Justia Animal / Dog Law Opinion Summaries

by
The issue this case presented for the Vermont Supreme Court's review was whether a landlord who had no knowledge that a tenant’s dog had dangerous propensities could be held liable for injuries the dog causes to individuals who enter the property with tenant’s permission. Plaintiff Katherine Higgins, who was badly injured by a tenant’s dog while on the leased property, challenged the trial court’s grant of summary judgment to defendant landlords. When he was showing the house on landlords’ behalf after tenant moved in, a realtor who was representing landlords in marketing the property observed obvious signs around the house that a dog lived there, including door casings that were badly scratched by the dog. The realtor did not see the dog and did not know its size or breed or whether it had ever acted aggressively towards any person or other animal; based on the sound of the dog, he opined that it was “tough and loud.” Plaintiff, a neighbor, was attacked and seriously injured by tenant’s dog, an American Pitbull Terrier, while visiting tenant on the rental property. On appeal, plaintiff renews her argument that landlords have a general duty of care to the public, and that this duty includes a duty of reasonable inquiry concerning tenants’ domestic animals. In addition, she argues that landlords were on notice of the dog’s dangerous propensities on the basis of the observations made by realtor, acting as landlords’ agent. Finally, she contends that landlords are liable to plaintiff on the basis of a municipal ordinance. Finding no reversible error in granting summary judgment to the landlords, the Supreme Court affirmed the trial court. View "Higgins v. Bailey" on Justia Law

by
The Kansas Farm Animal and Field Crop and Research Facilities Protection Act (the “Act”) criminalized certain actions directed at an animal facility without effective consent of the owner of the facility and with intent to damage the enterprise of such facility. The Act provided that consent was not effective if induced through deception. Animal Legal Defense Fund (“ALDF”) wished to perform investigations by planting ALDF investigators as employees of animal facilities to document abuse of animals that ALDF would then publicize. Because investigators would be willing to lie about their association with ALDF, ALDF feared its investigations would run afoul of the Act. ALDF therefore took preemptive action and sued the Governor of Kansas, Laura Kelly, and the Attorney General of Kansas, Derek Schmidt, in their official capacities, seeking declaratory and injunctive relief on the ground that the Act violated the First Amendment’s Free Speech Clause. The parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment. The district court granted both motions in part, determining ALDF had standing to challenge only three subsections of the Act, Title 47, sections 1827(b), (c), and (d) of the Kansas Statutes Annotated. The district court held these provisions were unconstitutional. Thereafter, ALDF moved for a permanent injunction against enforcement of the relevant subsections of the Act. The district court granted its request. Kansas appealed both the order on the cross-motions for summary judgment and the order granting a permanent injunction, arguing the district court erred in holding the relevant subsections of the Act unconstitutional. After its review, the Tenth Circuit affirmed: "Subsections (b), (c), and (d) of the Act concern speech because they include deception as a possible element and are viewpoint discriminatory because they apply only to persons who intend to damage the enterprise of an animal facility. Because the 'intent to damage the enterprise conducted at the animal facility' requirement, is a broad element that does not delineate protected from unprotected speech, Kansas must satisfy strict scrutiny. It has not attempted to do so." View "Animal Legal Defense Fund, et al. v. Kelly, et al." on Justia Law

by
Joseph Maldonado-Passage a/k/a Joe Exotic, the self-proclaimed "Tiger King," was indicted on 21 counts: most for wildlife crimes, and two for using interstate facilities in the commission of his murder-for-hire plots against Carole Baskin. A jury convicted Maldonado-Passage on all counts, and the court sentenced him to 264 months’ imprisonment. On appeal, Maldonado-Passage challenged his murder-for-hire convictions, arguing that the district court erred by allowing Baskin, a listed government witness, to attend the entire trial proceedings. He also disputed his sentence, arguing that the trial court erred by not grouping his two murder-for-hire convictions in calculating his advisory Guidelines range. On this second point, he contended that the Guidelines required the district court to group the two counts because they involved the same victim and two or more acts or transactions that were connected by a common criminal objective: murdering Baskin. The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeal determined the district court acted within its discretion by allowing Baskin to attend the full trial proceedings despite her being listed as a government witness, but that it erred by not grouping the two murder-for-hire convictions at sentencing. Accordingly, the conviction was affirmed, but the sentence vacated and remanded for resentencing. View "United States v. Maldonado-Passage" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court deciding that the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) had the explicit authority to impose and animal unit maximum condition and an off-site groundwater monitoring condition upon a Wisconsin Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (WPDES) it reissued to Kinnard Farms, Inc. for its concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO), holding that the circuit court did not err.On review, the circuit court concluded that the DNR had the explicit authority to impose the animal unit maximum and off-site groundwater monitoring conditions on Kinnard's reissued WPDES permit pursuant to Wis. Stat. 283.31(3)-(5) and related regulations. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the DNR had the explicit authority to prescribe the animal unit maximum condition and the off-site groundwater monitoring condition. View "Clean Wisconsin, Inc. v. Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources" on Justia Law

by
Weaver purchased Champion dog food. Champion’s packaging describes the food as biologically appropriate, made with fresh regional ingredients, and never outsourced. Weaver alleged that: Champion’s food is not made solely from fresh ingredients but contains ingredients that were previously frozen; Champion uses previously manufactured food that failed to conform to specifications, as dry filler; Champion uses ingredients that are past the manufacturer’s freshness window; Champion does not source all its ingredients from areas close to its plants and sources some ingredients internationally; and there is a risk that its food contains BPA and pentobarbital.Weaver filed a purported class action, alleging violations of the Wisconsin Deceptive Trade Practices Act, fraud by omission, and negligence. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the rejection of his suit on summary judgment. Weaver had failed to produce sufficient evidence from which a reasonable jury could determine that any of the representations were false or misleading. Weaver only offered his own testimony to prove how a reasonable consumer would interpret “biologically appropriate” and offered no evidence that he purchased dog food containing pentobarbital. He failed to show that Champion had a duty to disclose the risk that its food may contain BPA or pentobarbital. Humans and animals are commonly exposed to BPA in their everyday environments, Champion does not add BPA to its food, and submitted unrebutted testimony that the levels allegedly present would not be harmful to dogs. View "Weaver v. Champion Petfoods USA Inc." on Justia Law

by
The Grand Cayman Blue Iguana is protected by the Endangered Species Act, 16 U.S.C. 1531, and by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, which ban their collection, trade, and export. The Secretary of the Interior may permit “any” otherwise prohibited conduct “to enhance the propagation or survival” of a protected species. The nonprofit Phoenix Herpetological Society applied for permits to export four blue iguanas to a Danish zoo and continue its captive-bred wildlife program at its Arizona facility. For export, the Fish and Wildlife Service must find that “proposed export would not be detrimental to the survival of the species.” The Service also evaluates—under Endangered Species Act criteria—whether a permit “would be likely to reduce the threat of extinction facing the species.” The applicant bears the burden of showing that its specimens were lawfully acquired, including lawful importation of the ancestors of specimens it has bred.The D.C. Circuit affirmed the denial of the permits. The agency determined that exporting the iguanas would not be “detrimental” to the species but that exporting them would not “reduce the threat of extinction” for the species. The court concluded that its reasoning was not inconsistent. The Service appropriately acknowledged the prior permits and explained that inconsistent assertions about the parental stock raised new questions about lawful acquisition. View "Phoenix Herpetological Society, Inc. v. Fish and Wildlife Service" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court affirming the order of the Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks (PWF) revoking Animals of Montana, Inc.'s (AMI) roadside menagerie permit, holding that the district court did not err.AMI, which owned a large number of animals, operated under a roadside meager permit from FWP. After conducting an inspection of AMI's premises, FWP found numerous violations. FWP then issued AMI notice of revocation of its operating permit. The hearing officer determined that FWP established twenty-two violations and issued a final order revoking AMI's permit. The district court affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the affirmative defense of entrapment by estoppel did not prevent FWP from revoking AMI's roadside menagerie permit. View "Animals of Montana, Inc. v. State, Department of Fish, Wildlife, & Parks" on Justia Law

by
This case involved a premises liability claim brought by a visitor against landlords for an injury caused by the tenants’ dog. The question was whether the landlords, Ernesto and Teri Hernandez, owed a duty to petitioner Maria Saralegui Blanco. The tenants, David Gonzalez Sandoval, Alexandra Barajas Gonzalez, and Elvia Sandoval, rented single family home owned by the landlords. While visiting the home, Saralegui Blanco was attacked and bitten by the tenants’ dog. Saralegui Blanco sued, alleging the tenants and landlords were negligent and liable for her injuries. The trial court dismissed the claims against the landlords on summary judgment. The Washington Supreme Court granted direct review and affirmed the trial court’s grant of summary judgment, dismissing Saralegui Blanco’s premises liability claim against the landlords: petitioner failed to establish a genuine issue of material fact that the landlords possessed the land, retained control over the premises or the dog, or created a dangerous condition. View "Saralegui Blanco v. Gonzalez Sandoval" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court directing the Sully County sheriff to euthanize two dogs owned by Appellants as "vicious animals" under S.D. Codified Laws 7-12-29, holding that the circuit court did not err.Appellants dogs attacked another dog, which died a few days later from internal injuries and complications fraud an infection caused by the attack. The City of Onida filed a petition for declaratory judgment requesting that Appellants' dogs be determined vicious animals under a city ordinance and, alternatively, sought a determination of dangerousness under section 7-12-29 and requested an order allowing the Sheriff to dispose of the dogs. The circuit court concluded that the City could not require the dogs to be euthanized under the ordnance but found that the dogs were dangerous under the statute and authorized the Sheriff to dispose of the dogs. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that any error on the part of the circuit court in failing to require consultation with the Department of Health as part of its formal determination of dangerousness was harmless. View "City Of Onida v. Brandt" on Justia Law

by
In this dispute over whether a landlord was liable for harm caused by his tenants' dog the Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the trial court's grant of summary judgment for Landlord, holding that Plaintiff failed to show that a genuine issue of material fact existed for trial.A seven-year-old boy was bitten by a dog owned by tenants of Landlord's property. Plaintiff brought this complaint against Landlord seeking to recover for the boy's injuries. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Landlord, and the court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) there was insufficient evidence to support a claim that Landlord knew that the dog posed a danger before it bit the boy; and (2) therefore, Landlord was entitled to judgment as a matter of law. View "Curlee v. Johnson" on Justia Law