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Kuehl v. Sellner 887 F.3d 845 (8th Cir. Apr. 11, 2018) 2018 WL 1733841 (8th Cir. Apr. 11, 2018) Plaintiffs, including advocacy organization Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), brought suit against defendants the Sellners and the Cricket Hollow Zoo to enjoin defendants' mistreatment of their animals in violation of the Endangered Species Act, 16 U.S.C. § 1531 et seq. Defendants ran a zoo with over 300 animals, including lemurs, tigers, cougars, monkeys and birds, among others. Several of the plaintiffs visited defendants' zoo and witnessed care that raised concerns about the animals' mental and physical well-being, including lemurs kept in isolation with insufficient climbing structures, and tigers kept in feces-filled cages with inadequate care/enrichment. The district court denied plaintiffs' requests for attorney fees and costs and also transferred the animals to a facility that was not proposed by plaintiffs. On appeal, defendants argued that plaintiffs lack standing, and, even if they had standing, defendants contend that they did not violate the ESA. Plaintiffs also appealed, challenging the district court's placement decision for the animals, as well as the court's denial of their request for attorney fees. The Court of Appeals disagreed with defendants that plaintiffs lacked standing because "[they] visited the Cricket Hollow Zoo for the purpose of looking for claimed violations." The court noted that "it is the violation itself" and not the search for it that has caused injury to the plaintiffs. As to defendants' argument that they could not have violated the ESA because the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) provides a "safe harbor" for licensed facilities, the court found that the AWA does not provide a blanket immunity to the ESA. Here, the defendants harassed the lemurs under the ESA by keeping them socially isolated with insufficient enrichment. The defendants also harassed the tigers under the ESA by failing to provide appropriate veterinary care and keeping them in unsanitary conditions. With regard to the placement of the animals at a facility chosen by defendants, this court found no clear error by the district court and, thus, there was no abuse of discretion in the placement decision. Finally, as to denial of plaintiffs' request for attorney fees and costs, the court found that plaintiffs were seeking fees to serve "as a vehicle to close Cricket Hollow." The court was concerned that the use of the ESA as a "weapon" to close small, privately-owned zoos was not envisioned by the Act. Hence, those circumstances justified the district court's decision to deny the motion for attorney fees. The lower court's decision was affirmed. Case
Kuehl v. Sellner 2016 WL 3429679 (unpublished) (N.D. Iowa June 17, 2016) Five Plaintiffs Tracey K. Kuehl, Lisa K. Kuehl, Kris A. Bell, Nancy A. Harvey, John T. Braumann, and the Animal Legal Defense Fund filed a complaint against Defendants Pamela Sellner, Tom Sellner, and Cricket Hollow Zoo, seeking declaratory and injunctive relief. The Plaintiffs claimed that the Defendants violated the Endangered Species Act (ESA), by holding captive endangered species specifically the lemurs and tigers housed at Cricket Hollow Zoo. The United States District Court, N.D. Iowa, Eastern Division ordered the Defendants, to transfer the lemurs and tigers in their possession “to an appropriate facility which is licensed by the USDA and is capable of meeting the needs of the endangered species.” The Defendants proposed transporting the lemurs to Special Memories Zoo in Hortonville, Wisconsin, and transporting the tigers to the Exotic Feline Rescue Center in Centerpoint, Indiana. The Plaintiffs claimed that the proposed placements did not comply with the Court's Order and proposed that the lemurs be placed with the Prosimian Sanctuary in Jacksonville, Florida, and the tigers be transported to the Wild Animal Sanctuary in Keenesburg, Colorado. The Court held that the Special Memories Zoo was capable of meeting the lemurs' needs and should be transported there as the Defendant’s proposed. The court reasoned that even if the Court found Special Memories incapable of meeting the lemurs' needs, the Prosimian Sanctuary as proposed by the Plaintiff's was not licensed by the USDA. The Court also held that the endangered tigers should be transferred to the Exotic Feline Rescue Center as the Defendant’s proposed. The court reasoned that the center was capable of meeting of the needs of the tigers. Therefore the Court approved the Defendants' proposed placement of the lemurs and tigers. Case
Landry’s, Inc. v. Animal Legal Defense Fund --- S.W.3d ----, 2018 WL 5075116 (Tex. App. Oct. 18, 2018) This is an appeal of a dismissal of appellant Landry's claims under the Texas Citizens Participation Act (“the TCPA”) and the subsequent required awarding of attorney fees and sanction under Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code Ann. § 27.009. Landry's is a large corporation that owns and operates more than 500 entertainment properties across the country, including the Houston Aquarium, Inc. The aquarium houses four white tigers in an human-made enclosure known as "Maharaja's Temple." Appellees, including the Animal Legal Defense Fund and its attorneys as well as a radio station owner (Cheryl Conley), asserted a variety of claims in connection with the publication of the notice to intend to sue under the Endangered Species Act due to the care and housing of the tigers. As a result of that notice and the associated publicity, Landry's asserted claims in the trial court for defamation, business disparagement, tortious interference with prospective business relations, abuse of process, trespass, conspiracy to commit each of these torts, and conspiracy to commit theft. Conley and ALDF moved to dismiss the claims under the TCPA, arguing that the claims related to exercise of free speech, petition, and association, and that Landry's could not make out a prima facie case. Additionally, they also argued that the claims were barred by the judicial-proceedings privilege. The lower court agreed and granted Conley's motion to dismiss. It also awarded $250,000 to ALDF and $200,000 to Conley. On appeal here, Landry again points to the allegedly defamatory statements released on social media (Twitter and Facebook) and through news media regarding the tigers' care. The court noted that many of the statements were non-actionable because they were not shown to be false statements of fact or were opinions. Nonetheless, even on those statements where Landry's met their burden of proving a defamation claim, the statements were protected by the judicial-proceedings privilege. The court was not convinced by Landry's contention that the statements were not made in contemplation of litigation because they were made after the required federal notice for filing suit under the ESA. Additionally, the court also rejected Landry's claim that the ALDF cannot claim attorney immunity because it is not a law firm and instead is comprised of attorneys who hold law licenses. The court observed that law licenses are not issued to business entities, but to individuals. The court also rejected Landry's remaining causes of action. As to the attorneys' fee and sanctions, the court did modify the attorneys' fees because one attorney at the trial court level did not participate in the appeal. Landry's then argued that the $450,000 in sanctions was excessive. The court first noted the TCPA mandates an award of sanctions and attorneys' fees. In reviewing the award for abuse of discretion, this court reviewed arguments by ALDF concerning Landry's hiring of the third largest law firm to defend a relatively small initial action, the filing of a 157-page response, with Landry's unwillingness to concede any points. The court took that in addition to several factors under the TCPA. The court was particularly concerned with Landry's filing of this suit on day 59 of the 60-day notice to file suit under the ESA (which may have been an indication to preempt the federal suit, according to the court). Despite that and more, the court did conclude that sanctions that were 2.4 and 2.8 times the attorneys' fees awards were excessive. The court suggested a remittitur, which would bring those awards respectively to $103,191.26 and $71,295.00. Thus, the lower court's decision to dismiss Landry's claims was affirmed, but the awards for attorneys' fee and sanctions were modified. Case
Leider v. Lewis 2 Cal. 5th 1121, 394 P.3d 1055 (2017) 2017 WL 2276526 (Cal. May 25, 2017) The Plaintiffs, Residents of Los Angeles, brought a taxpayer action against the Defendants, the City of Los Angeles and the Los Angeles Zoo, alleging elephant abuse in violation of various Penal Code provisions. The Superior Court, Los Angeles County, granted the Defendants summary judgment. The Residents appealed. At trial, the Residents were awarded injunctive and declaratory relief. The Court of Appeals reversed. On remand, the trial court rejected many of the Resident’s claims, but issued limited injunctions prohibiting use of particular forms of discipline, requiring the elephants to have specific amounts of exercise time, and requiring the rototilling of soil in exhibit. Both parties appealed. The Court of Appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court of California granted review and reversed the Court of Appeals. The Supreme Court held that: (1) the prior Court of Appeals decision was not law of the case as to the argument that the Residents was precluded from obtaining injunctive relief for conduct that violated Penal Code, and (2) the Residents' challenge to the city's treatment of elephants improperly sought injunctive relief for Penal Code violations. Case
Leider v. Lewis 243 Cal. App. 4th 1078 (Cal. 2016) 2016 WL 164343 (Cal. Ct. App. Jan. 14, 2016) Plaintiffs, taxpayers Aaron Leider and the late Robert Culp, filed suit against the Los Angeles Zoo and Director Lewis to enjoin the continued operation of the elephant exhibit and to prevent construction of a new, expanded exhibit. Plaintiffs contend that the Zoo's conduct violates California animal cruelty laws and constitutes illegal expenditure of public funds and property. The case went to trial and the trial court issued limited injunctions relating to forms of discipline for the elephants, exercise time, and rototilling of the soil in the exhibit. On appeal by both sides, this court first took up whether a taxpayer action could be brought for Penal Code violations or to enforce injunctions. The Court held that the earlier Court of Appeals' decision was the law of the case as to the argument that the plaintiff-taxpayer was precluded from obtaining injunctive relief for conduct that violated the Penal Code. The Court found the issue was previously decided and "is not defeated by raising a new argument that is essentially a twist on an earlier unsuccessful argument." Further, refusing to apply this Civil Code section barring injunctions for Penal Code violations will not create a substantial injustice. The Court also found the order to rototill the soil was proper because it accords with the "spirit and letter" of Penal Code section 597t (a law concerning exercise time for confined animals). As to whether the exhibit constituted animal cruelty under state law, the Court found no abuse of discretion when the trial court declined to make such a finding. Finally, the Court upheld the lower court's ruling that declined further injunctive relief under section 526a (a law that concerns actions against state officers for injuries to public property) because the injury prong could not be satisfied. As stated by the Court, "We agree with the trial court that there is no standard by which to measure this type of harm in order to justify closing a multi-million dollar public exhibit." Case
Nonhuman Rights Project, Inc. ex rel. Beulah v. R.W. Commerford & Sons, Inc. 2017 WL 7053738 (Not Reported in A.3d) (Conn. Super. Ct. Dec. 26, 2017) In this case the petitioner, Nonhuman Rights Project, Inc., sought a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of three elephants, Beulah, Minnie, and Karen, which are owned by the respondents, R.W. Commerford & Sons, Inc. and William R. Commerford, as president of R.W. Commerford & Sons, Inc. The issue was whether the court should grant the petition for writ of habeas corpus because the elephants are “persons” entitled to liberty and equality for the purposes of habeas corpus. The court denied the petition on the ground that the court lacks subject matter jurisdiction (because the plaintiffs lacked standing) and the petition was wholly frivolous on its face in legal terms (elephants are not "persons" according to the court). The court he court dismissed the petition for writ of habeas, but pointed to the state's anti-cruelty laws "as a potential alternative method of ensuring the well-being of any animal." Case
Padilla v. Stringer 395 F.Supp. 495 (1974) 10 Fair Empl.Prac.Cas. (BNA) 575, 9 Empl. Prac. Dec. P 10,196, 19 Fed.R.Serv.2d 832 Plaintiff employee brought a suit of discrimination against the Albuquerque Rio Grande Zoo under 28 U.S.C.A. § 1343(4) and 42 U.S.C.A. §§ 1983, 2000e et seq. Case
Pedersen v. Benson 255 F.2d 524 (C.A.D.C. 1958) 103 U.S.App.D.C. 115

In the matter of Pedersen v. Benson , an importer had a permit to import five giraffes from Kenya, three of which were sold and released to public zoos after the requisite quarantine period.  The other two were bought by ‘Africa USA,’ but not released.  One of them had a heart attack and died.  Plaintiff’s filed suit to have the other one they purchased released.  The permits, issued by APHIS, were issued under the further understanding that all the giraffes would be consigned to an approved zoological park (Africa USA is a privately-owned zoo).  The Court found no basis to uphold the government’s claim that a government officer may impose an ad hoc system of licensure upon any citizen, or upon any one group, i.e. private zoos, as opposed to another.  Here, the importation was specifically permitted for all five animals, and any one animal was just as much a potential carrier of hoof and mouth disease as this particular giraffe.  Therefore, this matter was dismissed for failure to state a cognizable claim. 

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PEOPLE FOR THE ETHICAL TREATMENT OF ANIMALS, INC., Plaintiff, v. WILDLIFE IN NEED AND WILDLIFE IN DEED, INC. --- F.Supp.3d ----, 2020 WL 4448481 (S.D. Ind. Aug. 3, 2020) Wildlife in Need and Wildlife in Deed, Inc. ("WIN") is a zoo located in Charlestown, Indiana owned by Timothy Stark and Melissa Lane that houses exotic and endangered animals, including Big Cats like lions, tigers, and hybrids. WIN exhibits Big Cats to the public through hands-on encounters called “Tiger Baby Playtime” so Stark routinely declaws Big Cat cubs in his possession so he can handle them easier, not for any medical reason. Stark admitted to declawing "about a dozen cubs" in 2016 alone. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Inc. ("PETA") filed this lawsuit against Stark and Lane and their WIN zoo alleging that the defendants harassed and wounded Big Cats in violation of the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA). Specifically, this case asks whether certain animal exhibitors have "taken" various species of Big Cats by declawing them and prematurely separating them from their mothers to use in hands-on, public interactions. By granting PETA's motion for Partial Summary Judgment, this court concludes that such conduct constitutes a "taking" and thus violates the ESA. The court noted that PETA's motion for preliminary injunction was granted in 2017, restraining defendant from declawing any Big Cats absent a medical necessity supported by a veterinarian's opinion. Then, on February 12, 2018, the court preliminarily enjoined the WIN Defendants from declawing their Big Cats, prematurely separating Big Cat Cubs from their mothers, and using Cubs in Tiger Baby Playtime. The court previously concluded that declawing constitutes a “taking” under the ESA at the preliminary injunction stage, and now found "there is no good reason to disturb that conclusion." Thus, the court again concludes the WIN Defendants' declawing constitutes a “taking” under the ESA: it “harasses” Big Cats by creating a likelihood of significantly disrupting normal behavioral patterns; it “harms” Big Cats by actually injuring them; and it “wounds” Big Cats by inflicting a physical injury. In addition to granting the permanent injunction, the court also directed PETA to file a motion to appoint a special master and identify a reputable wildlife sanctuary for the animals housed at WIN. Case
PETA v. Tri-State Zoological Park --- F.Supp.3d ----, 2019 WL 7185560 (D. Md. Dec. 26, 2019) PETA brought this action against defendants Tri-State Zoological Park of Western Maryland, Inc., Animal Park, Care & Rescue, Inc., and Robert Candy (collectively, “Tri-State”). Prior to this lawsuit, Tri-State was home to two lemurs, five tigers, and two lions which are all protected under the Endangered Species Act (“ESA”). More than half of the protected species housed at Tri-State died. PETA alleged violations of the ESA. PETA contended that the animals were subjected to harm and harassment and that Tri-State committed a “take” as defined by the ESA as a result of unsanitary living conditions, poor diets, and inadequate shelter and enrichment. The district court found that PETA had standing to bring suit. The court also found that each of the respective animals had been subjected to a take under the ESA. The court ultimately held that it would enter a separate order declaring that the Defendants violated the ESA by unlawfully taking the remaining big cats and maintaining possession of them. The Court permanently enjoined the Defendants from ever owning or possessing any endangered or threatened species and terminated the Defendants’ ownership and possessory rights to the animals. The Defendants’ motion to stay was denied. Case

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