Municipal Ordinances: Related Cases

Case namesort descending Citation Summary
Pless v. State 633 S.E.2d 340 (Ga. App., 2006) In this Georgia case, the defendant was convicted by a jury in the trial court of two counts of failure to keep an animal under restraint and one count of allowing an animal to become a public nuisance. Defendant appealed, challenging the sufficiency of the evidence. The appellate court found that the evidence showed that in the months prior to the July 14 and August 1 incidents, Pless's dogs were repeatedly found loose in neighbors' yards and garages. Accordingly, evidence supported the conviction on the charge of allowing an animal to become a public nuisance under § 3-4-7(5). ("Public nuisance" is defined, among other things, as any animal which "[i]s found repeatedly at large."). On certiorari review, the Georgia Supreme Court in State v. Pless, 646 S.E.2d 202 (Ga. 2007) reversed judgment of Pless v. State, 633 S.E.2d 340 (Ga. App. 2006), and the case was then sent to Pless v. State, 648 S.E.2d 752 (Ga. App. 2007) on remand.
Pray v. Whiteskunk 801 N.W.2d 451 (S.D., 2011)

In this South Dakota case, the plaintiff suffered a broken knee after Defendant's Rottweiler brook loose from its owner and ran toward the street, causing plaintiff to fall. Plaintiff brought an action for damages against both the dog owner and the city, specifically alleging the the city knew the dog was dangerous and failed to enforce its vicious animal ordinance. On appeal of the granting of summary judgment for the city, this court found that plaintiff failed to establish that the action taken by the city caused the harm to Pray or exposed her to greater risks, thereby leaving her in a worse position than she was in before the city took action. While this Court found that the city had actual knowledge of the dog's dangerousness, this alone is insufficient.

Puppies 'N Love, v. City of Phoenix 116 F. Supp. 3d 971 (D. Ariz. 2015) Defendant City of Phoenix passed an ordinance that prohibited pet stores from selling dogs or cats obtained from persons or companies that bred animals; pet stores could only sell animals obtained from animal shelters or rescue organizations. Puppies 'N Love operated a pet store in Phoenix that sold purebred dogs obtained from out-of-state breeders. Puppies 'N Love and its owners sued the City, claiming primarily that the Ordinance violated the dormant Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution by closing the Phoenix market to out-of-state breeders and giving an economic advantage to local breeders. All parties, including Intervenor Humane Society of the United States (“HSUS”), filed motions for summary judgment. The District Court granted the Intervenor’s and the city’s motions, but denied Puppies ‘N Love’s motion, thereby upholding the ordinance.
Rhoades v. City of Battle Ground 63 P.3d 142 (Wash. 2002)

Exotic pet owners challenged on equal protection grounds an ordinance that banned exotic pets, yet allowed dangerous dogs under certain conditions. The court, in upholding the ordinance, found a rational relationship between the regulation and the public interest in preventing exotic pet attacks.

Roalstad v. City of Lafayette 363 P.3d 790 (Col. Ct. App. Div. III , 2015) The origins of this matter began when the City of Lafayette (City) charged Defendant/Appellant with violating its municipal ordinance regarding vicious animals. Defendant/Appellant requested a jury trial pursuant to C.R.S.A. § 16-10-109. The municipal court denied the request. Defendant/Appellant appealed the district court's dismissal of her C.R.C.P. 106 and declaratory judgment action in which she challenged the municipal court's denial of her request for a jury trial. The sole issue on appeal was whether the offense for which Defendant was charged under the City's ordinances was a “petty offense” under C.R.S.A. § 16-10-109, which would entitle her to a jury trial under that statute. Since the municipal ordinance imposed fines that met that definition and because it was not a crime at common law, the court concluded the offense met the definition of “petty offense;” Defendant/Appellant was therefore entitled to a jury trial in municipal court pursuant to C.R.S.A. § 16-10-109. Further, because the ordinance and the state Dangerous Dog law were counterparts and because the ordinance was criminal in nature, the vicious animal offense was not exempt from the “petty offense” definition. Accordingly, the district court’s order was reversed.
Robinson v. City of Bluefield 764 S.E.2d 740 (W. Va. Oct. 2, 2014) An Animal Control Officer responded to a complaint about two dogs at defendant's residence. While investigating the complaint at defendant's residence, the animal control officer was attacked by one of defendant's dogs. The officer sought medical treatment following the incident. The City of Bluefield subsequently brought charges against defendant in its municipal court, charging her with having a dangerous animal in violation of city ordinances. The municipal court ordered the dog killed. On appeal, the Circuit Court of Mercer County affirmed the municipal court's decision. Defendant then appealed the Circuit Court's decision arguing that that Circuit Court erred in concluding that the municipal court had the authority to order the destruction of her dog. After review, the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia agreed with defendant and found that under the plain language of W.Va.Code § 19–20–20, the City of Bluefield was required to set forth satisfactory proof that defendant’s dog was “vicious, dangerous, or in the habit of biting or attacking other persons” before a circuit court or a magistrate, not a municipal court. The court therefore found that ordinance was void to the extent that it allowed a municipal court to order the destruction of the dog. The circuit court's order affirming the municipal court's order to kill Ms. Robinson's dog was therefore reversed. Justice Loughry dissents.
Rosenfeld v. Zoning Bd. of Appeals of Mendon 940 N.E.2d 891 (Ma. App., 2011)

A zoning board granted landowner’s application for a special permit, and neighbor property owners appealed. The Appeals Court of Massachusetts held that defendant’s proposed use of land for horse stables fit within the agricultural use exception of the zoning ordinance and by-laws, and that plaintiffs had standing to enforce a deed restriction on defendant’s property.

Savage v. Prator 921 So.2d 51 (La., 2006)

Two Louisiana "game clubs" filed an action for declaratory judgment and injunctive relief against parish commission and parish sheriff's office after being informed by the sheriff that an existing parish ordinance prohibiting cockfighting would be enforced. The clubs contended that the ordinance was violative of the police power reserved explicitly to the state (the state anti-cruelty provision is silent with regard to cockfighting).  The First Judicial District Court, Parish of Caddo granted the clubs' request for a preliminary injunction.  The Supreme Court reversed the injunction and remanded the matter, finding that the parish ordinance prohibiting cockfighting did not violate general law or infringe upon State's police powers in violation of Constitution.

Sawh v. City of Lino Lakes 800 N.W.2d 663 (Minn.App.,2011)

The city council ordered the destruction of a dog after finding it to be a dangerous animal and the owner appealed. The Court of Appeals held that procedural due process required that the owner should have been given a meaningful opportunity to contest the declaration of the dog as a “potentially dangerous animal” before it was declared a “dangerous animal” under the city ordinance.

Settle v. Commonwealth 55 Va.App. 212, 685 S.E.2d 182 (Va.,2009)

The defendant-appellant, Charles E. Settle, Jr., was convicted of two counts of inadequate care by owner of companion animals and one count of dog at large under a county ordinance, after Fauquier County Sherriff's officers were dispatched to his home on multiple occasions over the course of one calendar year in response to animal noise and health and safety complaints from his neighbors.  Consequently, all of the affected dogs were seized from Settle and relocated to local animal shelters.  The trial court also declared three of the animals to be dangerous dogs pursuant to another county ordinance.  The Court of Appeals of Virginia held that: (1) because the forfeiture of dogs was a civil matter the Court of Appeals lacked subject matter jurisdiction and was not the proper forum to decide the case; (2) that Settle failed to join the County as an indispensible party in the notice of appeal from conviction for the county ordinance violation; and (3) that the evidence was sufficient to identify Settle as the owner of the neglected companion animals.

State of Florida v. Peters 534 So.2d 760 (Fla.App. 3 Dist. 1988). This is an appeal from an order of the county court invalidating a City of North Miami ordinance regulating the ownership of pit bull dogs.  The ordinance in question, City of North Miami Ordinance No. 422.5, regulates the ownership of pit bulls by requiring their owners to carry insurance or furnish other evidence of financial responsibility, register their pit bulls with the City, and confine the dogs indoors or in a locked pen.  The court dismissed defendants claims that the ordinance violates equal protection and due process, and that the ordinance's definition of a pit bull is on its face unconstitutionally vague.
State v. Beckert 61 A.2d 213 (N.J. 1948)

This New Jersey case involved an appeal of a borough ordinance that limited ownership to three licensed dogs.  The prosecutrix was found to have been keeping 39 dogs.  The court found that she presented no evidence that she was operating a kennel, nor was the ordinance unreasonable in its restriction.

State v. Brown 771 N.W.2d 267 (N.D.,2009)

In this North Dakota case, the defendant appeals from a criminal judgment finding she violated the Cass County Animal Control Ordinance after her neighbors reported her barking dogs. In her first appeal ground, Brown contended that the Ordinance constituted an unconstitutional delegation of power. The court disagreed, finding that Cass County adopted a home rule charter and thus had the power to create criminal penalties for violations of ordinances. Brown next argued that the legislature “has statutorily prohibited the county from attempting to regulate dogs as public nuisances.” Since the state has defined certain “dog activities” that constitute a public nuisance, the county is precluded from declaring any other dog-related activity a public nuisance according to defendant. The court found that this broad interpretation would preclude action by the county if the state has exercised any authority and would virtually eliminate the county's authority granted by home-rule authority. The court also rejected Brown’s argument that the Ordinance is unconstitutionally vague. The Ordinance provides that an animal that “barks ... in an excessive or continuous manner” is a public nuisance. The court held that its holding in   Kilkenny, 2007 ND 44, ¶¶ 20-25, 729 N.W.2d 120, is controlling here, where the words excessive, continuous, or untimely have a common understanding and are not vague.

State v. Johnson 628 P.2d 789 (Or. 1981)

A defendant was convicted in district court of violating a city ordinance by keeping a vicious dog.  The Court of Appeals held that the word "trespasser" in the city ordinance was to be used in its ordinary context, that a child who rode his bicycle onto the defendant's driveway was a trespasser, that there were no issues of consent involved, and that the trespasser exception applied even to areas on the defendant's property where the dog was not under the owner's control.

State v. Maynard 673 S.E.2d 877 (N.C.App.,2009)

In this North Carolina case, defendant challenged her conviction for violating that city ordinance that limited the number of dogs greater than five months of age that can be kept on premises within the city limits to three. After conviction, defendant appealed the constitutionality of the ordinance, arguing that it was “arbitrary and without any justification” and “fails to stand upon a rational basis.” This Court disagreed. First noting that legislative enactments have a presumption of constitutionality, the Court held that the town of Nashville enacted the ordinance for the purpose of reducing noise and odor problems. These objectives are clearly legitimate public purposes, and the limitation on the number of dogs is directly related to those objectives.

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.

State v. Mortensen 191 P.3d 1097 (Hawai'i App., 2008)

Defendant found guilty of Cruelty to Animals under a State statute after firing a pellet gun at/toward a cat which was later found with and died from a fatal wound.   On Defendant’s appeal, the Intermediate Court of Appeals of Hawai’i affirmed the lower court’s decision, finding that evidence that Defendant knowingly fired the pellet gun at a group of cats within the range of such a gun was sufficient to find that Defendant recklessly shot and killed the cat.   In making its decision, the Court of Appeals further found that the legislature clearly did not intend for a cat to be considered vermin or a pest for purposes of the relevant State anti-cruelty statute’s exception, and instead clearly intended for a cat to be considered a “pet animal.”  

State v. Taffet (unpublished) Not Reported in A.2d, 2010 WL 771954 (N.J.Super.A.D.)
The State of New Jersey, through the Borough of Haddonfield, appeals from the final judgment of the Law Division, which reversed the finding of the municipal court that defendant's dog is a potentially dangerous dog pursuant to N.J.S.A. 4:19-23(a) as well as the imposition of certain measures to mitigate any future attacks. Defendant, a resident of Haddonfield, owns, breeds, and shows four Rhodesian Ridgebacks kept at his home in a residential neighborhood. The Superior Court concluded that the Law Division's did not properly defer to the trial court's credibility determinations and were not supported by sufficient credible evidence. The court found that the dog's dual attacks causing bodily injury to two individuals were undisputed, and along with evidence of more recent intimidating activity in the neighborhood, the municipal court could have reasonably concluded that the dog posed a more serious threat to cause bodily injury to another.
Stephens v. City of Spokane Slip Copy, 2007 WL 3146390 (E.D.Wash.)

Before the court here is defendant's motion for summary judgment and plaintiff's motion to certify a class. Plaintiffs claim is based on Spokane's "barking dog" ordinance" for which they were each issued an infraction by animal control officers. Plaintiffs contend the ordinance is void for vagueness. The court disagreed, finding that the ordinance has incorporated the reasonableness standard and is presumptively constitutional. In the ordinance, the citizen of average intellect need not guess at the prohibition of allowing an animal to unreasonably disturb persons by “habitually barking, howling, yelping, whining, or making other oral noises.”

Tarquinio v. City of Lakewood, Ohio (unpublished) Slip Copy, 2011 WL 4458165 (N.D.Ohio)

Plaintiffs sought a declaratory judgment from the court that Lakewood City Ordinance (“LCO”) 506.01, which bans pit bull dogs or those dogs with "appearance and characteristics of being predominantly of such breeds," unconstitutional under the Ohio Constitution Home Rule provisions. In this motion, plaintiffs argue that LCO 506 conflicts with and impermissibly expands the provisions of Ohio Revised Code § 955.22. The court found that while § 955.22 outlines requirements that must be met by a person who houses vicious dogs, including all pit bulls, it does not explicitly permit pit bulls. The court found that the General Assembly intended to allow municipalities to regulate the possession of pit bulls.

Texas Attorney General Opinion No. JC-0048 Tex. Atty. Gen. Op. JC-0048

Texas Attorney General Opinion regarding the issue of whether city ordinances are preempted by statutes that govern the treatment of animals. Specifically, the opinion discusses pigeon shoots. The opinion emphasizes that organized pigeon shoots are prohibited under Texas cruelty laws but that present wildlife laws allow the killing of feral pigeons.

Toledo v. Tellings 871 N.E.2d 1152 (Ohio, 2007)

In this Ohio case, the defendant, who owned three pit bull type dogs, was convicted in the Municipal Court, Lucas County, of violating the Toledo city ordinance that limited ownership to only one pit bull per household. On appeal by the City, the Supreme Court found the state and the city have a legitimate interest in protecting citizens against unsafe conditions caused by pit bulls. The evidence presented in the trial court supports the conclusion that pit bulls pose a serious danger to the safety of citizens. The statutes and the city ordinance are rationally related to serve the legitimate interests of protecting Ohio and Toledo citizens.

Vanater v. Village of South Point 717 F. Supp. 1236 (D. Ohio 1989)

Village criminal ordinance, which prohibited the owning or harboring of pit bull terriers or other vicious dogs within village limits, was not overbroad, even though identification of a "pit bull" may be difficult in some situations, as there are methods to determine with sufficient certainty whether dog is a "pit bull.".

Village of Carpentersville v. Fiala 425 N.E.2d 33 (Ill.App., 1981)

In this Illinois case, the defendant, Joseph R. Fiala, appealed a violation of the Village Code of Carpentersville, which prohibited the ownership of more than two adult dogs at his single-family residence.  In a hearing, one of defendant's neighbor's testified that the defendant was maintaining 15 large red dogs (Irish setters).  The Illinois Appellate Court held that the village had statutory authority to enact any ordinance necessary for the promotion of health, safety and welfare of the community and that a municipality may also pass ordinances that "define, prevent, and abate nuisances."  Further, the court also held that the village ordinance is not unconstitutional as violative of equal protection based on a classification between single-family residences and single-family units within multiple housing buildings, where such considerations of indoor and outdoor space, density, and proximity to others, noise levels, and structural differences, are rationally related to the object of the ordinance.

Warren v. Delvista Towers Condominium Ass'n, Inc. 49 F.Supp.3d 1082 (S.D. Fla. 2014) In its motion for summary judgment, Defendant argues Plaintiff’s accommodation request under the Federal Fair Housing Act (the “FHA”) to modify Defendant's “no pet” policy was unreasonable because Plaintiff's emotional support animal was a pit bull and pit bulls were banned by county ordinance. In denying the Defendant’s motion, the District Court found that changing a no pets policy for an emotional support animal was a reasonable accommodation under the FHA. The court also found that enforcing the county ordinance would violate the FHA by permitting a discriminatory housing practice. However, in line with US Department of Housing and Urban Development notices, the court found genuine issues of material fact remained as to whether the dog posed a direct threat to members of the condominium association, and whether that threat could be reduced by other reasonable accommodations.
Webb v. Amtower 2008 WL 713728 (KS,2008 (not reported))

The court applied the forum's traditional lex loci conflict-of-laws rule to determine what jurisdiction's law governed for both damages and recovery of possession. The "place of injury" for the tort/damages issue was Kansas since that's where the contract was signed. The court remanded the case to determine the law of the place where the dog was found to determine the right-to-possession since that was a personal property issue.

Williams v. Lexington County Bd. of Zoning Appeals 413 S.C. 647, 776 S.E.2d 749 (S.C. Ct. App. 2015) Appellant sought review of the circuit court's order upholding the Lexington County Board of Zoning Appeals' unanimous decision that the county zoning ordinance prohibits Appellant from operating a dog grooming business at her home. The appeals court found that the word kennel, as used in the Lexington County Zoning Ordinance for Resident Local 5 (RL5), included dog grooming. Since Appellant’s dwelling was zoned RL5 and the ordinance prohibited kennels in RL5, the appeals court upheld the circuit court’s decision.
Wilson v. City of Eagan 297 N.W.2d 146 (Minn., 1980)

At issue is an Eagan, Minnesota ordinance that provides an impounded animal must be held for five days before being destroyed.  In direct contravention of the ordinance and statute, Eagan animal warden Cary Larson and police officer Robert O'Brien, in performance of their duties, intentionally killed Timothy Wilson's pet cat on the same day it was properly impounded.  By first finding that punitive damages were not precluded by statute against municipal employees, the court then examined whether punitive damages were appropriate in this case.  While the court did not find that Larson acted with malice, it did find that his conduct in violating the statute showed a willful disregard for property rights. 

Youngstown v. Traylor 123 Ohio St.3d 132, 914 N.E.2d 1026 (Ohio,2009) Defendant was charged with two misdemeanors after his unrestrained Italian Mastiff/Cane Corso dogs attacked a wire fox terrier and its owner.   Defendant filed a motion to dismiss the charges against him, arguing that YCO 505.19(b) is unconstitutional and a violation of his procedural due process rights.   The Supreme Court of Ohio held that the Youngstown municipal ordinance was constitutional because it was “rationally related to the city's legitimate interest in protecting citizens from vicious dogs,” provided “the dog owner with a meaningful opportunity to be heard on the dog's classification,” and did not “label dogs as dangerous or vicious” solely based on their breed type.
Zageris v. Whitehall 594 N.E.2d 129 (Ohio App. 10 Dist.,1991)

The single-family residence property owner and owner of dogs kept on property filed suit for declaratory judgment, petition for habeas corpus, and civil rights claims against city based on city's enforcement of ordinance prohibiting number of dogs on property.  He then appealed the ruling in favor for the city.  The Ohio Court of Appeals held that the local ordinance limiting number of dogs on single family property was a nuisance and not zoning measure and consequently a valid exercise of city's police power.

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