Justia Animal / Dog Law Opinion Summaries

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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

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In 2014, Maria Matta-Troncoso and her husband, Mario Matta (“the Mattas”), sued Michael and Lakeisha Thornton, alleging that the Thorntons were liable under OCGA 51-2-71 for injuries that Matta-Troncoso sustained when the Thorntons’ dogs attacked her as she was walking her own dogs approximately two blocks away from the Thorntons’ rental house. The Mattas later amended their complaint by adding Gregory Tyner, the Thorntons’ landlord, alleging that he was liable under OCGA 44-7-142 for failing to keep the rental property in repair. Specifically, they alleged that Tyner failed to repair a broken gate latch that allowed the Thorntons’ dogs to escape the property and attack Matta-Troncoso. Tyner moved for summary judgment, and the trial court determined that although Tyner breached his duty to keep the premises in repair by failing to repair the broken gate latch, summary judgment was nevertheless warranted in his favor because the Mattas made no showing that the Thorntons’ dogs had ever displayed vicious propensities or that Tyner had knowledge of such tendencies. On appeal, the Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s ruling, concluding the trial court erred in its analysis of whether Tyner had knowledge of the dogs’ vicious propensities. Citing OCGA 51-2-7, the Court of Appeals reasoned that because there was evidence that the dogs were unleashed in violation of a local ordinance, the Mattas were not required to produce evidence that “Tyner [was] aware of the dogs’ vicious propensities.” Furthermore, the appellate court concluded Tyner could be liable under OCGA 44-7-14 because that statute did not limit a landlord’s liability to injuries occurring on a leased premises, and that there existed a genuine issue of material fact as to whether Matta-Troncoso’s injuries “arose from” Tyner’s failure to repair the gate latch. The Georgia Supreme Court granted Tyner’s petition for certiorari to address a single question: Did the Court of Appeals err by reversing the trial court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of Tyner? The Court answered that question in the affirmative, and therefore reversed the Court of Appeals. The Court determined there was no genuine issue of material fact as to whether Tyner’s failure to repair the gate latch caused Matta-Troncoso’s injuries; summary judgment in Tyner’s favor was appropriate. View "Tyner v. Matta-Tronscoso" on Justia Law

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Jason Wyno challenged the constitutionality of former OCGA 4-8-30, a portion of the Responsible Dog Ownership Law which purported to exempt local governments and their employees from liability arising from their enforcement of, or failure to enforce, that law and local dog-control ordinances. In 2011, Misty Wyno was attacked and killed by a dog owned by one of her neighbors. In the years leading up to the attack, numerous complaints about dogs at the neighbor’s address had been filed with the Lowndes County Animal Control office. Following Misty Wyno’s death, Jason Wyno brought a wrongful death action against the dog’s owners, Lowndes County, and four individual Lowndes County Animal Control employees, alleging the County and its employees negligently failed to perform ministerial duties negligently failed to provide police protection, negligently created and failed to abate a nuisance, were negligent in their control of allegedly dangerous dogs, and were negligent per se by violating several provisions of the Lowndes County Animal Control Ordinance. The complaint also made a demand for punitive damages and alleged that Lowndes County and the County Employees “acted with actual malice and/or an intent to injure in repeatedly refusing to investigate or take any action with regards to the dangerous dogs[.]” The case was dismissed on sovereign immunity grounds. Wyno argued the statute impermissibly extended the official immunity of local government employees provided in Article I, Section II, Paragraph IX (d) of the Georgia Constitution of 1983 because former OCGA 4-8-30 was not “a State Tort Claims Act.” The Georgia Supreme Court did not reach the constitutional question in this case because the Court found the trial court erred in its preliminary determination that the relevant duties imposed by the Responsible Dog Ownership Law and the Lowndes County Animal Control Ordinance in effect at the time of the incident giving rise to this suit were ministerial in nature. Instead, the Court found the relevant acts of the County Employees were discretionary. Moreover, because the record did not contain evidence the individual defendants acted with malice or intent to injure, they were protected from Wyno’s lawsuit by the official immunity provided by Paragraph IX (d). The Court therefore affirmed the grant of summary judgment in favor of the defendants, although for reasons different than relied upon by the trial court. View "Wyno v. Lowndes County" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs challenged a Monterey County ordinance limiting to four the number of roosters that can be kept on a property without a permit. A permit application must include a plan describing the “method and frequency of manure and other solid waste removal,” and “such other information that the Animal Control Officer may deem necessary.” A permit cannot be issued to anyone who has a criminal conviction for illegal cockfighting or other crime of animal cruelty. The ordinance includes standards, such as maintaining structurally sound pens that protect roosters from cold and are properly cleaned and ventilated and includes exemptions for poultry operations; members of a recognized organization that promotes the breeding of poultry for show or sale; minors who keep roosters for an educational purpose; and minors who keep roosters for a Future Farmers of America project or 4-H project. The court of appeal upheld the ordinance, rejecting arguments that it takes property without compensation in violation of the Fifth Amendment; infringes on Congress’ authority to regulate interstate commerce; violates the Equal Protection Clause; is a prohibited bill of attainder; and violates the rights to privacy and to possess property guaranteed by the California Constitution. View "Perez v. County of Monterey" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s order granting a directed verdict in favor of Defendant on Plaintiff’s statutory strict liability claim under Neb. Rev. Stat. 54-601(1), holding that allegations that a ranch employee was injured as a result of the ranch’s herding dog nipping at a cow, causing the cow to charge into the employee, fall outside the strict liability statute. In granting a directed verdict for Defendant, the district court concluded that the evidence presented did not fall within the purview of strict liability under Neb. Rev. Stat. 54-601. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that strict liability under section 54-601(1) does not encompass the act of a herding dog nipping at the heels of a cow, causing the cow to move forward and collide with a ranch employee and inflict bodily hurt on the employee. View "Smith v. Meyring Cattle Co., LLC" on Justia Law

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Assembly Bill 96, which imposed tough new restrictions on the sale and importation of ivory and rhinoceros horn, was not unconstitutionally vague. Assembly Bill 96 took effect July 1, 2016 as Fish & Game Code section 2022. The Court of Appeal affirmed a judgment in favor of the Department in an action filed by the Institute, seeking to block implementation of the law. The court held that the exception for activities authorized by the federal government was not vague on its face, because federal statutes and other provisions that might overlap with section 2022 could be ascertained. The court also held that the Institute improperly raised federal preemption, and its challenges to exceptions for antique and musical instruments was primarily hypothetical. View "Ivory Education Institute v. Department of Fish & Wildlife" on Justia Law

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The panel denied the petition for panel rehearing and rehearing en banc, affirming the panel's January 12, 2018 opinion affirming the district court. In the January opinion, the panel determined that no reasonable fact finder could conclude that the injuries of a killer whale held in captivity, Lolita, presented a "threat of serious harm" sufficient to trigger liability under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The opinion reflected the panel's determination that the law would be better served by announcing the "threat of serious harm" rule, without defining its contours, and allowing district courts the flexibility to apply that rule to future circumstances with which they are presented. The panel held that the January opinion aligned with Congress's intent in drafting the ESA: to prevent extinction. Finally, the panel rejected PETA's alternative argument that the panel's reading of the ESA conflicted with regulatory definitions. View "People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Inc. v. Miami Seaquarium" on Justia Law