Justia Animal / Dog Law Opinion Summaries

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Sturgell was a commercial fisher for 48 years. He held Dungeness crab permits in Washington, Oregon, and California. During the 2012–2013 season, Sturgell landed 203,045 pounds of crab in California. Sturgell’s taking of crab in California before the delayed opening of the Oregon crab fishery meant he was required to wait until January 30, 2013, before taking, possessing, or landing that crab in Oregon. He could take crab in Washington on January 24. On January 29, Sturgell arrived in Astoria, Oregon to offload the crabs he had taken in Washington. He began to offload crabs at 6:15 p.m and offloaded 38,295 pounds; the balance of the 64,694 total offload was completed by 4:00 a.m. on January 30. A “Receiving Ticket,” indicating the “date of landing” as January 29, 2013, was signed by Sturgell and the buyer. The buyer later stated that this was “in error” as the ticket was actually written, “between 4[:00] a.m. and 5[:00] a.m. on January 30, 2013, after the offload was completed.” Pursuant to Fish and Game Code section 8043, a landing receipt “shall be completed at the time of the receipt, purchase, or transfer of fish.” Sturgell’s permit was revoked. The trial court ordered the permit reinstated. The court of appeal dismissed the agency’s appeal as moot, with instructions that the trial court vacate its decision. Sturgill had retired and sold his permit for over $500,000. The Department approved the transfer. View "Sturgell v. Department of Fish and Wildlife" on Justia Law

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The Grossens own but do not live on, Parcel A, adjacent to Parcel B, leased by Frank. The parcels are separated by a common fence. Frank has used Parcel B for pasturing cattle since 2009 and, under his lease is responsible for maintaining the fences on the parcel. When Frank repaired the fence he did not notify the Grossens. In 2011, Frank’s cattle escaped to a nearby road, where Raab collided with a cow. Raab sued, citing the Animals Running Act. Frank filed a third-party complaint against the Grossens under the Contribution Act, citing the Fence Act, negligence, and breach of contract. The cow that injured Raab escaped through a portion of the fence the Grossens were obligated to maintain under a contract between previous owners. The circuit court approved a $225,000 settlement agreement between Raab and Frank; determined that the Animals Running Act barred any contribution from nonowners or nonkeepers of livestock and that Frank’s failure to notify the Grossens of known deficiencies in the fence barred liability under the Fence Act; and held that a breach of the fence contract could not create that liability to Raab, so the contract could not be the basis for contribution. The appellate court reversed in part. The Illinois Supreme Court held that common law does not provide a basis to hold a nonowner or nonkeeper of livestock liable in tort for damage caused by a neighbor’s animals; the Animals Running Act is not a source of a duty for nonowners and nonkeepers to restrain neighboring cattle. Since Frank has not otherwise established potential tort liability, breach of contract does not give rise to liability under the Contribution Act. View "Raab v. Frank" on Justia Law

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Defendant Clyde Bovat was convicted of shooting a deer in violation of Vermont big-game-hunting laws and failing to immediately tag the deer. On appeal he claimed the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress evidence allegedly obtained in violation of his constitutional right to be free from warrantless government intrusions. In the early morning hours of Thanksgiving 2017, a resident of Huntington, Vermont was awoken by a gunshot close to his home. The concerned resident called the state game warden to report a possible deer jackIng. In the course of the ensuing investigation, wardens were lead to defendant’s house. Based in part on their observations through the garage window, wardens obtained a search warrant to seize defendant’s truck and collected samples of the blood they had observed, which matched a sample from the deer at issue. They did not photograph the truck until approximately five days after the seizure, during which time the truck had been left outside in inclement weather. Due to exposure to the elements, a smaller amount of blood than originally observed was visible, and deer hair was no longer visible. Defendant unsuccessfully moved to suppress the evidence obtained through the search warrant. While the Vermont Supreme Court agreed with defendant that his garage is within the curtilage of his home, it was unpersuaded by his remaining arguments. The Supreme Court found the wardens were conducting a legitimate police investigation, during which they observed defendant’s truck in plain view from a semiprivate area. The Court declined to address the merits of defendant’s remaining challenges and affirmed the trial court’s judgment. View "Vermont v. Bovat" on Justia Law

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The Swartzes acquired horses, goats, and a donkey on their Washington County, Indiana hobby farm. In 2013, the county’s animal control officer, Lee, contacted Dr. Lovejoy, an Indiana State Board of Animal Health veterinarian, for help evaluating a thin horse he observed on the Swartzes’ property. Lee and Lovejoy visited the Swartzes’ farm to evaluate the animals four times. Lovejoy reported a significant decline in the animals’ welfare and expressed concerns about the conditions in which they were kept. Lee sought, in a standard, ex parte proceeding, a finding of probable cause to seize the animals. The Superior Court of Washington County determined that there was probable cause to believe animal neglect or abandonment was occurring and entered an order to seize the animals (IC 35-46-3-6). The animals were seized and the state filed animal cruelty charges against the Swartzes. The court eventually ordered permanent placement of the animals for adoption. The state deferred prosecuting the Swartzes with a pretrial diversion agreement. The Swartzes filed a federal suit, alleging a conspiracy to deprive them of their property. The Seventh Circuit vacated the district court’s rulings (in favor of the defendants) and remanded for dismissal due to a lack of federal subject matter jurisdiction. The Swartzes’ claims are inextricably intertwined with state court judgments, requiring dismissal under the Rooker-Feldman doctrine. View "Swartz v. Heartland Equine Rescue" on Justia Law

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Penn boarded Fantasy’s horses. After some of its horses became sick or injured and even died, Fantasy refused to pay boarding invoices totaling $65,707. Fantasy told Penn’s veterinarian, Edelson, that it was considering suing him; they entered into an agreement releasing “any and all persons, firms, or corporations liable or who might be liable . . . [from liability] arising out of or in any way relating to any injuries and damages of any and every kind . . . [in] the care and/or treatment of any [Fantasy] horses stabled at Penn.” Penn sued for breach of contract and defamation, based on emails sent to individuals in the industry blaming Penn for the deaths of Fantasy’s horses, calling the staff “inexperienced,” and accusing Penn of trying to conceal the problems. Fantasy counterclaimed, alleging negligence, breach of contract, and breach of fiduciary duty. The district court rejected the negligence counterclaims, based on the Edelson release. A jury awarded Penn $110,000 for breach of contract, $1 in nominal damages for defamation, and $89,999 in punitive damages. The court reduced the punitive damages to $5,500. The Third Circuit affirmed, except as to punitive damages. If the court finds, on remand, that the $89,999 award is unconstitutionally excessive, it should explain why it is not within the range of reasonable punitive damages for this claim and why a lower award reflects the reprehensibility of the conduct. View "Jester v. Hutt" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs own cats with health problems. Their veterinarians prescribed Hill’s cat food. They purchased this higher-priced cat food from PetSmart stores using their veterinarian’s prescriptions before learning that the Prescription Diet cat food is not materially different from non-prescription cat food and no prescription is necessary. Plaintiffs filed a class-action lawsuit under the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act. The district judge dismissed the claim as lacking the specificity required for a fraud claim and barred by a statutory safe harbor for conduct specifically authorized by a regulatory body (the FDA). The Seventh Circuit reversed. The safe-harbor provision does not apply. Under the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, 21 U.S.C. 301, pet food intended to treat or prevent disease and marketed as such is considered a drug and requires FDA approval. Without FDA approval, the manufacturer may not sell it in interstate commerce and the product is deemed adulterated and misbranded. FDA guidance recognizes that most pet-food products in this category do not have the required approval and states that it is less likely to initiate an enforcement action if consumers purchase the food through or under the direction of a veterinarian (among other factors). The guidance does not specifically authorize the conduct alleged here, so the safe harbor does not apply. Plaintiffs pleaded the fraud claim with the particularity required by FRCP 9(b). View "Vanzant v. Hill's Pet Nutrition, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court granting summary judgment for Sioux Empire Pit Bull Rescue, Inc. (SEPR), Susan Tribble-Zacher and Harry Podhradsky on Darlette Ridley's personal injury complaint, holding that SEPR, Zacher and Podhradksy did not breach their duty of reasonable care toward Ridley. Ridley was attacked and injured by a pit bull type dog while walking in a state campground. The dog belonged to SEPR and was in the care of Zacher and Podhradsky at their campsite. Ridley sued SEPR, Zacher and Podhradsky for her injuries. The circuit court granted summary judgment for the defendants, concluding that there was no evidence showing a lack of reasonable care on the defendants' part. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that there was no indication that it was foreseeable that the dog would have attacked Ridley, and therefore, there was insufficient evidence for a jury to find that the defendants breached their standard duty of care toward Ridley. View "Ridley v. Sioux Empire Pit Bull Rescue, Inc." on Justia Law

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Betty Hill sued Emma Armstrong and another defendant after Hill was bitten by three dogs. When Armstrong and her trial counsel failed to appear at trial at the appointed time, the trial court declared from the bench that a default would be entered against Armstrong for liability and that Hill would have an opportunity to put on evidence of damages. Approximately 13 minutes after the trial began, however, Armstrong appeared in the courtroom (her trial counsel never arrived). When the trial court noted Armstrong's appearance, it proceeded to hold a nonjury trial on the merits -- though the conditions under which evidence would be taken were never made clear. The trial court entered a judgment in favor of Hill and against Armstrong in the amount of $75,000. On appeal to the Alabama Supreme Court, Armstrong challenged the sufficiency of the evidence supporting the judgment against her. Based on its review of the applicable law and the evidence taken at trial, the Supreme Court found it clear, even under a standard of review deferential to the trial court, that the evidence presented was insufficient to support the judgment. Accordingly, it reversed the judgment of the trial court and remand the cause with instructions for the trial court to enter a judgment in favor of Armstrong. View "Armstrong v. Hill" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the declaratory and injunction entered by the district court enjoining the City of Arapahoe, Nebraska from enforcing an ordinance against Brooke Wilkison to prohibit his retention of a pit bull at his home within the city limits, holding that Brooke failed to show that allowing him to retain the dog in his home was necessary. The district court's order determined that the city ordinance, if enforced against Brooke, would violate the federal Fair Housing Act (FHA), 42 U.S.C. 3601 to 3619, by permitting a discriminatory housing practice and precluding Brooke from mitigating the ill effects of his handicap by living with his emotional assistance animal. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the district court did not err in holding that the FHA applies to the ordinance enacted by the city; but (2) Brooke failed to prove that an accommodation from the city's ban on certain breeds of dogs was essential to his equal enjoyment of his property. View "Wilkison v. City of Arapahoe" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's claims challenging the city's ordinance based on lack of standing. The challenged ordinance made it unlawful for any person to own, possess, keep, exercise control over, maintain, harbor, transport or sell within the City of Sioux City, Iowa, any pit bull. In this case, plaintiff admitted that she does not currently own a dog because she and her fiance work full time and do not have the time to own a dog, but she intended to adopt a dog in the near future. The court held that, to the extent plaintiff sought prospective relief against future conduct, she failed to show that she owns a dog and does not live in the city. Furthermore, her intention to adopt a dog in the near future was uncertain and insufficient to confer standing. The court also held that plaintiff's past injuries did not grant her standing because she failed to demonstrate how her proposed relief redressed them. Finally, the district court did not abuse its discretion by declining to hold an evidentiary hearing prior to its sua sponte dismissal of plaintiff's claim. View "Myers v. Sioux City" on Justia Law