflict of law that would preclude bringing the action. The matter was reversed and remanded to the Cherokee County District Court for determination consistent with this opinion.
Associated Dog Clubs of New YorkState, Inc. v. Vilsack 75 F.Supp.3d 83(D.D.C. 2014) With the increase of sales over the Internet, the Department of Agriculture, through the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (“APHIS”), issued a new rule that redefined “retail pet store” to include online pet stores. Several breeders argued that the agency exceeded its statutory authority in issuing the new rule. The Secretary for the Department of Agriculture moved for summary judgment. Since APHIS acted within its authority in promulgating the rule and otherwise complied with the requirements of the Administrative Procedures Act, the Court granted summary judgment for the agency.
Robinson v. U.S. 718 F.2d 336 (10th Cir. 1983)

Richard "Dick" Robinson was charged by the Department of Agriculture with violating the Animal Welfare Act for transporting a wolf from Utah to California for exhibition on television without a license. Robinson exhibited the wolf on several television programs to promote his most recent book about his exploits as an animal trainer and producer of animal films. Respondent once held a valid exhibitor's license under the AWA, but the license was revoked in 1979 when Robinson failed to comply with the terms of a consent decision requiring him to install more adequate plywood cover for his bear cages. After a hearing, the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) for the Department of Agriculture issued a cease and desist order to prevent Robinson from further illegally transporting and exhibiting his animals and assessed a $500 civil penalty against him. The Judicial Officer of the Department of Agriculture affirmed the order of the ALJ on appeal. The 10th Circuit affirmed the ALJ's conclusion that a cease and desist order by itself was insufficient and that a $500 penalty was necessary to impress Robinson with the need to comply with the Act's requirements in the future.

907 Whitehead Street, Inc. v. Secretary of U.S. Dept. of Agriculture 701 F.3d 1345 (C.A.11 (Fla.))

The appellant in this case, the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum in Key West, Florida ("Museum"), appeals the lower court's determination that it is an animal exhibitor for purposes of the Animal Welfare Act ("AWA"). Appellant contends that while admission is charged for the Museum, it does not exhibit the Hemingway cats to the public for compensation; thus, the cats are not distributed through interstate commerce. The court, however, found that since the AWA itself is ambiguous on the question of whether "distribution" includes the fixed-site commercial display of animals, the USDA's broader interpretation of "distribution" and "exhibitor" are entitled to legal deference. While the court sympathized with the museum's frustrations, it affirmed the district court's findings of law and held that Museum is an AWA animal exhibitor subject to USDA regulation

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Inc. v. United States Department of Agriculture 7 F. Supp. 3d 1 (D.D.C. 2013) reconsideration denied sub nom. People for Ethical Treatment of Animals, Inc. v. United States Dep't of Agric., 60 F. Supp. 3d 14 (D.D.C. 2014)

The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) brought a suit against the USDA for failing to enforce the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) against bird abusers and for not promulgating regulations specific to the mistreatment of avians. While the district court found PETA had standing, it granted the USDA’s motion to dismiss because the AWA's enforcement provision strongly suggested that its implementation was committed to agency discretion by law and because section 2143 of the AWA did not require the USDA to issue avian-specific animal-welfare standards. For a reconsideration of this case, see People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals v. U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, 60 F.Supp.3d 14 (D.D.C. 2014).

U.S. v. Lawson 677 F.3d 629 (4th Cir., 2012) Defendants appealed their conviction of violating, and conspiring to violate, the animal fighting prohibition of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA). The Court of Appeals granted a new trial, but held, in part, that the AWA is a constitutional exercise of Congress' power under the Commerce Clause, and that the provision of different elements of the crime in jurisdictions permitting animal fighting does not violate equal protection rights under the Fifth Amendment. 
U.S. v. Gibert 677 F.3d 613 (4th Cir. 2012) The primary question in this appeal was whether Congress exceeded its power under the Commerce Clause in enacting a criminal prohibition against animal fighting. Defendants were indicted, in violation of the Animal Welfare Act, for their roles in organizing, operating, and participating in “gamefowl derbies,” otherwise known as “cockfighting.” Upon the 4th Circuit’s review of the parties' arguments, it held that the animal fighting statute was a legitimate exercise of Congress' power under the Commerce Clause. It also held that the statute did not require the government to prove the defendants' knowledge regarding the particular venture's nexus to interstate commerce. Accordingly, the district court’s decision was affirmed.
State v. DeFrancesco 668 A.2d 348 (Conn. 1995)

After the USDA went to the defendant’s house to perform a prelicense inspection for an Animal Welfare Act permit for a rabbit, the USDA discovered the defendant also kept a Bengal cat, a Jungle cat and a Bobcat on the premises; the USDA then notified the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) about the three cats. After the defendant’s attempt to sell the three cats, the DEP confiscated them and placed them in the care of an expert; the DEP also charged the defendant with three misdemeanor violations of General Statutes section 26-40a. After trial and appellate court determinations, the Connecticut Supreme Court found the three cats to be included on the list of prohibited felidae in General Statutes section 26-40a and found General Statutes section 26-40a did not violate Due Process.

Schmidt, d/b/a Top of the Ozark Auction 65 Agric. Dec. 60 (U.S.D.A. Feb. 10, 2006) The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), United States Department of Agriculture instituted a disciplinary proceeding alleging that Jerome Schmidt, a veterinarian, willfully violated the regulations and standards promulgated under the Animal Welfare Act. The alleged violations were based upon ten inspections conducted by a USDA inspector of Schmidt’s Top of the Ozark Auction facility where he conducted dog auctions. The 36 alleged violations centered on housing standards, structural soundness, soundness and security of the enclosures, house keeping and sanitation, trash on the premises, sufficiency of the lighting, the adequacy of the Schmidt’s insect and rodent control program, and interference and refusal of access to a USDA inspector. The Court found that the frequent inspections of Schmidt’s auction facility were inconsistent with and not based upon an objective risk-based assessment. None of the inspections, with the potential exception of one, conformed to the requirements of established Agency guidelines or policy. The inspector’s findings were exaggerated, biased, and unsupported by sufficient credible objective evidence of non-compliance. The egregious behavior of the inspector tainted the inspection results and, therefore, were precluded from being used for the purposes of an enforcement action. The Court ultimately dismissed the complaint against Schmidt and directed the Administrator of APHIS to take appropriate action to insure that the published polices and procedures of the Department are followed by APHIS personnel in future inspections.
U.S. v. Hackman 630 F.3d 1078 (8th Cir. 2011) Defendants appealed sentences arising out of a Missouri-based dog-fighting conspiracy. Each man pleaded guilty to conspiring to engage in animal fighting ventures in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371, and one Defendant additionally pleaded guilty to engaging in animal fighting ventures in violation of 7 U.S.C. § 2156. When sentencing each defendant, the district court applied an upward departure provision found in the application notes to United States Sentencing Guidelines (USSG or Guidelines). Each appellant argued that his relevant conduct was not sufficiently cruel to warrant the upward departure. The 8th Circuit found, however, that the district court had properly considered conduct that was legally relevant to Defendants' sentencing under the Guidelines. The court also found that Defendants' conduct amounted to more than just possessing fighting pit bulls. Defendants bred, raised, trained, sold, and fought them knowing that the dogs would be allowed, if not required, to fight until severely injured or dead. Thus, the ordinary cruelty inherent in dog fighting justifies base offense level, while the extraordinary cruelty of Defendants' crimes separately justified the upward departure. The district court's judgment was affirmed.
Zimmerman v. Wolff 622 F.Supp.2d 240 (E.D. Pa. 2008) Plaintiff initiated this action against defendant in his official capacity as Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, asking the Court to enjoin defendant from seizing plaintiff's dogs and from preventing him from operating his dog kennel under his federal license. Plaintiff simultaneously filed a motion for a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction. The State moved for dismissal due to lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Since the Animal Welfare Act did not create a private cause of action, the district court dismissed the claim for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Plaintiff’s constitutional claims were also dismissed because the court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over constitutional claims brought against state actors directly. Plaintiff’s motions were therefore denied and defendant’s motion was granted. The court went on to address whether it would be appropriate to grant plaintiff leave to amend his complaint to bring the Commerce and Supremacy clause claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and found that it would be futile for both.
Humane Society of U.S. v. U.S. Postal Service 609 F.Supp.2d 85 (D.D.C.,2009)

The question in this case centers on whether a response from the United States Postal Service (USPS) to the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) qualifies as a "final agency action" for purposes of judicial reviewability under the APA. At issue is the HSUS's petition to the USPS to declare a monthly periodical entitled The Feathered Warriror unmailable under the AWA. While the USPS has been broadly exempted from judicial review under the APA, there are exceptions, which include “proceedings concerning the mailability of matter." While the term "proceedings" is largely undefined in the Act, the Court held that it would not limit the term to the post hoc meaning ascribed by the USPS that limits it to only "formal" proceedings. Despite finding that the actions taken by the USPS were indeed judicially reviewable, the court remanded the matter because, after the Humane Society initiated this lawsuit, Congress amended § 2156 of the Animal Welfare Act again, further defining issue of nonmailable animal fighting material.

U.S. ex rel. Haight v. Catholic Healthcare West 602 F.3d 949 (9th Cir., 2010)

The plaintiffs, In Defense of Animals and Patricia Haight brought suit against the defendants under the False Claims Act.  In 1997, defendant Michael Berens, Ph.D., submitted a grant application to the NIH in which he sought federal funding for a project to develop a canine model to study glioma, a form of human brain cancer, and attempted to create a process for implanting gliomas in the brains of beagles. The district court granted summary judgment to the defendants, holding that the plaintiffs failed to produce sufficient evidence from which a reasonable jury could find that the challenged grant application statements were objectively false. 

White v. U.S. 601 F.3d 545 (C.A.6 (Ohio), 2010)

The Plaintiff-Appellants are citizens (show bird breeders, feed store owners, and game bird judges) who allege that the AWA amendments to § 2156 concerning animal fighting ventures have caused them various individual and collective injuries. The plaintiffs-appellants allege that these provisions are unconstitutional insofar as they constitute a bill of attainder; violate the principles of federalism contained in, inter alia, the Ninth, Tenth, and Eleventh Amendments to the United States Constitution; and unduly impinge on the plaintiffs-appellants' First Amendment right of association, constitutional right to travel, and Fifth Amendment right to due process for deprivations of property and liberty. The district court dismissed the lawsuit for lack of Article III standing. The Sixth Circuit held that while economic injuries may constitute an injury-in-fact for the purposes of Article III standing, the plaintiffs' alleged economic injuries due to restrictions on cockfighting are not traceable only to the AWA. Additionally, because the AWA does not impose any penalties without a judicial trial, it is not a bill of attainder. The decision of the district court was affirmed.

People for Ethical Treatment of Animals, Inc. v. United States Department of Agriculture 60 F.Supp.3d 14 (D.D.C. 2014) On December 16, 2013, this Court issued an Opinion that dismissed a lawsuit brought by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals alleging that the United States Department of Agriculture had unlawfully failed to implement the Animal Welfare Act with respect to birds. The Court found that the actions PETA sought to compel USDA to take—promulgating bird-specific regulations and enforcing the AWA against bird abusers—were committed to the agency's discretion by law. On January 13, 2014, PETA moved for reconsideration of the second part of that decision. PETA also asked, in the alternative, for leave to amend its Complaint. The government opposed both requests. Because the Court stands by its initial conclusions, and because leave to amend was not allowed at this juncture, it denied PETA's Motion. This case was appealed, see People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals v. U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, 797 F.3d 1087 (D.C. Cir., 2015). For a prior District Court case, see People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals v. U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, 7 F. Supp. 3d 1 (D.D.C. 2013)
Knaust v. Digesualdo 589 Fed.Appx. 698 (5th Cir. 2014) Appellant operated a USDA-licensed exotic animal business in Texas. In February 2010, a United States Department of Agriculture (“USDA”) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service agent visited the business on a routine inspection and cited Appellant for several USDA regulation violations. After several subsequent inspections, several other violations were discovered and Appellant was presented with a Notice of Intent to Confiscate Animals. The next day, the animals were confiscated. Using Bivens, Appellant argued the agents violated her Fifth Amendment Due Process rights by (1) seizing her property without providing a method for challenging the seizure and (2) not allowing sufficient time to cure the cited violations prior to seizing her property. The district court granted Defendants' motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. On appeal, the 9th Circuit affirmed the district court’s decision because the Appellant failed to assert factual allegations showing how each defendant, by his or her own individual acts, violated her constitutional rights.
VOLPE VITO, INC. v. UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE 58 Agric. Dec. 85 (1999) Judicial officer is not required to accept ALJ's findings of fact, even when those findings are based on credibility determinations, and judicial officer is authorized to substitute his or her judgment for that of ALJ.

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