Florida

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Titlesort ascending Summary
Wilkerson v. State


Appellant was charged with violating Florida's Cruelty to Animals statute, Fla. Stat. ch. 828.12 (1979). He pleaded nolo contendere, reserving his right to appeal the trial court's order, which denied his motion to dismiss and upheld the constitutionality of the statute. The supreme court affirmed. Appellant argued that the statute was unconstitutionally vague and overbroad because the statute failed to provide guidance as to what animals were included and what acts were unnecessary. The supreme court concluded that people of common intelligence would have been able to discern what were and were not animals under the statute and that the legislature clearly intended that a raccoon be included. Additionally, just because the statute did not enumerate every instance in which conduct against an animal was unnecessary or excessive did not render the statute void for vagueness. The conduct prohibited was described in general language. Finally, because appellant's conduct was clearly proscribed by the statute, he did not have standing to make an overbreadth attack.

WERTMAN v. TIPPING


The plaintiffs, owners of a seven-year-old trained, registered full blood German Shepherd dog, sued the defendants for the loss of this dog from the kennels at the animal hospital owned and operated by the defendant. The dog had been boarded at defendant's place and while there escaped from the kennel and was never found. This case set the wheels in motion for companion animals damages in Florida when the court affirmed a verdict of $1000, for a purebred dog. The court declined in only applying the fair market value and held that recovery could include special or pecuniary value to the owner.

Tran v. Bancroft


In this Florida case, a tenant's next-door neighbor, who was bitten by tenant's dog when it leaped over fence and then attacked the neighbor on property not owned by landlord, brought a personal injury suit against the landlord.  The appellate court upheld a motion of summary judgment in favor of the defendant non-owner.

  The court found that t

he existence of a duty in a negligence action is a question to be decided as a matter of law.  Although the so-called "dog bite" statute, section 767.04, Florida Statutes (1993) controls actions against a dog's owner, actions against a non-owner must be brought upon a theory of common law liability.  Essentially, a landlord has no duty to prevent injuries to third parties caused by a tenant's dog away from leased premises.

Strickland v. Pinellas Cty. Andy G. Strickland appealed an order dismissing with prejudice his complaint for declaratory relief against Pinellas County. The request stems from letters he received from Animal Services of Pinellas County about his dog. Strickland and a neighbor were involved in a dispute after their dogs attacked each other. The neighbor filed a complaint with Animal Services claiming that Strickland's dog was the "aggressor dog" and then sent a letter to the Pinellas County Board of Commissioners. The County then sent two letters to Strickland, the first informing him that his dog had exhibited dangerous propensities, and the second, from an assistant county attorney, informing him of the possible criminal ramifications for keeping a dangerous dog or being an "Irresponsible Pet Owner" under the county code. As a result of these letters, Strickland filed a complaint in circuit court saying that he was not afforded any opportunity to dispute those claims and that he is entitled to have the threat of criminal prosecution removed. The County moved to dismiss Strickland's complaint arguing that he failed to allege a justiciable controversy and a bona fide dispute between the County and him. The County claimed that there were no legal findings made with respect to Strickland's dog and that the letters were possible ramifications and explanations of law. The trial court agreed and granted the County's motion, finding the letters were not accusatory and the case presented no justiciable issue. On appeal here, this court upheld the lower court's order because Strickland's allegations did not present a bona fide dispute. Both letters emphasized that his dog had not been classified as dangerous and that no action was being taken by the county. A speculative fear by Strickland that he may be subject to future consequences does not warrant declaratory relief and does not show imminent danger of prosecution. Thus, the trial court correctly dismissed Strickland's complaint. Affirmed.
State v. Wilson


In this Florida case, the state appeals a county court order that granted appellee's motion to dismiss two counts of an information and which also declared a state statute to be unconstitutional. Defendant-appellee was arrested for having approximately seventy-seven poodles in cages in the back of a van without food, water and sufficient air. In her motion to dismiss, defendant-appellee alleged that the phrases “sufficient quantity of good and wholesome food and water” and “[k]eeps any animals in any enclosure without wholesome exercise and change of air” as contained in sections 828.13(2)(a) and (b) were void for vagueness. In reversing the lower court, this court held that the prohibitions against depriving an animal of sufficient food, water, air and exercise, when measured by common understanding and practice, are not unconstitutionally vague.

State v. Morival


Defendant moved to dismiss charges of two felony counts of animal cruelty. The District Court of Appeal held that systematically depriving his dogs of nourishment was properly charged as felony animal cruelty rather than misdemeanor.  Defendant fed his dogs so little that they suffered malnutrition over an extended period of time. This amounted to repeated infliction of unnecessary pain or suffering.

State v. Milewski This Florida case involves the appeal of defendant's motion to suppress evidence in an animal cruelty case. Specifically, defendant Milewski challenged the evidence obtained during the necropsy of his puppy, alleging that he did not abandon his property interest in the body of the deceased dog because he thought the puppy's remains would be returned to him in the form of ashes. The necropsy showed that the puppy suffered a severe brain hemorrhage, extensive body bruises, and a separated spinal column that were consistent with severe physical abuse (which was later corroborated by Milewski's confession that he had thrown the dog). The trial court granted the motion to suppress and further found that law enforcement infringed on defendant's rights as the "patient's owner" when they interviewed the veterinarian and obtained veterinary records without consent or a subpoena, contrary to Florida law. On appeal, this court found that the Fourth Amendment does not extend to abandoned property. When Milewski abandoned his puppy's remains for the less-expensive "group cremation" at the vet's office, he gave up his expectation of privacy. As such, the court found that he was not deprived of his property without consent or due process when animal services seized the puppy's remains without a warrant. Further, this court found that there was no basis to suppress the veterinarian's voluntary statements about the puppy's condition or the necropsy report. The motion to suppress was reversed as to the doctor's statements/testimony and the evidence from the necropsy. The trial court's suppression of the hospital's medical records obtained without a subpoena was affirmed.
State v. Butler


The Florida appeals court held that the lack of a pre-deprivation hearing prior to the seizure of respondent’s alligators for lack of a permit did not violate the due process clause of the Constitution. Since the state owned title to all wildlife, and since Butler did not have the required permit to possess the alligators, there was no protected interest requiring due process.

State v. Archer This appeal concerns the lower court's granting of a motion to suppress evidence in an animal cruelty case. In April of 2017, a Ponce Inlet Police Department officer responded to defendant's residence after receiving a call about possible animal abuse. The caller described hearing sounds of a dog yelping and being beaten. Upon arrival, Officer Bines heard dog commands and the sounds of "striking flesh." He then knocked on defendant Archer's front door and began speaking with him on the front porch. Officer Bines told Archer that he was there to investigate a complaint of possible animal abuse to which Archer acknowledged that his dog bit him after he disciplined the dog for making a mess, so he "hit him a couple times." The officer then told Archer he had "probable cause" to enter the house or he could seek a warrant. Ultimately, Bines followed Archer to the backyard where Archer pointed to a dog in the corner that had its tongue out and was bloodied. Shortly thereafter, Bines determined the dog was dead. Archer was then cuffed and advised of his Miranda rights. After placing Archer in the police vehicle, Bines and other officers re-entered the home and yard to take pictures of the crime scene and to secure the canine's remains. After being charged with violating the cruelty to animals law (Section 828.12), Archer moved to suppress the evidence obtained from the warrantless entry of his home. The trial court granted and denied the motion in part, finding that while there were exigent circumstances to justify the warrantless entry, the exigency was over once it was determined that the dog was dead. The State of Florida appeals here. The appellate court first noted that while warrantless searches of homes are presumed illegal, an officer may enter when there are exigent circumstances including medical emergencies related to animals. Despite Archer's attempts to distinguish the instant facts from previous cases because there were no signs of blood or smells to indicate an emergency, the totality of the facts showed police received a call of animal cruelty in progress and the Officer Bines heard sounds of striking flesh. In addition, Archer advised Bines that he had struck the dog. Thus, the court found the officer "had reasonable grounds to believe that there was an urgent and immediate need to check on the safety and well-being of the dog and to connect the feared emergency to the house that they entered." As to suppression of the evidence found in plain view after entry onto the property, the appellate court also found the lower court erred in its decision. Under existing case law, once entry is allowed based on exigent circumstances, items found in plain view may be lawfully seized. The officer saw the dog in the corner before he knew the dog was dead, and thus, the exigency still existed. With respect to the photographs taken and the bodycam footage, the court held that re-entry into the home after Archer was in the patrol car did not require a warrant. Once an exigency that justified a warrantless search is over, law enforcement cannot go back and conduct further searches. However, in this case, the re-entry into Archer's house was a continuation of photographing evidence that was already found in plain view while the exigency existed (e.g., before the officers knew the dog was dead). The motion to suppress was affirmed in part and reversed in part.
State of Florida v. Peters
This is an appeal from an order of the county court invalidating a City of North Miami ordinance regulating the ownership of pit bull dogs. 

The ordinance in question, City of North Miami Ordinance No. 422.5, regulates the ownership of pit bulls by requiring their owners to carry insurance or furnish other evidence of financial responsibility, register their pit bulls with the City, and confine the dogs indoors or in a locked pen.  The court dismissed defendants claims that the ordinance violates equal protection and due process, and that the ordinance's definition of a pit bull is on its face unconstitutionally vague.

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