Pennsylvania

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Banasczek v. Kowalski


Edward Banasczek (plaintiff) instituted an action in trespass against William Kowalski (defendant) for money damages resulting from the alleged shooting of two of plaintiff's dogs. The court held the following: “[T]he claim for emotional distress arising out of the malicious destruction of a pet should not be confused with a claim for the sentimental value of a pet, the latter claim being unrecognized in most jurisdictions.



 

Secondly we do not think, as defendant argues, that


the owner of the maliciously destroyed pet must have witnessed the death of his or her pet in order to make a claim for emotional distress.” Pennsylvania has summarily rejected a claim for loss of companionship for the death of a dog.

 

Burkholder v. Department of Agriculture In this Pennsylvania case, James Burkholder, d/b/a Whispering Spring Kennel (Burkholder), petitioned for review of an adjudication of the Secretary of Agriculture (Secretary) that imposed a $19,500 civil penalty on Burkholder for transferring two dogs in excess of the annual limit under his Class IV kennel license in December of 2017. Burkholder raises two arguments: first, the Dog Law does not specify that transfers of more than 60 dogs by a private kennel constitute violations; and two, the penalty imposed is excessive and unreasonable. This court first noted that a Kennel Class IV license clearly does not allow him to transfer more than 60 dogs and thus any transfers in excess violate the Dog Law. As to the excessive penalty argument, the court first examined the distinction between separate and ongoing violations of the Dog Law because it raised a question of first impression under the Dog Law. Relying on the distinction in other contexts, particularly regarding penalties imposed by the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC), the court found that a kennel owner holding too many dogs could remedy the violation simply by transferring the excess dogs. The problem here is that, where an owner has transferred more dogs than his license allows, there is no way to correct the violation. Thus, said the court, a per-day fine is improper. "Each unauthorized transfer of a single dog is a single violation of the Dog Law, not a continuing violation, because it is not ongoing in nature and such transfers can be feasibly segregated into discrete violations so as to impose separate penalties." The court concluded that the Department erred as a matter of law by imposing ongoing penalties for two discrete unauthorized transfers. The order of the Department as to the excess transfers of dogs was affirmed, but the portion as to the amount of the penalty was vacated. The matter was remanded for further proceedings.
Cavallini v. Pet City and Supply


Appellant, Pet City and Supplies, Inc. appealed from the judgment in the amount of $1,638.52 entered in favor of Appellee, Christopher A. Cavallini following a bench trial. The trial court determined that Cavallini was entitled to damages due to Pet City's violations of the Dog Purchaser Protection provisions of the Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law (UTPCPL). Cavallini purchased a Yorkshire terrier puppy from Pet City that was represented as a pure bred. After several attempts, Pet City failed to supply Cavallini with the requisite registration papers. On appeal, Pet City contended that the trial court erred as a matter of law by determining a private action can be brought under the Dog provisions of the UTPCPL, and erred as a matter of law by imposing a civil penalty against Pet City under the UPTCPL. In finding that the statute does provide a private cause of action, the court looked to the purpose of the statute rather than the plain language. However, the court found the inclusion of a civil penalty in the part that allows a private action was inconsistent with the statute.

Com. v. Barnes


In this case, the defendants argued that the police powers granted to a private entity, the Erie Humane Society, was an improper delegation of government authority. On appeal, the defendants’ asserted several arguments including a claim that Pennsylvania’s delegation of government authority is in violation of the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution and the Pennsylvania Constitution The appeals court rejected each of defendants’ four arguments. Specifically, the court rejected defendants' assertion that the Erie Humane Society operates as "vigilantes," finding that the Society's actions are regulated by the Rules of Criminal Procedure with requirements of probable cause and the constraints of case law.

Com. v. Beam


In this Pennsylvania case, defendant appeals from convictions for licensing violations under the state's Dog Law and for violation of the Rabies Prevention and Control in Domestic Animals and Wildlife Act after a copier repair person was attacked by defendant's three German Shepherds. Because the Department of Health dog warden could not gain access to either question defendant about the dogs' vaccinations or quarantine the dogs, the victim had to receive a series of rabies shots. Based on the testimony of the dog warden that he finally saw vaccination certificates, and the fact the Commonwealth did not present any contrary evidence, the fines imposed under the Rabies Act were reversed. However, the court sustained the convictions for licensing violations under the Dog Law since defendant failed to show proof of licenses for 2005 (when the attack occurred).

Com. v. Hackenberger

Defendant was convicted and sentenced to 6 months to 2 years jail following a jury trial in the Court of Common Pleas of cruelty to animals resulting from his shooting of a loose dog more than five times. On appeal, appellant contends that the use of a deadly weapon sentencing enhancement provision does not apply to a conviction for cruelty to animals since the purpose is to punish only those offenses where the defendant has used a deadly weapon against

persons.

The Commonwealth countered that the purpose behind the provision is immaterial because the plain language applies to any offense where the defendant has used a deadly weapon to


commit the crime, save for those listed crimes where possession is an element of the offense. This Court agreed with the Commonwealth and held that the trial court was not prohibited from applying the deadly weapon sentencing enhancement to defendant's conviction for cruelty to animals.
Com. v. Hake


Dog owner appealed conviction of harboring a dangerous dog that attacked a child in violation of the Dangerous Dog Statute. The Commonwealth Court held that the statute imposes strict liability for the dog’s first bite if a dog inflicts severe injury on a human being without provocation.

Com. v. Kneller
Defendant appealed a conviction for criminal conspiracy to commit cruelty to animals after Defendant provided a gun and instructed her boyfriend to shoot and kill their dog after the dog allegedly bit Defendant’s child.

 

The Superior Court of Pennsylvania reversed the conviction, finding the relevant animal cruelty statute to be ambiguous, thus requiring the reversal under the rule of lenity.

 

Concurring and dissenting opinions were filed, in which both agreed that the statute is unambiguous as to whether a dog owner may destroy his or her dog by use of a firearm when that dog has attacked another person, but disagreed as to whether sufficient evidence was offered to show that the dog in fact attacked another person. (See Supreme Court order - Com. v. Kneller, 978 A.2d 716, 2009 WL 5154265 (Pa.,2009)).
Com. v. Kneller


The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania took up this appeal involving the defendant's criminal conspiracy to commit cruelty to animals after the defendant provided a gun and instructed her boyfriend to shoot and kill their dog after the dog allegedly bit the defendant’s child. The Supreme Court vacated the order of the Superior Court and remanded the case to the Superior Court (--- A.2d ----, 2009 WL 215322) in accordance with the dissenting opinion of the Superior Court's order. The Court further observed that the facts revealed no immediate need to kill the dog and that there was "unquestionably malicious beating of the dog" prior to it being shot.

Com. v. Raban


Defendant was convicted of violating the dog law for failing to properly confine his dog after it escaped from his property and attacked another dog. On appeal, the Superior Court affirmed, holding that 1) scienter was not a necessary element of the violation because the statutory mandate to confine a dog was stated absolutely, and 2) a dog attack is not a de minimis infraction that would preclude a conviction.

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