Pennsylvania

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Titlesort descending Summary
Commonwealth v. Arcelay The appellant Arcelay appeals his conviction for the summary offense of cruelty to animals after he left his two small Yorkie dogs were found inside of his vehicle on an 87 to 90 degree day for approximately two hours at Willow Grove Naval Air Station. The dogs were rescued from the car and survived (law enforcement gave the dogs water and placed them inside an air conditioned building). After receiving a citation for leaving the animals, appellant entered a plea of not guilty and appeared for the Magisterial Judge. He was found guilty and assessed fines and costs of $454.96. At a Summary Appeal de novo hearing, the officers who responded to the scene presented evidence, including testimony on the dogs being in the car for two hours and photographs of the area showing no shade was available. Appellant testified that he was retired from the Reserves and was at the base to set up for a family picnic. During the morning, he indicated that he checked on the dogs every fifteen minutes. Appellant testified that "he believes the public overreacts when they see dogs in a car" and he was upset that someone had gone into his vehicle to remove the dogs. The court ultimately found appellant guilty of the summary offense, but put appellant on a probation for three months in lieu of fines and costs, taking into account Appellant's lack income. On the instant appeal, appellant first questions whether the Court of Common Pleas had jurisdiction to hear this matter since it occurred on a military installation. Appellant also raises whether the evidence was insufficient as a matter of law for the cruelty to animals conviction. As to the jurisdictional argument, the court here found the issuance of the summary citation at the military base was appropriate. The court observed that it is well-settled that military and non-military courts may exercise concurrent subject matter jurisdiction for criminal matters. The court also found that there was sufficient evidence to support appellant's conviction, where his conduct in leaving the dogs in a closed car on a hot, summer day presented an unreasonable risk of harm. The judgment was affirmed.
Commonwealth v. Austin


Defendant appeals his conviction of harboring a dangerous dog.  The Court affirmed, holding that there was sufficient evidence supporting the conviction, and also holding that serious injuries are not a prerequisite for convicting a defendant for harboring a dangerous animal.

Commonwealth v. Brown


The defendant was convicted of cruelty to animals for the use of acid on some horses' feet.  The defendant appealed the descision because the lower court had found the Commonwealth's circumstantial evidence to be enough to submit the question of quilt to the jury.  The Superior Court found that some of the evidence was improperly admitted by the lower court.  Thus, the Superior Court reversed the judgement.

Commonwealth v. Craven



The issue before the Court in this consolidated appeal was whether the trial court properly determined that 18 Pa.C.S. § 5511(h.1)(6), which criminalizes an individual's attendance at an animal fight "as a spectator," is unconstitutionally vague and overbroad.  Specifically, appellees contended that the statute criminalized "mere presence" at a dog fight.  The Supreme Court disagreed, finding the evidence showed appellees were active spectators at the fight (as seen in the videotape evidence).  The court concluded that the statute is constitutionally sound, thereby reversing the lower court's decision that the statute imposed strict liability on mere presence.

Commonwealth v. Craven


Defendants who were charged with cruelty to animals and criminal conspiracy for their attendance at a dogfight as spectators challenged the constitutionality of the dogfighting statute. The trial court found that the statute was unconstitutionally vague and overbroad. The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania held that since the statute only creates criminal liability for a person's conscious decision to attend a dogfight, it is not unconstitutionally vague or overbroad.

Commonwealth v. Creighton


In this Pennsylvania case, a cat owner challenged a local ordinance that limited the number of cats she could own at her residence (she owned 25 cats that were rescued "mousers" from factories; the ordinance limited ownership to 5). 

The court noted that the preamble to the ordinance stated that pursuant to the Borough Code and "in the interest of preserving the public health, safety and general welfare of the residents ... [the Borough] desires to limit the number of dogs and cats kept by any one person and/or residence," but did not state what legitimate public health, safety and welfare goals the Borough sought to advance by enacting this ordinance.  Thus, from

the information before the court, it could not say whether the Borough ordinance here was a reasonable means to effectuate a legitimate governmental goal.

 

Commonwealth v. Duncan This case deals specifically with the issue of whether or not the emergency aid exception to the warrant requirement of the Fourth Amendment extends to police action undertaken to render emergency assistance to animals. In this particular case, police officers were called to defendant’s property after a neighbor reported that two of defendant’s dogs were deceased and a third dog looked emaciated after being left outside in inclement weather. After showing up to the defendant’s home, police contacted animal control who immediately took custody of all three dogs, despite defendant not being present. The court held that the emergency aid exception did apply to the emergency assistance of animals because it is consistent with public policy that is “in favor of minimizing animal suffering in a wide variety of contexts.” Ultimately, the court determined that the emergency aid exception could be applied to emergency assistance of animals if an officer has an “objectively reasonable basis to believe that there may be an animal inside [the home] who is injured or in imminent danger of physical harm.” The matter was remanded to the District Court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.
Commonwealth v. Gardner


In this Pennsylvania case, a new resident moved next door to a woman who had been operating a kennel for years.  He then complained to the borough council which then amended an ordinance such that the keeping of more than six dogs over six months of age was made a nuisance per se, illegal and a violation of the ordinance.  The court held that it did not believe that the borough council or the court had the power or the authority to determine that more than a certain number is a nuisance per se, and less than that number is a nuisance only upon proof of the same being a nuisance. "In other words, it is our opinion that the borough council, in the exercise of its police power may not unreasonably and arbitrarily prohibit things which were not nuisances at common law, and their declaration in an ordinance that a thing is a public nuisance does not make it so, if it is not a nuisance in fact . . ."

Commonwealth v. Gonzalez
Appellant was convicted of cruelty to animals for cockfighting. On appeal, appellant claimed that the delegation of police power to animal welfare agents was unconstitutional. The court found that appellant was without standing to complain because he failed to show an injury. Appellant also argued that the animal fighting statute was preempted by a federal statute,

7 U.S.C.S. §

 

2156.

The court disagreed. Finally, appellant asserted that §

 

5511 was unconstitutionally vague and overbroad. The court determined that appellant lacked standing to challenge the statute's

overbreadth.

Commonwealth v. Gosselin


A woman was convicted of unlawful taking or possession of game or wildlife for owning a domesticated squirrel.  The Court of Appeals reversed the conviction  They reasoned since the squirrel was domesticated in South Carolina, and South Carolina does not have any prohibition against the taking and domestication of squirrels, the trial court could not rely on the Pennsylvania statute prohibiting such.

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