|State v. Hearl||Defendant Hearl was convicted of nineteen counts of animal cruelty by jury. The convictions stem from the care of his goat herd used for his goat cheese manufacturing business in Connecticut in 2014. Defendant and his business partner moved a herd from Massachusetts to Cornall, CT in May of 2014, where they rented an open air barn space (mainly used for dairy cows), but did not negotiate any boarding or care of the goats. Another farmer (Betti) rented the other half of the barn space for his dairy cows. Betti became concerned about defendant's goat herd in Fall 2014. As the condition of the goats deteriorated (to the point of death for some of the goats), Betti informed the state Dept. of Agriculture and this spurred the investigation which culminated in the seizure of defendant's remaining living goats in January 2015. On appeal of his conviction, defendant raises four main arguments: (1) the evidence adduced at trial was insufficient to sustain his conviction, (2) the trial court did not provide the jury with a proper instruction on the required mental state; (3) § 53–247 (a) is unconstitutionally vague as applied to his conduct; and (4) his conviction and sentencing on nineteen separate counts of animal cruelty violates the constitutional prohibitions against double jeopardy. As to defendant's first insufficiency of the evidence claim, defendant's argument centered on whether he had charge or custody of the goats necessary to impute responsibility to him. The court found that there was ample evidence before the jury to support the finding that the defendant confined, or had charge or custody of, the goats. Not only did the defendant play an active role in the management of the goats according to testimony, but.in converstations with officers, defendant “took the lead on telling me what was being done with the management of the goats” and that he “predominated the conversation” about the mortality rates in the herd. In fact, the court found compelling evidence of defendant's custody role where since he had authority to order the euthanization of the animals. Defendant's attempts to characterize his role as mere "ownership," with no role in the particulars of confinement, were unpersuasive. Ownership itself "can still be probative evidence that the defendant bore the responsibility of caring for the goats and authorizing their confinement." Equally unpersuasive was defendant's claim that his business partner was the was who alone confined the 20 plus goats in the open air barn. However, the court noted that there is "no authority limits liability under the statute to a single actor when the facts demonstrate that more than one person may have confined the goats or had charge or custody of them." The jury reasonably could have concluded that the defendant, having confined, or having charge or custody of, the goats, failed to give the goats proper care or food, water, and shelter. On defendant's second claim, the court concluded that the mens rea required for a conviction under the relevant portion of § 53–247 (a) is general intent and that the trial court did not err by declining to instruct the jury on criminal negligence. Defendant's third argument - that § 53–247 (a), was unconstitutionally vague - was also dispensed by the court. Even if the terms "charge" or "custody" are susceptible to some degree of interpretation, the record here shows that defendant had definite notice that his conduct violated the law. Further, the evidence at trial showed that he had notice from the state on things like heat lamps and shelter from the wind and failed to protect the animals by acting on those instructions. Finally, the court considered defendant's final double jeopardy argument and whether the legislature intended to authorize multiple convictions for cruelty for each goat or one conviction for the cruel treatment of the nineteen goats under § 53–247 (a). In looking at previous versions of the anti-cruelty law and other laws within the chapter, the court found that defendant's separate abuse and maltreatment of each goat supports the nineteen separate counts filed by the prosecutor. The judgment was affirmed.|
|State v. Josephs||In this Connecticut case, defendant, Delano Josephs appeals his judgment of conviction of a single violation of § 53–247(a). The incident stems from Defendant's shooting of his neighbor's cat with a BB gun. A witness heard the discharge of the BB gun, then saw a man he recognized as defendant walking with a BB gun in his hands in a "stalking" manner. Over a week later, defendant's neighbor noticed blood on her cat's shoulder and brought her cat to the veterinarian who found three or four metal objects that resembled BBs near the cat's spine. After receiving this diagnosis, the cat's owner reported to police that her neighbor was "shooting her cats." Animal control officers then interviewed defendant who admitted he has a BB gun and shoots at cats to scare them away, but "he had no means of hurting any cats." At the trial level, defendant raised the argument that § 53–247(a) requires specific intent to harm an animal. The trial court disagreed, finding the statute requires only a general intent to engage in the conduct. On appeal, defendant argues that since he was convicted under the "unjustifiably injures" portion of § 53–247(a), the trial court applied the wrong mens rea for the crime. In reviewing the statute, this court observed that the use of the term "unjustifiably" by the legislature is meant to distinguish that section from the section that says "intentionally." Thus, the legislature use of two different terms within the same subsection convinced the court that clause under which defendant was convicted is only a general intent crime. On defendant's void for vagueness challenge, the court found that this unpreserved error did not deprive him of a fair trial. A person of ordinary intelligence would understand that shooting a cat for trespassing is not a justifiable act. While the court agreed with defendant that "unjustifiably injures" is susceptible to other interpretations, in the instant case, defendant conduct in killing a companion animal is not permitted under this or other related laws. The judgment was affirmed.|
|State v. Smith||
|Town of Bethlehem v. Acker||
Plaintiffs seized approximately 65 dogs from the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals of Connecticut pursuant to a search and seizure warrant that had been issued on facts showing that the dogs, which were being kept in an uninsulated barn with an average temperature of 30 degrees Fahrenheit, were neglected, in violation of General Statutes § 22–329a. The trial court found that the smaller breed dogs were neglected, but found that larger breed dogs were not. On an appeal by plaintiffs and a cross appeal by defendants, the appeals court found: (1) the trial court applied the correct legal standards and properly determined that the smaller breed dogs were neglected and that the larger breed dogs were not neglected, even though all dogs were kept in a barn with an average temperature of 30 degrees Fahrenheit; (2) § 22–329a was not unconstitutionally vague because a person of ordinary intelligence would know that keeping smaller breed dogs in an uninsulated space with an interior temperature of approximately 30 degrees Fahrenheit would constitute neglect; (3) the trial court did not err in declining to admit the rebuttal testimony offered by the defendants; and (4) the trial court did not err in granting the plaintiffs' request for injunctive relief and properly transferred ownership of the smaller breed dogs to the town. The appellate court, however, reversed the judgment of the trial court only with respect to its dispositional order, which directed the parties to determine among themselves which dogs were smaller breed dogs and which dogs were larger breed dogs, and remanded the case for further proceedings, consistent with this opinion.
|Town of Plainville v. Almost Home Animal Rescue & Shelter, Inc.||This is an appeal by the town of Plainville following the lower court's granting of defendant's motion to strike both counts of the plaintiffs' complaint. The complaint raised one count of negligence per se for defendant's failure to provide care for animals at its rescue facility. Count two centered on unjust enrichment for defendant's failure to reimburse the town for expenditures in caring for the seized animals. The facts arose in 2015 after plaintiff received numerous complaints that defendant's animal rescue was neglecting its animals. Upon visiting the rescue facility, the plaintiff observed that the conditions were unsanitary and the many animals unhealthy and in need of medical care. The plaintiff then seized 25 animals from defendant and provided care for the animals at the town's expense. Soon thereafter, plaintiffs commenced an action to determine the legal status of the animals and requiring the defendant to reimburse the town for care expenses. Prior to a trial on this matter, the parties reached a stipulation agreement that provided for adoption of the impounded animals by a third party, but contained no provision addressing reimbursement by the defendant to the town. Because there was no hearing on the merits of plaintiff's petition as to whether defendant had neglected or abused the animals for reimbursement under the anti-cruelty law, the court had no authority to order the defendant to reimburse the plaintiffs. Plaintiff then filed the instant action and the lower court held that each count failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Specifically, the court held that, with respect to count one on negligence per se under § 53–247, the statute does not impose such liability on one who violates the law. Further, unjust enrichment is only available is there is no adequate remedy at law, and another law, § 22–329a (h), provides the exclusive remedy for the damages sought by the town. On appeal here, this court held that the court properly determined that the plaintiffs were not among the intended beneficiaries of § 53–247 and that that determination alone was sufficient to strike count one. The court found "absolutely no language in the statute, however, that discusses costs regarding the care of animals subjected to acts of abuse or neglect or whether violators of § 53–247 have any obligation to compensate a municipality or other party." Thus, plaintiffs could not rely upon § 53–247 as a basis for maintaining a negligence per se case against the defendant. As to count two, the court rejected plaintiffs' unjust enrichment claim. Because the right of recovery for unjust enrichment is equitable in nature, if a statute exists that provides a remedy at law, the equitable solution is unavailable. The court found that Section 22–329a provides a remedy for a municipality seeking to recover costs expended in caring for animals seized as a result of abuse and neglect. The stipulation agreement signed and agreed to by the parties contained no provision for reimbursement and settled the matter before there was an adjudication that the animals were abused or neglected. As a result, the judgment was affirmed.|
|Vargas v. Vargas||
Court awarded custody of rottweiler to wife, after considering testimony adduced (husband was not treating the dog very nicely) and the state of the husband’s home (scrap metal yard and fact 5-year-old child visits regularly). This decision was made notwithstanding the fact that dog was gift from wife to husband and the dog was registered to husband with AKC.
|Vendrella v. Astriab Family Ltd. Partnership||
|Wiederhold v. Derench||A dog owner had purchased a Newfoundland dog from a breeder and signed a contract that stated she would return the dog to the breeder if she could no longer care for it. After the dog attacked another dog, the owner had the obligation to return the dog to the breeder. A third party, the owner’s friend attempted to help the owner and contacted the breeder to notify her about the owner's intention to return the dog. The breeder was busy on that particular day. She was with another dog delivering another litter of puppies and could not come to pick up the owner's dog. The owner then sold the dog to the defendant, a dog breeder and co-chair of the Newfoundland Club of New England Rescue. The rescue worker had prepared a bill of sale, which the owner signed, and the rescue worker then handed the owner $100 to help with expenses. The trial court held that the transfer to the rescue worker was not a bona fide sale. The rescue worker took possession of the dog in her capacity as a member of the rescue organization and not as a bona fide buyer. The court also found that the original breeder had not given up her contract rights to the dog. The breeder was handling an emergency delivery of puppies with a different dog, which made it reasonable that she could not pick up the owner's dog that day. The defendant rescue worker knew the breeder had not relinquished her contractual ownership right to the dog and so the court held that the plaintiff was the sole owner and entitled to sole possession.|
|Woodside Village v. Hertzmark||The question in this case is whether federal and state laws outlawing discrimination in housing prohibit the eviction of a mentally disabled defendant from his federally subsidized apartment because of his failure to comply with the plaintiff's pet policy. The plaintiff here had disabilities including schizophrenia and severe learning disabilities. The plaintiff-landlord allowed tenants to keep pets, but required pet care, which included walking the dogs in a designated area and requiring that tenants use a "pooper scooper" to clean up behind their pets. The tenant-defendant here does not dispute that he failed to comply, but claims the plaintiff-landlord, as a recipient of federal funds, failed to reasonably accommodate his disability. The court found that plaintiff-landlord did in fact accommodate the defendant-tenant's disability by either waiving the provisions of its pet policy or permitting the defendant to build a fenced in area for the dog in the rear of the defendant's apartment. The eviction here was not based on the fact that defendant-tenant possesses a dog, but on his "demonstrated inability to comply with the plaintiff's pet policy." This, said the court, put other residents' health, safety and comfort at risk.|