Justia Animal / Dog Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Constitutional 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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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 Hopkinses kept cattle on their Marshall County, Tennessee farm. Detective Nichols received a complaint about the treatment of those cattle, drove by, and observed one dead cow and others that did not appear to be in good health. Nichols returned with Tennessee Department of Agriculture Veterinarian Johnson. Wearing his gun and badge, Nichols knocked and. according to Mrs. Hopkins, “demanded that [she] escort them to see the cattle,” refusing to wait until Mr. Hopkins returned or until she fed her children. Johnson completed a Livestock Welfare Examination, as required by law, noting that the cattle were not in reasonable health, that they lacked access to appropriate water, food, or shelter, and that major disease issues were present; she determined that probable cause for animal cruelty existed. Nichols returned to the Hopkins’s farm several times and discovered a sinkhole containing the remains of multiple cattle. Nichols and Sheriff Lamb eventually seized the cattle without a warrant and initiated criminal proceedings. The cattle were sold.The Sixth Circuit affirmed the denial of a motion for qualified immunity in a suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983. Forced compliance with orders is a Fourth Amendment seizure; words that compel compliance with orders to exit a house constitute a seizure. While the open fields doctrine allowed the officers to lawfully search the farm, it did not give them lawful access to seize the cattle; they lacked exigent circumstances when they seized the cattle. View "Hopkins v. Nichols" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Ernest Bozzi requested copies of defendant Jersey City’s most recent dog license records pursuant to the Open Public Records Act (OPRA) and the common law right of access. Plaintiff, a licensed home improvement contractor, sought the information on behalf of his invisible fence installation business. Plaintiff noted that Jersey City could redact information relating to the breed of the dog, the purpose of the dog, and any phone numbers associated with the records. He sought only the names and addresses of the dog owners. Jersey City denied plaintiff’s request on two grounds: (1) the disclosure would be a violation of the citizens’ reasonable expectation of privacy, contrary to N.J.S.A. 47:1A-1, by subjecting the dog owners to unsolicited commercial contact; and (2) such a disclosure may jeopardize the security of both dog-owners’ and non-dog-owners’ property. The trial court found the dog licensing records were not exempt and ordered Jersey City to provide the requested information. The New Jersey Supreme Court concurred, concluding that owning a dog was a substantially public endeavor in which people do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy that exempted their personal information from disclosure under the privacy clause of OPRA. View "Bozzi v. City of Jersey City" on Justia Law

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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

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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

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The Ninth Circuit vacated the district court's judgment in favor of defendant in an action brought by plaintiff, seeking injunctive relief under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Plaintiff, who survived years of abuse, obtained Aspen as a service dog to help her cope with her post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), dissociative identity disorder (DID), anxiety, and depression. Because enrolling in a full training course to provide Aspen with formal certification was not a viable option for plaintiff, she began self-training Aspen to perform specific tasks she thought would ameliorate her disability and decrease her isolation. In the underlying suit, plaintiff challenged Del Amo's practice of denying admission to Aspen as a violation of Title III of the ADA and California's Unruh Civil Rights Act.The panel held that the district court erred by effectively imposing a certification requirement for plaintiff's dog to be qualified as a service animal under the ADA. The panel held that the ADA prohibits certification requirements for qualifying service dogs for three reasons: (1) the ADA defines a service dog functionally, without reference to specific training requirements; (2) Department of Justice regulations, rulemaking commentary, and guidance have consistently rejected a formal certification requirement; and (3) allowing a person with a disability to self-train a service animal furthers the stated goals of the ADA, for other training could be prohibitively expensive. The panel remanded for the district court to reconsider whether Aspen was a qualified service dog at the time of trial, and if Aspen is a service dog, whether Del Amo has proved its affirmative defense of fundamental alteration. View "C. L. v. Del Amo Hospital, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against Foster Farms for its allegedly misleading labels and against American Humane for its allegedly negligent certification. The Court of Appeal concluded that it need not decide whether there are triable issues of fact that would defeat summary judgment. Rather, the court concluded that plaintiff has not pleaded a viable cause of action against either defendant. The court concluded that plaintiff's claims against Foster Farms are barred by federal preemption. In this case, plaintiff's direct causes of action against Foster Farms is based on the premise that its labels' inclusion of the American Humane Certified logo was itself misleading, because the chicken was not treated in a manner that an objectively reasonable consumer would consider humane. The court concluded that these causes of action are barred by the doctrine of federal preemption, based on the express preemption clause of the Poultry and Poultry Products Inspection Act. The court also concluded that the negligent certification claim against American Humane is not viable in the absence of physical injury. View "Leining v. Foster Poultry Farms, Inc." on Justia Law

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Defendant John Huckabay appealed his criminal conviction of felony unlawful possession of a moose. A couple heard a gunshot as they were packing up to leave their cabin by Mica Bay on Lake Coeur d'Alene in October 2014. They encountered a large truck with a cow moose hoisted in the back on a metal frame. A man beside the truck introduced himself as John Huckabay. At their inquiry, Huckabay told the couple he had a tag for the moose. The driver, still in the truck, introduced himself as “Bob” later identified as Bob Cushman, a local butcher and the owner of the vehicle. As the couple departed, the wife looked up Idaho’s moose hunting season on her phone. Concerned of a potential hunting violation, the couple proceeded to the Idaho Department of Fish and Game’s (“IDFG”) regional office where they reported the shooting of an antlerless moose by a man named Huckabay. While Huckabay did not give the IDFG officers information about Cushman or details about who specifically shot the moose, Huckabay accompanied a third officer to the area where the moose had been killed. Officers obtained Cushman’s address and visited his residence. With Cushman’s permission, the officers checked inside a walk-in cooler on the premises and found a skinned and quartered cow moose, which lacked the requisite tag. The officers also noted that the carcass was still “very warm,” showing it had only recently been placed in Cushman’s cooler. A grand jury indicted Huckabay for felony unlawful killing or possession of a moose. Huckabay moved to dismiss his indictment, arguing the evidence was insufficient to establish probable cause and the indictment lacked essential elements of the crime. He also filed additional motions to challenge a lack of jurisdiction. Each of these issues hinged on his argument that the plain language of Idaho Code section 36-1404(c)(3) required more than one animal to warrant a felony charge. The district court denied Huckabay’s motions, finding that the indictment was sufficient to establish probable cause that Huckabay possessed the moose even if there was insufficient evidence to establish he killed the moose in question. The Idaho Supreme Court concurred with the district court that Idaho Code section 36-1401(c)(3) could plainly apply to the unlawful killing, possessing, or wasting of a single animal, and affirmed Huckabay's conviction. View "Idaho v. Huckabay" on Justia Law