Justia Animal / Dog Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Civil Procedure
ASPCA v. APHIS & Dep’t of Agric.
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
Rachael Danker v. The City of Council Bluffs
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
Lori Marino v. NOAA
Plaintiffs, a group of organizations devoted to animal welfare and individuals who work with those organizations and with marine mammals, sued the National Marine Fisheries Service (“NMFS”) and its parent agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (“NOAA”), seeking to enforce conditions in permits held by SeaWorld, a business operating several marine zoological parks. The permits authorize the capture and display of orcas and require display facilities to transmit medical and necropsy data to the NMFS following the death of an animal displayed under the terms of a permit. The district court dismissed Plaintiffs’ suit for lack of standing. The D.C. Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal. The court reasoned that to establish standing, a plaintiff “must show (1) an injury in fact that is concrete and particularized and actual or imminent; (2) that the injury is fairly traceable to the defendant’s challenged conduct; and (3) that the injury is likely to be redressed by a favorable decision.” Prevention of Cruelty to Animals v. Feld Ent., Inc., 659 F.3d 13 (D.C. Cir. 2011). Here, the court found that Plaintiffs failed to allege a favorable decision would lead the NMFS to enforce the permit conditions and thus redress their alleged injury. Their allegation to the contrary relies upon unadorned speculation that the NMFS would choose to enforce the necropsy permit conditions and that SeaWorld would voluntarily send necropsy information to an agency that had not enforced permit conditions in twenty-three years should the court determine that the NMFS retains its discretion to enforce permits it issued prior to 1994. View "Lori Marino v. NOAA" on Justia Law
Friends of Animals v. Bernhardt, et al.
Animal rights organization Friends of Animals served a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) seeking disclosure of form 3-177s submitted by wildlife hunters and traders seeking to import elephant and giraffe parts. FWS disclosed the forms with redactions. Most relevant here, it withheld the names of the individual submitters under FOIA Exemptions 6 and 7(C), which prevent disclosure of information when a privacy interest in withholding outweighs the public interest in disclosure, as well as information on one Form 3-177 under Exemption 4, which prevents the disclosure of material that is commercial and confidential. Friends of Animals challenged these redactions in the district court, which granted summary judgment in favor of FWS, upholding the redactions. The Tenth Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part, finding the district court erred in granting summary judgment in favor of FWS as to the withholdings in the Elephant Request under Exemptions 6 and 7(C) and as to the withholdings under Exemption 4. The Court affirmed summary judgment as to the withholdings in the Giraffe Request. View "Friends of Animals v. Bernhardt, et al." on Justia Law
Higgins v. Bailey
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
Saralegui Blanco v. Gonzalez Sandoval
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
Vickers v. Idaho Bd of Veterinary Medicine
Kirby Vickers filed a grievance letter with Idaho Board of Veterinary Medicine (the Board”) against a veterinarian requesting that they take various disciplinary actions. After an investigation, the Board declined to take any action against the veterinarian. Vickers then filed suit in district court, seeking to compel the Board to hold a hearing. The district court dismissed his suit for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. On appeal, Vickers argued his letter to the Board initiated a contested action for which he was entitled to judicial review. To this, the Idaho Supreme Court disagreed, finding that a private citizen could not initiate a "contested case" with a grievance letter. Vickers points to the language in caselaw: “[t]he filing of a complaint initiates a contested case,”to argue that any public citizen could file a complaint pursuant to Idaho Rule of Administrative Procedure of the Attorney General (“IDAPA”) 04.11.01.240.02 and begin a contested case. However, the Supreme Court found both the Administrative Procedures Act (APA) and the corresponding IDAPA rules, addressed only agency actions. "Vickers cannot apply these rules to his grievance letter, even if it was referred to as a “complaint” in correspondence from the Board, because it is not an agency action under the APA or IDAPA." The Court affirmed the district court's order dismissed this case for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. View "Vickers v. Idaho Bd of Veterinary Medicine" on Justia Law
Franciere v. City of Mandan
Susan Franciere appealed a district court judgment granting the City of Mandan’s motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction due to insufficient service. In 2017, Franciere and her dog were attacked by a dog in Mandan. Days later, she went to the Mandan Police Department, asserted her rights under Article I, section 25 of the North Dakota Constitution, and requested a copy of the police report on the incident under the open records law. Franciere called the police department and was informed the dog was undergoing a 10-day rabies quarantine. Thereafter, Franciere sent a letter to the chief of police requesting the police report. On August 22, 2017, she received a phone call from a police lieutenant who told her she would not receive the report because the case was still active and no information would be released until the case was closed. In September 2017, she contacted the city attorney about the incident. Then in October, Franciere filed this action against the City, alleging violations of the North Dakota Constitution and the open records law. Franciere received a redacted report of the incident from the police department on November 1, 2017. On January 13, 2018, she received an unredacted report from the police department. On November 14, 2018, Franciere filed a motion for summary judgment. The district court declared Franciere’s action moot and dismissed it with prejudice. It declined to rule on Mandan’s motion to dismiss for insufficient service of process and lack of personal jurisdiction. The North Dakota Supreme Court vacated the district court’s judgment and remanded for determination of Mandan’s motion to dismiss for insufficiency of service of process and lack of personal jurisdiction. Upon reconsideration, the district court granted the City's motion to dismiss with prejudice. Franciere argued Mandan waived its personal jurisdiction claims, the district court improperly dismissed the case with prejudice, the district court erred when it denied her motion to compel discovery, and the district court judge was biased against her. The Supreme Court modified the judgment for dismissal without prejudice, and affirmed as modified. View "Franciere v. City of Mandan" on Justia Law
Pankey v. Petco Animal Supplies, Inc.
Plaintiff Andrew Pankey (Andrew) filed a products liability claim against Petco Animal Supplies, Inc., after his son Aidan contracted a rare bacterial infection from a rat purchased at Petco. Aidan later died as a result of complications related to his infection. Andrew alleged, among other things, that Petco was strictly liable for injuries resulting from the sale of the pet rat, which he argued was a product for purposes of strict products liability. The trial court instructed the jury on negligence under ordinary negligence and negligent failure-to-warn theories, as well as three theories of strict products liability: (1) failure to warn, (2) manufacturing defect, and (3) design defect under a risk-benefit test. The jury returned verdicts in favor of Petco. On appeal, Andrew contended the trial court erred by refusing to instruct the jury on an alternative strict liability design defect theory, the "consumer expectations test." He argued there was sufficient evidence from which the jury could have concluded the pet rat purchased from Petco failed to perform as safely as an ordinary consumer would expect when used in an intended or reasonably foreseeable manner. The Court of Appeal affirmed, finding a live pet animal sold in its unaltered state was not a product subject to the design defect consumer expectations theory of strict products liability. The Court therefore did not reach a conclusion regarding applicability of the consumer expectations test or the prejudicial effect of its exclusion. View "Pankey v. Petco Animal Supplies, Inc." on Justia Law
Swartz v. Heartland Equine Rescue
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