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Altman v. City of High Point


This case arises out of several shooting incidents in the City of High Point, North Carolina.  In each incident, a High Point animal control officer shot and killed one or more dogs that were running at large in the city. Plaintiffs, the owners of the animals, brought suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that the officers' actions violated their Fourth Amendment rights.  The Court of Appeals concluded that the dogs at issue in this case do qualify as property protected by the Fourth Amendment and that the officers seized that property. However, because in each instance the seizure involved was reasonable, it concluded that the officers did not violate the plaintiffs' Fourth Amendment rights.

Alvarez v. Clasen


Plaintiff sued neighbors who trapped cat outside and brought it to an animal shelter where it was euthanized. This court held that private parties trapping a stray cat were not liable for conversion because local ordinances permitted animal shelters to hold stray cats. 

Am. Anti-Vivisection Soc'y et. al. v. USDA et. al. 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.
Am. Anti-Vivisection Soc'y v. United States Dept. of Agric. The American Anti-Vivisection Society and the Avian Welfare Coalition sued the Department of Agriculture and its Secretary alleging that the Department's failure to promulgate bird-specific regulations is unreasonable, unlawful, and arbitrary and capricious in violation of the APA. The Plaintiffs sought court-ordered deadlines by which the Department must propose such rules. The Department moved to dismiss the Plaintiff's claims arguing that the Plaintiffs lack standing to sue, that it is not required by law to promulgate regulations for birds, and that it has not taken a final action reviewable by the court. The District Court ultimately held that, although the Plaintiffs have standing to sue, both of their claims fail. The Department is not required by the Animal Welfare Act to issue avian-specific standards; rather, it must to issue welfare standards that are generally applicable to animals. Secondly, although the Department has not taken any action to develop avian-specific standards, that does not mean that will not do so in the future. The District Court granted the department's motion to dismiss.
Ambros-Marcial v. U.S.


Eleven illegal aliens tragically died in Arizona while attempting to cross the Sonoran Desert in May 2001. Plaintiffs, the aliens' surviving relatives, filed suit under the Federal Tort Claims Act, claiming that the manager of the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge where decedents were found, caused their deaths by refusing to allow an immigrant rights group to erect water drums on the refuge in April 2001. Defendant moved to dismiss, arguing that (1) the Court lacks jurisdiction because the decision was a “discretionary function” under 28 U.S.C. § 2680(a), and (2) Plaintiffs failed to state a claim because Defendant owed no duty to Plaintiffs. Defendant filed a motion for summary judgment and motion to dismiss. The District Court held that defendant's concerns about the safety of aliens (who might be encouraged to cross the area because of the presence of water drums), the safety of refuge visitors (who have been victimized by a small percentage of illegal crossers), and environmental harm (arising from habitat disruption and littering of debris) gave Defendant the discretion to decline to authorize the erection of water drums on Cabeza Prieta, and therefore the Court has no jurisdiction to hear this case. In addition, Defendant owed no duty to affirmatively assist trespassers illegally crossing Cabeza Prieta in avoiding the obvious dangers of a hostile desert. Therefore, Defendant's motion for summary judgment is granted.

Amburgey v. Sauder


Plaintiff was bitten by a horse as she walked through a stable.

 

The court determined that Plaintiff was a “participant” for the purposes of the Equine Activity Liability Act (EALA), and thus the Defendant stables owner was insulated from liability arising out of the unanticipated, abnormal behavior of the horse.

American Bald Eagle v. Bhatti

A group of animal preservationists filed suit to enjoin deer hunting on a Massachusetts reservation because it contended that the activity posed such a risk to bald eagles so as to constitute a prohibited “taking” under the ESA. The essence of the plaintiff's argument was that some of the deer shot by hunters would not be recovered and then eagles would consume these deer thereby ingesting the harmful lead slugs from the ammunition. The district court denied the preliminary injunction, ruling that appellants failed to show a reasonable likelihood of success on the merits. On appeal of the denial for injunction, this Court held that plaintiff failed to meet the showing of actual harm under the ESA. There was no showing in the record of harm to any bald eagles during the deer hunt of 1991 and the record fully supported the trial judge's conclusion.
American Dog Owners Ass'n v. City of Yakima

In this Washington case, plaintiff brought suit against the City of Yakima challenging an ordinance that banned “pit bulls” dogs. The Superior Court, Yakima County, granted city's motion for summary judgment, and plaintiffs appealed. Plaintiffs first argued that the ordinance is vague because a person of ordinary intelligence cannot tell what is prohibited.  The Supreme Court disagreed, finding that the City used adequate standards for identification in the professional standards and illustrations to show that a particular dog meets the professional standard. Thus, the Court found that the ordinance gave sufficient notice of what was conduct prohibited. Summary judgment for the City was affirmed.
American Dog Owners Ass'n, Inc. v. City of Lynn


This is an appeal by American Dog Owners Association from a judgment upholding two of three city of Lynn ordinances which restrict ownership of certain dogs within the city limits. The lower court found that one of three animal control ordinances regulating “pit bulls” was unconstitutional. First, the Supreme Judicial Court held that the first two ordinances were repealed by passage of third which was intended to treat subject of pit bulls comprehensively. However, the court found that the third ordinance which attempted to define pit bull by breed was unconstitutionally vague. The court stated that, "if identification by breed name does not provide sufficient ascertainable standards for enforcement, then the “definition” of “Pit Bull” in the fourth ordinance, which is devoid of any reference to a particular breed, but relies instead on the even less clear 'common understanding and usage' of the term 'Pit Bull,' is not sufficiently definite to meet due process requirements."

American Dog Owners Ass'n, Inc. v. Dade County, Fla.


Associations of dog owners sued Dade, County, Florida seeking declaratory judgment that an ordinance that regulated “pit bull” dogs was unconstitutionally vague. Plaintiffs contend that there is no such breed as a pit bull, but rather a three breeds that this ordinance has mistakenly lumped together. The District Court held that ordinance sufficiently defined “pit bull” dogs by specifically referencing three breeds recognized by kennel clubs, including a description of the characteristics of such dogs, and provided a mechanism for verification of whether a particular dog was included. The uncontradicted testimony of the various veterinarians reflected that most dog owners know the breed of their dog and that most dog owners look for and select a dog of a particular breed.

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