Justia Animal / Dog Law Opinion Summaries

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Defendants Thomas and Katherine Ferguson appealed their respective convictions for animal cruelty and a judgment for animal forfeiture, both arising from the conditions in which they kept over twenty animals in their care. In September 2017, defendants’ landlord entered their trailer to check the smoke detectors. He found the interior of the residence smelled strongly of urine and ammonia, and he observed more than two dozen animals in “questionable living conditions.” Numerous dogs were crowded into small crates and lacked access to food and water, including a nursing mother and her puppies. Birds were kept in dirty cages and their water was viscous and filled with feces, food, and feathers. Landlord took photographs and a video of some of the animals, including three dogs sharing one travel crate. Landlord, his family, and other contractors continued to do maintenance work on the property for the next month, during which time the animals remained in similar conditions. One of landlord’s contractors eventually contacted the police regarding the animals’ conditions. Defendants challenged their ultimate convictions on the basis that the affidavit prepared by a police officer in support of the search warrant that led to the charges relied on information obtained from a prior illegal search, and therefore the court should have excluded all evidence obtained as a result of the warrant. They challenged the forfeiture order on the ground that the court improperly admitted hearsay statements in the forfeiture hearing. After review, the Vermont Supreme Court affirmed as to the criminal convictions because even if the information from the challenged prior search was stricken, the remaining portions of the affidavit were sufficient to support the search warrant that led to the charges. The Court agreed that the court improperly allowed hearsay evidence in the forfeiture proceeding, and remanded for the court to reconsider its ruling without the objectionable evidence. View "Vermont v. Ferguson" on Justia Law

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Deer breeders Terry Kennedy and Johnny McDonald sought to raise and hunt bigger deer by artificially inseminating whitetail deer with mule-deer semen. Whether they could do so depended on whether the resulting hybrid deer were covered by Alabama's definition of "protected game animals" in section 9-11-30(a), Ala. Code 1975. On a motion for a judgment on the pleadings, the Circuit Court concluded that, because the hybrid deer were the offspring of a female whitetail deer, they were "protected game animals," both by virtue of the inclusion in that definition of "whitetail deer ... and their offspring," and by virtue of an old legal doctrine called partus sequitur ventrem. The trial court therefore entered a judgment in favor of the deer breeders. The Alabama Supreme Court disagreed: because the modifier "and their offspring" in section 9-11-30(a) did not reach back to apply to the term "whitetail deer," and because the Latin maxim cited as an alternative theory for relief had no application in this case, the Supreme Court reversed and remanded. View "Blankenship v. Kennedy" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed a putative class action alleging that defendants deceived plaintiffs into believing their products were approved by the FDA. After the district court remanded the case back to state court, the Eighth Circuit granted defendants' petition for review under 28 U.S.C. 1453(c)(1), limiting review to the issue of federal question jurisdiction. The court held that federal question jurisdiction exists in this case, because plaintiffs rely explicitly on federal law throughout their pleadings and their prayer for relief invokes federal jurisdiction where it seeks injunctive and declaratory relief that necessarily requires the interpretation and application of federal law, including the Food Drug and Cosmetic Act. Therefore, based on the allegations in the complaint and relief sought, the court found that a federal issue surrounding the state law claims is necessarily raised, actually disputed, substantial, and capable of resolution in federal court without disrupting the federal-state balance approved by Congress. Accordingly, the court vacated and remanded for further proceedings. View "Wullschleger v. Royal Canin U.S.A., Inc." on Justia Law

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In 2017, the Union County Sheriff’s Department seized six horses, four cats and three dogs belonging to Michael Dancy. The Justice Court of Union County found Dancy guilty of three counts of animal cruelty and ordered the permanent forfeiture of Dancy’s animals. Dancy appealed to the Circuit Court of Union County, where a bench trial was held de novo. The circuit court ordered that the animals be permanently forfeited and found Dancy guilty of three counts of animal cruelty. The circuit court further ordered Dancy to reimburse the temporary custodian of the horses $39,225 for care and boarding costs incurred during the pendency of the forfeiture and animal-cruelty proceedings. Aggrieved, Dancy appealed to the Mississippi SUpreme Court. Finding the forfeiture and reimbursement orders supported by substantial evidence, the Supreme Court affirmed. Furthermore, the Court found the circuit court did not abse its discretion in allowing a veterinarian testify for the State. The Supreme Court affirmed Dancy’s conviction under Section 97-41-7, and Section 97-41- 16(2)(a) that coincided with Union County Justice Court Arrest Warrant 7036216. However, the Court found Section 97-41-16(2)(a) made Dancy’s cruelty to his dogs and cats one offense. As a result, Dancy’s second conviction under Section 97-41-16(2)(a) that coincides with Union County Justice Court Arrest Warrant 7036219 was vacated. View "Dancy v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit reversed the district court's grant of the USDA's motion to dismiss, based on failure to state a claim, an action brought under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) by two animal-rights groups, alleging that the agency's failure to issue standards governing the humane handling and care of birds not bred for use in research amounted to arbitrary and capricious action. The court held that the Coalition has alleged facts sufficient to establish Article III standing, and thus the court need not consider whether the Anti-Vivisection Society too has standing. On the merits, the court held that the Coalition has adequately alleged that USDA has failed to take a discrete agency action that it is required to take. In this case, the Animal Welfare Act was amended eighteen years ago to require USDA to issue standards governing the humane treatment, not of animals generally, but of animals as a defined category of creatures including birds not bred for use in research. USDA has conceded that its general animal-welfare standards are inadequate to ensure the humane treatment of birds, and USDA has yet to fulfill its statutory responsibility to issue standards regarding the humane treatment of birds. Because the issue of whether such action has been unreasonably delayed has been unbriefed, the court remanded for the district court to consider it in the first instance. View "American Anti-Vivisection Society v. United States Department of Agriculture" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed an amended complaint seeking damages under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging that each individual defendant violated his constitutional right to procedural due process under the Fourteenth Amendment when the local animal shelter, after a five-day holding period, put a stray dog up for adoption and spayed the dog before delivering it to the adopting family. Defendants did not know that the stray dog was plaintiff's young German Shepherd, which boasts world champion lineage and had escaped from plaintiff's back yard two weeks earlier. The Eighth Circuit held that the district court failed to devote sufficient attention to whether plaintiff had a protected procedural due process property interest and if so, the nature and extent of that interest. The court agreed with the Supreme Court of Arkansas that affirmative pre-deprivation notice is not constitutionally required in this situation, when an animal shelter holds a stray dog for more than five days and then adopts out and spays the dog after the owner fails to file a claim. The court also held that plaintiff failed to prove that each individual defendant's conduct violated his right to procedural due process. Therefore, the court reversed the district court's order insofar as it denied summary judgment to the individual defendants acting in their individual capacities, remanding with directions. View "Lunon v. Botsford" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court accepted the State's appeal from the decision of the court of appeals concluding that a prior designation as a dangerous dog is a prerequisite to its owner being prosecuted for failing to confine a dangerous dog in violation of of Ohio Rev. Code 955.22(D), holding that a prior designation of dangerousness pursuant to section 955.222 or otherwise is not a prerequisite to prosecution for failing to abide by the statute's dangerous dog laws. Defendant was convicted of failing to confine a dangerous dog. The court of appeals reversed, holding that a previous dangerous dog designation is a prerequisite to finding a violation of section 955.22(D). The Supreme Court affirmed, albeit on different grounds, holding (1) neither due process nor statutory language requires a prior dangerous dog designation before a defendant can be prosecuted for noncompliance with section 955.22's dangerous dog provisions; but (2) the State failed to meet its burden of offering sufficient evidence to sustain a conviction for failure to control a dangerous dog. View "State v. Jones" on Justia Law

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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