United States

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Titlesort ascending Summary
Big Cats of Serenity Springs, Inc. v. Vilsack In an amended complaint, Plaintiffs asserted four claims against Defendants relating to a May 7, 2013 United States Department of Agriculture inspection of Big Cats of Serenity Springs, Inc. The claims included a Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures; a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim against the Inspector Defendants “because they acted under color of state law when they induced the deputies to cut the chains and enter the premises;” a declaratory judgment “declaring that [Defendant] Thompson inappropriately overrode the medical advice of [Plaintiff] Big Cats' veterinarians and declaring that, in the future, the USDA cannot force [Plaintiff] Sculac to choose between following the medical advice of his veterinarians and the mandates of a USDA inspector;” and a declaratory judgment that the USDA must follow its own regulations and that it cannot conduct a warrantless search of the Big Cats facility outside of ‘normal business hours' solely because an inspector ‘want [s] to’ or because an inspector subjectively ‘believe[s][it] necessary to determine the welfare status of the animals....' ” In addition to declaratory relief, Plaintiffs also sought compensatory and punitive damages, costs, expenses, and prejudgment interest. Defendants filed a motion to dismiss. US Magistrate Judge issued a recommendation that, to the extent the Motion argued that the declaratory judgment claims should be dismissed because Plaintiffs lack standing, the Motion be granted in part and denied in part and that the declaratory judgment claims asserted by Plaintiffs Nick Sculac, Julie Walker, and Jules Investment, Inc. be dismissed without prejudice. In all other aspects, the Magistrate recommended that the Motion be denied. A District Court judge approved and adopted these recommendations and denied defendant’s objections to the recommendations.
Big Cats of Serenity Springs, Inc. v. Rhodes

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.

Bhogaita v. Altamonte Heights Condominium Assn. Appellee Ajit Bhogaita, who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), filed suit against Appellant Altamonte Heights Condominium Association, Inc. ("Association") for violating the disability provisions of the Federal and Florida Fair Housing Acts, 42 U.S.C. § 3604(f)(3)(b) (“FHA”) and the Florida Fair Housing Act, when it enforced its pet weight policy and demanded Bhogaita remove his emotional support dog from his condominium. The jury awarded Bhogaita $5,000 in damages, and the district court awarded Bhogaita more than $100,000 in attorneys' fees. This court affirmed that decision finding that there was evidence that the Association constructively denied appellee's requested accommodation. In fact, the court opined, "Neither Bhogaita's silence in the face of requests for information the Association already had nor his failure to provide information irrelevant to the Association's determination can support an inference that the Association's delay reflected an attempt at meaningful review."
Bess v. Bracken County Fiscal Court


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

Bermudez v Hanan


This unpublished small claims court opinion concerns a dog bite. Claimant sought to recover monetary damages for medical bills and related expenses she incurred as a result of personal injuries suffered when Defendant's dog named "Chino" bit her on the face. At issue is whether Chino had vicious propensities and whether Defendant was aware of or had knowledge of those vicious propensities. The court found that Plaintiff did not raise an issue of fact as to the dog's vicious propensities. The court found compelling evidence that Chino was certified by the Good Dog Foundation to visit healthcare facilities as a therapy dog. As a result, the court dismissed the motion.

Berg v. Nguyen This Alabama case involves the appeal of summary judgment on behalf of defendants in a personal injury dog bite case. The plaintiff here was bitten as she walked through a parking lot of the retail store adjacent to the residence where the dogs were kept. The dogs (six or seven pit bulls) were kept by defendants' tenants at the residence. Some of the dogs were kept in outdoor, chain-link kennels and others were allowed to remain in the fenced backyard. Plaintiff Berg filed a complaint against the Nguyens and their business under a theory of landlord-tenant liability for the dog bite. The lower court granted the Nguyens' motion for summary judgment, finding that Alabama law does not provide for landlord liability in this case. On appeal here, the court was persuaded by defendants' evidence that they did not know of the dog's dangerous propensity and were aware of only two occasions where animal control had been called. Further, there were only a few times Than Nguyen was aware the dogs were left unchained in the front yard. This was sufficient for the court to find that plaintiff did not meet her burden establishing that the Nguyens knew or should have known of any dangerous propensities of the dog that bit plaintiff. As to the issue of defendants' knowledge that pit bulls were "inherently dangerous," the court held that the Alabama Supreme Court in Humphries established that breed alone is insufficient to impute knowledge. Summary judgment was affirmed.
Berardelli v. Allied Services Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine This case presents an issue of first impression in the Court of Appeals: whether regulations on service animals, which technically apply only to reasonable accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), require that individuals with disabilities be allowed to be accompanied by their service animals under the Rehabilitation Act (RA). The facts involve an elementary student with dyslexia and epilepsy who sought to be accompanied by her service dog to school. The dog was trained to respond to her epileptic seizures and was recommended by her pediatric neurologist. The student was attending a new school after having attended a different school with her service animal who recently died. After receiving a new service animal (after being placed on a waiting list), the principal of the new school refused access for the service animal, asserting for the first time that the dog was "too much of a distraction." As a consequence of the denial, the student missed school when her seizures were too severe. After more than a year of disrupted attendance, the student's mother sought to have the seizure alert dog accompany the child to fifth grade, and the principal said he would "look into" it. Frustrated with the equivocation, the mother attempted to bring the service animal with the child and the principal prevented entrance, now saying another child had an allergy to dogs. Eventually, the dog was allowed to accompany the child with a "therapeutic shirt designed to decrease allergens," but the shirt interfered with the service animal's performance of disability-related tasks. In the end, the mother withdrew the child from this particular school. The child's parent subsequently sued the school, arguing that the school had failed to accommodate the child under Section 504 of the RA. The school moved for summary judgment on all claims. Important to the claim of discrimination under the RA, the District Court instructed the jury that on a claim for failure to accommodate, the plaintiff needed to prove that that the requested accommodations were reasonable and necessary to avoid discrimination based on disability. The jury was confused at the instructions and the child's attorney urged the court to instruct the jury on ADA service animal regulations. The Court refused saying it had “g[iven] them the law that relates to this case” and would not “go look for some new law to tell them about or some different law or something that’s not been already submitted or given to them.” The jury subsequently returned a verdict for the school. On appeal here, appellants argue that, because the subjective standards for liability under the RA and ADA are the same, the service animal regulations of the ADA should apply to the RA. The Court of Appeals first examined the history and relationship of the ADA and its precursor, the RA. Based on the overarching goal of both laws - to ensure equal opportunity and inclusion - the requirements of reasonable accommodations and reasonable modifications are inextricably intertwined. Regardless of the differing entities the statutes cover, they both impose the same liability standard based on this concept of "reasonableness." The Court also found this echoed in case law dealing with a failure to accommodate under both laws. As to the service animal regulations under the ADA, the Court held that, logically, the service animal regulations are relevant to the RA even though they technically interpret the ADA. This is supported by agency guidance in other contexts from HUD, the Dept. of Justice, and the Dept. of Labor. The Court found the school's counter arguments unpersuasive especially considering the legal principle that an anti-discrimination statute like the RA must be interpreted broadly to carry out its broad remedial purpose. In essence, the Court now holds that a covered actor must accommodate the use of a service animal by an individual with a disability under the RA just as it must do under the ADA. While the "reasonableness" of that accommodation will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, the request to be accompanied by a service animal is per se reasonable. Applying that holding to these facts, the Court found that the District Court did not correctly instruct the jury on the relevant law. The error was not harmless, and, despite the school's claim, there was not a high probability that the jury would have ruled in its favor if properly instructed. The judgment was vacated on the RA claim, reversed on the dismissal of the state discrimination claim, and remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.
Benningfield v. Zinsmeister


An 8-year-old boy and his sister were walking down a street when they were approached by a Rottweiler. Scared, the boy ran and was attacked by the dog, which caused the boy to suffer serious injuries. As a result, the mother of the child sued the owner of the dog and the landlord of the house where the dog resided under a Kentucky dog bite statute. The landlord won at both the trial and the appellate court level. Upon granting discretionary review for the case, the Kentucky Supreme Court investigated whether or not a landlord could be held strictly liable under the dog bite statute. The Court ruled that a landlord could, but only if the landlord permitted the dog to stay on or about the premises. Since the attack did not occur on or about the premises, the landlord was not found liable under the dog bite statute.

Bennett v. Bennett


In this Florida case, the husband, Ronald Bennett, appealed a final judgment of dissolution of marriage awarding custody of the parties' dog. Specifically, the husband challenged the trial court's awarding the former wife visitation with the dog. The appellate court held that the trial court lacked the authority to order visitation with personal property (in this case, a dog). The court recognized that the lower court was trying to reach a fair solution, but the order was reversed and remanded remanded so that the trial court could award the animal pursuant to the dictates of the equitable distribution statute.

Bell v. State


Defendant convicted of cruelty to animals by knowingly and intentionally torturing a puppy by amputating its ears without anesthetic or antibiotics. Defense that "veterinarians charge too much" was ineffective.

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