New York

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Titlesort descending Summary
Finn v. Anderson This replevin action concerns ownership of an "indoor/outdoor" cat named "Sylvester" or "Marshmallow," depending on perspective. In September 2018, plaintiffs found an unidentified, thin, white cat hanging around their house looking for food. After several months of feeding the cat, in January 2019, plaintiffs decided to bring the cat inside and take it to a vet, where he was de-wormed, vaccinated, treated for fleas, microchipped, and dubbed "Sylvester." A few weeks later, Sylvester accidentally got out of plaintiff's house where plaintiff found out from a neighbor that the cat was taken back by the Defendant, who claimed that Sylvester is actually "Marshmallow" and had been plaintiff's indoor/outdoor cat since 2009. Plaintiff then filed a replevin action against defendant to recover legal possession of Sylvester, aka Marshmallow. The City Court, New York, Jamestown, Chautauqua County first noted that, regardless of how people feel about their dogs and cats, New York law treats them as personal property and even "chattel." While the court observed that the trend has been the "de-chattelization" of household pets in New York, it has not gone so far as to adopt a "best interests" standard to replace the superior possessory rights standard. The court noted that there is inherent difficulty in applying a best interests standard with pets because there is no practical way of gauging a pet's feelings and assessing its interests. The court further stated that New York Courts have developed a “quasi-interests based standard” for pets that considers highly subjective factors. Significantly, the court declared the following: "[w]hile it appears the Appellate Division, Fourth Department, has not addressed the issue, this Court concludes that it is time to declare that a pet should no longer be considered “personal property” like a table or car." Thus, using a "best for all concerned" articulated in Raymond v. Lachmann in 1999, this court weighed the factors whether to place Sylvester/Marshmallow with plaintiff or defendant based on the care provided by both parties. The court found, in a very close decision, that the “best interests of all concerned” test leaves the custody of the cat, Sylvester/Marshmallow, with the defendant. While the court was convinced that plaintiffs were genuinely concerned for Sylvester's/Marshmallow's welfare and spent time and money on his care, it appears that Sylvester/Marshmallow may have “voted with his feet” to return to his home of ten years with the defendant and her children. The Court found in favor of the defendant, and plaintiff's claim was dismissed.
Fiori v. Conway Org.


In this New York case, a customer brought a negligence action against the owner of a retail store after she was allegedly attacked by a stray cat while shopping at store. The owner of the store moved for summary judgment. The Civil Court of the City of New York, Bronx County, held that a genuine issue of material fact existed as to whether the presence of a stray or feral cat in a retail store constituted a particular danger for unassuming visitors and/or customers whose presence on premises was foreseeable precluded summary judgment.

Fitzgerald v. Varney Defendant-Respondents appeal a judgment by the Town of Stony Creek Justice Court declaring their dog to be a "dangerous dog" and ordering euthanasia. On December 30, 2017, defendants’ dog bit their 12-year-old grandson on the upper lip. The child and defendants’ dog were side-by-side on a couch when the child reached over toward the dog. The dog unexpectedly jumped up and bit the child on the left side of the mouth. The child received emergency care and was eventually given injections and stitches to close the wound. Testimony revealed that pain only last the first day after the incident and the stiches dissolved within ten days. The dangerous dog was action was commenced by James Fitzgerald, Sr. who was the dog control officer for the town of Stony Creek, and was completed a few months after the incident. At the close of the hearing, the trial judge found by clear and convincing evidence that the dog was dangerous and caused "serious physical injury." This resulted in the court ordering that the dog be "killed" within 30 days absent any appeal. Here, the defendants do not challenge the dangerous dog determination, but instead challenge the euthanasia order based on a finding of "serious physical injury." Under Agriculture and Markets Law § 108(29), "serious physical injury" means "serious or protracted disfigurement." The court examined two different definitions for "serious physical injury" in the Agriculture and Markets Law and the Penal code as well as relevant cases exploring the nature of a “protracted” injury. Here, this court found the evidence at trial did not show the size of the wound or the number of sutures, nor was there evidence scar was distressing to the victim or any person observing him. As such, there was insufficient evidence to show the injury was of a "protracted" nature. Therefore, the court modified the judgment by reversing the finding of aggravated circumstances and the order for humane euthanasia of the dog. The owners are now required to keep the dog held in leash by an adult 21-years old or older and maintain liability insurance of $50,000 - 100,000.
Flikshtein v. City of New York


The New York appellate court held that the dangerousness or viciousness of plaintiff’s pet monkey was irrelevant, and that the city could remove the monkey regardless of its benevolent behavior.

Frank v. Animal Haven, Inc.


Plaintiff was bitten by the dog that she adopted from Animal Haven, Inc. and sued that entity for personal injuries stemming from the bite. In affirming the decision to dismiss the complaint, this court noted that the adopting parties signed a contract a the time of adoption where they undertook a "lifetime commitment" for the responsible care of the dog. While the contract stipulated that Animal Haven had the right to have the dog returned if the plaintiff breached the contract, this did not reserve a right of ownership of the dog. Further, the contract also explicitly relieved Animal Haven of liability once the dog was in the possession of the adoptive parties.

Freel v. Downs


Cleveland H. Downs and Walter Smith were informed against for cruelty to animals, and they move to quash complaints. Complaint quashed against defendant Smith, and defendant Downs held to answer.


Galgano v. Town of North Hempstead


In this New York Case, the plaintiffs appeal from an order of the Supreme Court, Nassau County which granted the defendants' motion for summary judgment dismissing the complaint for personal injuries and damages due to a dog bite. The court reaffirmed New York law that to recover in strict liability in tort for a dog bite or attack, the plaintiff must establish that the dog had vicious propensities and that the owner knew or should have known of the dog's propensities. The fact that the subject dog was brought to the animal shelter because another dog in the owner's household did not get along with it is not indicative that it had vicious propensities.

Gannon v. Conti


In 2008, defendants' dog allegedly left their yard by passing through an underground "invisible" electrical fence system and bit the plaintiff who was sitting on her bike on the adjacent property. Plaintiff filed suit seeking damages for injury based on common-law negligence and strict liability. The lower court granted defendants' motion for summary judgment based on the fact that they had no prior knowledge of the dog's alleged vicious propensities. On appeal, the court found that even defendants' own depositions raised an issue of fact as to notice of their dog's alleged vicious propensities. Specifically, one defendant admitted he used a "bite sleeve" obtained through his employment as a police officer to encourage the dog to bite and hold a perpetrator's arm. This evidence that the dog was encouraged to leap up and bite a human arm created a sufficient issue of fact for the jury despite defendants' claim that this was a "play activity" for the dog.

Geary v. Sullivan County Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Inc.


In this New York case, plaintiffs surrendered their maltreated horse to defendant Sullivan County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Inc. on March 4, 2005. Shortly thereafter, they commenced this action seeking return of the horse and damages, including punitive damages. Defendants' answer failed to respond to all paragraphs of the 38-paragraph complaint, which included six causes of action, prompting plaintiffs to move for summary judgment on the ground that defendants admitted "all" essential and material facts. At oral argument before this Court, plaintiffs' counsel consented to defendants filing an amended answer. The court found that since this amended pleading will presumably contain denials to all contested allegations in the complaint, plaintiffs' request for summary judgment on the procedural ground that defendants' failed to deny certain facts must fail. Moreover, as correctly noted by Supreme Court, conflicting evidence precludes summary judgment in plaintiffs' favor.

Gonzalez v. Royalton Equine Veterinary Services, P.C. Veterinarian contacted State Police after allegedly observing deplorable conditions in Plaintiff's barn. The premises were subsequently searched, and a horse and three dogs were removed and later adopted. Plaintiff commenced an action in City Court for, inter alia, replevin, and several defendants asserted counterclaims based on Lien Law § 183. The Lockport City Court entered partial summary judgment in favor of owner and ordered return of animals. On appeal, the Niagara County Court, reversed and remanded. Owner appealed to the Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Fourth Department, New York. The Court found the Niagara County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Inc. (SPCA) was not required to bring a forfeiture action to divest Plaintiff of ownership of the seized animals because the animals were kept in unhealthful or unsanitary surroundings, the plaintiff was not properly caring for them, and the plaintiff failed to redeem the animals within five days before the SPCA was authorized to make the animals available for adoption. The city court’s order was affirmed as modified.

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