Justia Animal / Dog Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Animal / Dog Law
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The Supreme Court held that the federal Food Security Act of 1985 (FSA) was preemptive of Kentucky's Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) and that thoroughbreds and the right to breed them are farm products within the meaning of the FSA and, as a result, any security interest in those products was extinguished when they were sold to their respective buyers.The FSA abrogated a common exception in the UCC allowing for a security interest to remain when a farm product pass from seller to buyer. At issue in this case was (1) whether the FSA applies when the product at issue was a thoroughbred horse with particularly valuable breeding rights, and (2) whether breeding rights are farm products within the FSA. The Supreme Court held (1) the FSA preempts Kentucky's farm products exception; and (2) the plain language of the FSA demonstrates that thoroughbred horses are farm products within the meaning of the FSA, and breeding rights are also farm products under the FSA. View "MGG Investment Group LP v. Bemak N.V., Ltd." on Justia Law

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During the tax years at issue, 2010–2013, the Taxpayers owned a New Jersey horse farm. Their Company employed several employees, none of whom had a budget. The Company paid the Taxpayers' personal expenses and lost more than $3.5 million during the years at issue and more than $11.4 million between 1998-2013. The Taxpayers contributed capital and made loans to the Company. In 2016, the Company sold a horse for nearly $1.2 million, enabling it to report a modest overall profit.In 2016, the IRS sent notices of income tax deficiencies. The Tax Court sustained the deficiency determinations, holding that the Taxpayers could not deduct Company losses because their horse breeding activity was not engaged in for profit under Internal Revenue Code section 183 and that the Taxpayers failed to substantiate net operating loss carryforwards that allegedly arose from Company activity. The Third Circuit affirmed. The Tax Court did not clearly err when it found that adverse market conditions did not explain the Company’s sustained unprofitability and correctly considered the Taxpayers’ substantial income from other sources. The profit generated from the 2016 horse sale was tempered by the fact that it occurred after the tax years at issue and after the notices of deficiency. The expertise of the Taxpayers and their advisors was the only factor that favored the Taxpayers. View "Skolnick v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue" on Justia Law

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People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) wishes to conduct undercover animal-cruelty investigations and publicize what they uncover. But it faces a formidable obstacle: North Carolina’s Property Protection Act (the Act), passed to punish “any person who intentionally gains access to the non-public areas of another’s premises and engages in an act that exceeds the person’s authority to enter.” The Act goes on to explain what actions “exceed” authority. Some provisions appear more narrowly focused, prohibiting capturing, removing, or photographing employer data. Even these more specific provisions, however, potentially reach anything from stealing sensitive client information to ferreting out trade secrets in hopes of starting a competing business.   The Fourth Circuit enjoined North Carolina from applying the Act to PETA’s newsgathering activities but severed and reserved all other applications for future case-by-case adjudication. Here, the Act regulates at least some non-expressive, unprotected conduct. The court wrote these more general regulations of conduct do not insulate the Act from the First Amendment’s wringer when the Act bars speech. Absent any indication that the Act “as a whole” chills First Amendment freedoms, the court explained it follows the same principles under overbreadth. View "PETA v. NC Farm Bureau" on Justia Law

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The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (“ASPCA”) appealed the judgment of the district court dismissing its “policy or practice” claim brought under the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) against the Department of Agriculture and its component agency, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. The ASPCA alleged that the agencies adopted a policy or practice of violating the FOIA when the agencies decommissioned two online databases of frequently requested documents. The ASPCA argued that the policy or practice violates the FOIA. While the ASPCA’s action was pending before the district court, Congress enacted a new statute that required the agencies to recommission the databases, and the agencies complied. The district court held that the ASPCA’s policy or practice claim was resolved when the agencies recommissioned the databases as required by law.   The Second Circuit affirmed, holding that the ASPCA cannot state a policy or practice claim that the agencies systematically violated the FOIA after an intervening statutory enactment required the restoration of the databases that underpinned the ASPCA’s claim. The court explained that even assuming that a “policy or practice” claim is cognizable, the ASPCA failed to state such a claim against the agencies because the Further Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2020 reversed the alleged policy or practice. View "ASPCA v. APHIS & Dep't of Agric." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court granting a writ of prohibition to prevent the magistrate court from dismissing the charge against Petitioner of animal cruelty in violation of W. Va. Code 61-8-19, holding that the writ of prohibition was properly granted.A county humane officer searched Petitioner's premises pursuant to a warrant and seized several horses and a donkey. Petitioner was charged with animal cruelty under W. Va. Code 61-8-19. Petitioner filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that section 61-8-19 does not apply to livestock. The magistrate court agreed and dismissed the charge. The State sought a writ of prohibition to prevent the magistrate court from dismissing the charge. The circuit court granted the writ. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court properly held that section 61-8-19(f) establishes an exclusion for farm livestock only when they are "kept and maintained according to usual and accepted standards of livestock...production and management." View "Beasley v. Sorsaia" on Justia Law

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Several dog owners sued the City of Council Bluffs challenging the constitutionality of an ordinance prohibiting “pit bulls" under 42 Sec. 1983. The trial court granted the City's motion for summary judgment, finding that the ordinance had the "required rational relationship to the health, safety, and public welfare interests of the city to survive rational basis review." The dog owners appealed the trial court's ruling pertaining to their equal protection and substantive due process claims.The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court first noted that the parties agreed that rational-basis review was appropriate. However, the dog owners claimed that their evidence "negates every conceivable basis for the Ordinance’s rational relationship," presenting expert testimony that showed, among other things, pitbulls were not any more dangerous than other breeds of dogs that were permitted under the ordinance. ultimately, the court concluded that the City had a conceivable basis to believe banning pit bulls would promote the health and safety of Council Bluff citizens. View "Rachael Danker v. The City of Council Bluffs" on Justia Law

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Defendant Kevin Butler was convicted after a bench trial on two counts of animal cruelty. One of defendant’s neighbors was leaving her apartment to run errands when she noticed a dog inside a parked Honda Civic. After 45 minutes to an hour, the neighbor returned and noticed that the dog remained in the vehicle. The dog appeared to be in distress and was “scratching at the windows and the door.” The temperature was greater than 90 degrees outside and the neighbor believed that the “dog shouldn’t have been in the car because it was that hot with all the windows . . . closed.” She was “afraid for the dog,” so she called the police. Animal Control responded to the call, opened the vehicle, and secured the dog. Defendant testified telling a responding officer that on the day the dog was taken into custody, he had “been out on some errands” and “[h]is arms were full[,] so [he] asked his 8-year-old son . . . to bring the dog in.” When the police asked him where his dog was, the defendant testified that he said “oh, sh*t” and asked his son where the dog was. When his son responded that he did not know, the defendant realized that the dog must still be in the car. On appeal, defendant claimed the evidence was insufficient to establish the requisite mens rea of criminal negligence for both charges. All other elements were uncontested. Finding no reversible error, the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed defendant's conviction. View "New Hampshire v. Butler" on Justia Law

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Greenbank purchased “Thomas” for $500,000, for use as a competitive showhorse. Greenbank obtained insurance from GA that included coverage for Thomas’s “death” or “authorized humane destruction.” In February 2018, Thomas became sick. Over the next few months, Thomas lost 50 pounds and developed cellulitis in all four legs and uveitis in his eye. In April 2018, Greenbank reported Thomas’s pneumonia to GA. Greenbank's veterinarian informed GA that Thomas “probably” needed to be euthanized. GA retained its own veterinarians. Thomas was transported to its facility, where Dr. MacGillivray advised that it would not be unreasonable to make a euthanasia recommendation but she wanted to try treatment. Greenbank objected, arguing that treatment would destroy Thomas’s future athleticism. After his surgery, Thomas made a "remarkable" recovery. Thomas is still doing well.GA denied coverage for certain treatments and rejected Greenbank’s renewal payment of $14,725.000, citing her failure to provide immediate notice of Thomas’s illness in February 2018. Greenbank argued that GA acted in bad faith by unreasonably withholding consent for authorized humane destruction and that GA’s continued care and control over Thomas after the policy terminated constituted conversion and theft.The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of her claims. Thomas saw three veterinarians in five months; no veterinarian certified that Thomas needed to be euthanized. Nothing in the contract requires GA to protect Thomas’s use as a show horse. Greenbank never made an unqualified demand for Thomas’s return nor did she establish that any demand would have been futile. View "Greenbank v. Great American Assurance Co." on Justia Law

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In September 2017, Klamath County Animal Control impounded 22 dogs, three horses, and seven chickens from Petitioner Kenneth Hershey’s property. The state subsequently charged Hershey with three counts of second-degree animal neglect, one count for each type of animal. under ORS 167.347. As relevant here, that statute provides that, when an animal is being held by an animal care agency pending the outcome of a criminal action for mistreatment of the animal, a district attorney, acting on behalf of the animal care agency, may file a petition in the criminal action asking the circuit court to order the forfeiture of the animal unless the defendant in the criminal action (or another person with a claim to the animal) pays a security deposit or bond to cover the agency’s costs of caring for the animal. The question presented for the Oregon Supreme Court by this case was whether, under Article I, section 17, of the Oregon Constitution, a party has a right to a jury trial in a proceeding brought under ORS 167.347. The circuit court ruled that a party did not have such a right. The Court of Appeals affirmed, in a divided opinion. The Supreme Court concurred with the lower court decisions and affirmed. View "Oregon v. Hershey" on Justia Law

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The Seventh District remanded this case brought under the Endangered Species Act's citizen-suit provision, 16 U.S.C. 1540(g)(1), for mistreatment of endangered and threatened animals at a Wisconsin private zoo for an award of reasonable attorney fees and costs, holding that the district court's stated reasons were insufficient to deny statutorily-recoverable expenses.The Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) sued Special Memories Zoo and its owners and manager (collectively, Defendants) alleging that the conditions of the endangered and threatened animals' confinement constituted an unlawful "take" under the Act. Defendants first defended the action then intentionally defaulted. After the trial court entered default judgment for ALDF ALDF moved for an award of attorney's fees and costs under 16 U.S.C. 1540(g)(4). The trial court denied the motion. The Seventh District vacated the decision below, holding that the court's reasons were insufficient to justify denying fees when weighed against the purpose and structure of the Act. View "Animal Legal Defense Fund v. Special Memories Zoo LLC" on Justia Law