Federal Cases

Case namesort descending Citation Summary
Wildearth Guardians v. Kempthorne 592 F.Supp.2d 18 (D.D.C.,2008)

In its suit for declaratory and injunctive relief alleging that Defendant, the Secretary of the Interior, failed to comply with his mandatory duty under the Endangered Species Act (“ESA”) to make a preliminary 90-day finding on two ESA listing petitions brought by Plaintiff, Plaintiff moved for leave to amend its Complaint to include a new claim against Defendant stemming from Defendant’s denial of an additional petition submitted by Plaintiff requesting that a small subset of species which had been included in one of the petitions at issue in the original Complaint be given protection on an emergency basis.   The United States District Court, District of Columbia granted Plaintiff’s motion to amend the Complaint to clarify that only a total of 674 species are covered by the two non-emergency petitions, rather than the 681 as stated in the original Complaint, but denied Plaintiff’s motion for leave to supplement its Complaint with a new claim, finding that Defendant’s decision not to issue emergency listings is committed to agency discretion by law, and thus precludes judicial review under the Administrative Procedure Act.

WildEarth Guardians v. Salazar 741 F.Supp.2d 89 (D.D.C., 2010)

Plaintiff, WildEarth Guardians, brought this action seeking judicial review of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s final agency actions pertaining to the Utah prairie dog. Specifically, Plaintiffs aver that the FWS erred in denying (1) their petition to reclassify the Utah prairie dog as an endangered species under the ESA and (2) their petition to initiate rulemaking to repeal a regulation allowing for the limited extermination (i.e., take) of Utah prairie dogs. With respect to Plaintiff’s challenge as to reclassification, the court concluded that Plaintiff’s motion for Summary Judgment should be granted on two grounds. However, the court denied Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment (and granted Defendant’s cross-motion) insofar as Plaintiff asserted that the FWS’ refusal to initiate rulemaking was arbitrary, capricious, and not in accordance with the ESA.

Wildearth Guardians v. U.S. Department of the Interior 205 F. Supp. 3d 1176 (D. Mont. 2016) In this case, Wildearth Guardians filed suit to challenge the United States Fish and Wildlife Service’s designation of critical habitat for the Canada lynx. Wildearth argued that United States Fish and Wildlife Service wrongly excluded geographical areas in its final critical habitat designation. The areas that Wildearth argued should have been included in the designation were the Southern Rockies in Colorado, the Kettle Range of northeastern Washington, the state of Oregon, and certain National Forest lands in Montana and Idaho. Ultimately, the court reviewed Wildearth’s arguments and held that the Fish and Wildlife Service did wrongly exclude the Southern Rockies in Colorado and the National Forest lands in Montana and Idaho. With regard to the areas in Washington and Oregon, the court found that the Fish and Wildlife Service did not err in excluding in those areas from the critical habitat designation. The Fish and Wildlife Service used “primary constituent elements” (PCE) to determine which areas should be designated as a critical habitat for the Canada lynx. The court found that with respect to Colorado, there was a close call as to one of the of PCE’s and that the Service should have favored the lynx according to the standard set in the Endangered Species Act. Lastly, the court found that the Service also erred with respect to Montana and Idaho because it failed to comply with previous court orders to inspect the lands to determine whether or not the lands contained “physical and biological features essential to lynx recovery.” The court found that had the Service complied with these orders, it would have found that Montana and Idaho should have been included in the designation. The plaintiffs motions were granted in part and the matter was remanded to the Service for further action consistent with this order. The final rule remains in effect until the Service issues a new final rule on lynx critical habitat, at which time the September 2014 final rule will be superseded.
WildEarth Guardians v. United States Fish & Wildlife Service 342 F. Supp. 3d 1047 (D. Mont. 2018) In 2007, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (The Service) issued regulations implementing the CITES Program for certain Appendix II species that are in the United States which include bobcats, gray wolves, river otters, Canada lynx, and brown grizzly bears. Under the regulations, certain requirements must be met prior to the species exportation from the Unites States. The Service annually distributes export tags to approved states and tribes which are then distributed to trappers, hunters, and other individuals seeking to export furbearer species. The Service drafted an incidental take statement setting a cap on the amount of Canada lynx that are allowed to be killed or injured while bobcats are hunted. Plaintiffs brought this action claiming that the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) by not adequately analyzing the direct, indirect, and cumulative effects of the CITES Program and by not preparing an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). It is further alleged that the 2001 and 2012 Biological Opinions and Incidental Take Statement referenced and incorporated in the Environmental Assessment that the Service conducted is deficient under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The Center for Biological Diversity filed a separate action raising similar NEPA claims. The two actions were consolidated into one and the WildEarth case was designated as the lead case. The Service and the intervenors challenged the Plaintiff's standing to bring their claims. The District Court found that the plaintiffs have standing to bring their claims. As for the NEPA claims, the Court held that the only time an EIS is necessary is when a specific agency action alters the status quo. In this case, the Court found no identifiable agency action that would alter the status quo. The Service has administered the CITES Export Program since 1975 and it does not propose "any site-specific activity nor call for specific action directly impacting the physical environment." As for the EPA claims, in the Incidental Take Statement drafted by the Service, the authorized level of take is set as follows: "two (2) lynx may be killed and two (2) injured annually due to trapping over the 10-year term of th[e] biological opinion." The Plaintiffs argued that the use of the word "and" in the "Two and Two" standard was ambiguous. The District Court agreed and held that as currently worded, the "two and two" fails to set an adequate trigger for take because it is not clear whether one or both are necessary to exceed the trigger. The Plaintiffs also argue that the terms "annually" and "injury" are ambiguous. The District Court held that "annually" was ambiguous, however, it was not enough to independently make the statement arbitrary and capricious. The Court also held that the Service's use of the word "injury" was both overbroad and underinclusive. The Service's interpretation and use of the term is arbitrary and capricious in the context of this case. The Court found that the reporting requirements were arbitrary and capricious and that the take statement does not set forth reasonable and prudent measures to minimize the impact of incidental taking on the species. The Service provides states and tribes with a brochure with information on lynx identification and other information every time bobcat tags are issued, however the brochures are not required to be given out by states and tribes, it is merely recommended. The District Court ultimately Denied the Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment as to their NEPA claims and granted it as to their ESA claims. The incidental take statement was remanded to the Service for further review and clarification.
WILDEARTH GUARDIANS vs. NATIONAL PARK SERVICE 703 F.3d 1178 (10th Cir. Ct. App.,2013)

In this case, the WildEarth Guardians brought a suit against the National Park Service for violating the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Rocky Mountain National Park Enabling Act (RMNP)'s ban on hunting. The district court and the appeals court, however, held that the NPS did not violate NEPA because the agency articulated reasons for excluding the natural wolf alternative from its Environmental Impact Statement. Additionally, since the National Park Service Organic Act (NPSOA)'s detrimental animal exception and the RMNP's dangerous animal exception apply to the prohibition on killing, capturing, or wounding—not the prohibition on hunting, the use of volunteers to cull the park’s elk population did not violate the RMNP or the NPSOA.  

Wilderness Society v. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 316 F.3d 913 (9th Cir. 2003)

Plaintiffs, The Wilderness Society and the Alaska Center for the Environment, challenge a decision by Defendant United States Fish and Wildlife Service (the Service) to permit a sockeye salmon enhancement project (the Project) at Tustumena Lake (within a designated wilderness area in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska). Plaintiffs argue that the Project violates the Wilderness Act, 16 U.S.C. §§ 1131- 1136, because it contravenes that Act's requirement to preserve the "natural condition" and "wilderness character" of the area, and because it constitutes an impermissible "commercial enterprise" within a wilderness area.  With regard to the "wilderness character" question, the court held that the Service permissibly interpreted the Act, and that the activities in question did not contravene the wilderness character of the Refuge, as the Service's decision that the Project is "compatible" with the purposes of the Refuge is entitled to deference.  With regard to the prohibition against "commercial activities," the Court held that the Service reasonably determined that non-wilderness commercial activities providing funding for a nonprofit organization conducting a project did not render project "commercial enterprise" barred by statute.

Wilkins v. Daniels Slip Copy, 2012 WL 6644465 (S.D.Ohio, 2012)

Various owners of exotic and wild animals filed a lawsuit in order to obtain a temporary restraining order and a permanent/preliminary injunction against the Ohio Department of Agriculture and its Director, David Daniels. The owners of the exotic and wild animals argued the Ohio Dangerous Wild Animals and Restricted Snakes Act, which the Ohio Department of Agriculture and its Director were trying to enforce, was unconstitutional. The district court denied the owners’ motion for obtain a temporary restraining order and a permanent/preliminary injunction reasoning that the exceptions to the Act’s ban on owning wild and exotic animals does not violate the owners’ freedom of association rights, that the legislature had a legitimate purpose so as to not violate procedural due process with regards to micro-chipping wild and exotic animals, and that the Act did not constitute an unconstitutional takings. Significantly, the court recognized that owners of wild and exotic animals have a limited or qualified property interest in said animals.

Winingham v. Anheuser-Busch, Inc. 859 F.Supp. 1019 (1994)

Ostrich owners sued to recover actual and exemplary damages, attorney fees, costs and interests for gross negligence after an airship flew over their property at  low altitude, which frightened interfered with the ostriches’ breeding. The District Court held that: (1) allegations of fright and temporary loss of libido failed to allege compensable injury absent proof of physical injury; and (2) owners were not entitled to recover speculative value of unborn offspring; and (3) absent actual damages, exemplary damages could not be awarded.

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.
Wyoming Farm Burearu v. Babbitt 199 F.3d 1224 (10th Cir. 2000)

The State Farm Bureaus (a national farm organization)), researchers, and environmental groups appealed from decision of United States and federal agencies to introduce experimental population of gray wolves in a national park and central Idaho. The United States District Court for the District of Wyoming struck down the Department of Interior's final wolf introduction rules and ordered reintroduced wolves removed. In reversing the lower court's decision, the Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit held that the possibility that individual wolves from existing wolf populations could enter experimental population areas did not violate provision of Endangered Species Act requiring that such populations remain "geographically separate."  Further, the fact that the promulgated rules treated all wolves, including naturally occurring wolves, found within designated experimental population areas as nonessential experimental animals did not violate ESA.

Wyoming Farm Bureau v. Babbitt 987 F.Supp. 1349 (D. Wyoming 1997)

The Wyoming Farm Bureau, amateur researchers, and environmental groups appealed an agency to introduce experimental population of gray wolves in a national park and central Idaho. After ruling on the various standing issues, the court held that the ESA section allowing experimental population to be maintained only when it is "wholly separate geographically" from nonexperimental populations includes overlap even with individual members of nonexperimental species.   However, the defendants' treatment of all wolves found within boundaries of designated experimental population areas as nonessential experimental animals was contrary to law as provided in their own regulations.   Therefore, the court ordered that Defendants' Final Rules establishing a nonessential experimental population of gray wolves in Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, Idaho, Montana, central Idaho and southwestern Montana was unlawful.   Further, that by virtue of the plan being set aside, defendants must remove reintroduced non-native wolves and their offspring from the Yellowstone and central Idaho experimental population areas.  This decision was reversed in 199 F.3d 1224.

Wyoming v. United States Department of the Interior 360 F. Supp. 2d 1214 (Wy. 2005)

 In a letter, the Fish and Wildlife Service rejected Wyoming's wolf management plan due to Wyoming's predatory animal classification for gray wolves.  Wyoming brought claims against the United States Department of the Interior and Fish and Wildlife Service for violating the Endangered Species Act and Administrative Procedure Act.  The District Court dismissed the claims for lack of jurisdiction, reasoning the letter did not constitute final agency action under the Administrative Procedure Act. 

Zalaski v. City of Hartford 723 F.3d 382 (C.A.2 (Conn.))

When animal rights activists, who were protesting the treatment of animals at a race sponsored by a circus, were arrested for criminal trespass and obstruction of free passage,  the filed a section 1983 lawsuit for false arrest, unlawful retaliation, malicious prosecution, and interference with free expression under both the U.S. and Connecticut constitution against the city and the officer.  Upon appeal of the lower court’s rejection of the activists’ First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendment claims, the court (1) affirmed the lower court’s decision on the ground of qualified immunity under section 1983, (2) would not address whether a pro se attorney who represented plaintiffs in addition to himself may be awarded fees because the issue was not raised in district court, and (3) vacated the judgment only in order to remand the case for the limited purpose of having the district court clarify whether it awarded the activists the costs incurred as a result of a discovery certification violation.

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.
Zuckerman v. Coastal Camps, Inc. 716 F.Supp.2d 23 (D.Me., 2010)

This case arose after twelve-year old Samantha Zuckerman sustained injuries when she fell the pony she was riding during a horseback riding lesson at Camp Laurel in Mount Vernon, Maine. Samantha alleged that her instructors improperly saddled the pony, which caused her saddle to slip. In appealing the Magistrate's recommended decision, Camp Laurel again claims that it is immune from liability under Maine Equine Activities Act because a slipping saddle is a risk inherent to the sport of horseback riding. Camp Laurel contends that the faulty tack exception is limited to situations where the tack cracks, breaks, or frays and does not include  an “improperly tightened girth” or an “inappropriate pony” or “faulty horse.” This Court agreed with the Magistrate Judge that the record raises a genuine issue of material fact concerning the “faulty” tack exception. The Court found that the negligence here was tied to an exception to the liability shield - faulty tack.

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