Justia Animal / Dog Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Government & Administrative Law
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The case involves a series of public records requests made by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) to Louisiana State University (LSU) seeking records related to the use and treatment of wild songbirds in the labs of Dr. Christine Lattin, an associate professor at LSU. After LSU failed to produce the requested records, PETA filed a Petition for Writ of Mandamus, Declaratory Judgment, and Injunctive Relief Pursuant to the Louisiana Public Records Act. LSU denied PETA’s allegations and asserted four affirmative defenses. The district court ruled in favor of PETA, granting access to all the records requested. LSU appealed the decision.The court of appeal affirmed in part and reversed in part the district court's decision. It found that some of the records requested by PETA had been answered by LSU and were not subject to production. However, it also found that some video recordings were not exempt from production as they had been publicly released or published. The court of appeal concluded that the district court had erred in ordering LSU to produce the video recordings that were not utilized by Dr. Lattin for the article or for her presentations and, therefore, had not been publicly released or published.The Supreme Court of Louisiana affirmed the decision of the court of appeal. It held that the veterinary care records, video recordings, communications relating to Dr. Lattin’s plans to trap or experiment on birds and to amend the City of Baton Rouge’s wild bird ordinance, and records relating to Dr. Lattin’s hiring of private counsel were all public records subject to production under the Louisiana Public Records Law. The court rejected LSU's arguments that the records were not public records, were exempt from production, or were unduly burdensome to produce. View "PEOPLE FOR THE ETHICAL TREATMENT OF ANIMALS VS. BOARD OF SUPERVISORS OF LOUISIANA STATE UNIVERSITY" on Justia Law

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The plaintiff, Candis Danielson, was seriously injured by dogs owned by Donald Mehrtens. She filed a lawsuit against several parties, including Mehrtens and the County of Humboldt. Danielson claimed that the County failed to discharge certain mandatory duties regarding dangerous and unvaccinated dogs under both state law and the Humboldt County Code, which she argued led to her injuries. The trial court sustained the County’s demurrer without leave to amend, leading to Danielson's appeal.The trial court found that the duties Danielson identified were not mandatory within the meaning of Government Code section 815.6, and therefore, the County was immune from liability as a matter of law. The court reasoned that even if the Humboldt County Code had created a mandatory duty to hold a potentially dangerous dog hearing, it was uncertain that the hearing would have resulted in the dog's destruction or quarantine. The court also concluded that the vaccination statutes created a mandatory duty to set up an impoundment system, but did not mandate the impound of any specific, unvaccinated animals.The Court of Appeal of the State of California First Appellate District Division One affirmed the trial court's decision. The appellate court agreed that the duties identified by Danielson were not mandatory and that the County was immune from liability. The court also found that Danielson failed to identify any statute creating a mandatory duty which was breached by the County, and agreed with the trial court that her claim raised a serious question of causation. View "Danielson v. County of Humboldt" on Justia Law

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The case involves the Alaska Trappers Association and the National Trappers Association (collectively, the Trappers) who challenged a city ordinance enacted by the City of Valdez. The ordinance regulated animal trapping within the city limits, barring trapping in certain areas for the purpose of protecting public safety and domesticated animals. The Trappers argued that the ordinance was invalid and unconstitutional, asserting that it was preempted by state law and violated the Alaska Constitution.The Superior Court of the State of Alaska, Third Judicial District, Valdez, granted summary judgment in favor of the City of Valdez. The court concluded that the legislature's delegation of authority to the Board of Game was limited and did not grant the Board exclusive control of trapping. The court also determined that the ordinance did not directly contradict state regulations.Upon appeal, the Supreme Court of the State of Alaska affirmed the lower court's decision. The Supreme Court held that the ordinance was not prohibited by the Alaska Constitution or the legislature’s delegation of authority over fish and game to the Board. The court concluded that the ordinance was not impliedly prohibited by state law, as it was enacted pursuant to Valdez's authority to regulate land use and public safety, and was not substantially irreconcilable with the State's authority to regulate the conservation, development, or utilization of game. View "Alaska Trappers Association, Inc. v. City of Valdez" on Justia Law

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This case before the Indiana Supreme Court involved the intersection of a successful Section 1983 federal action and Indiana’s public-employee indemnification statute. The plaintiff, Kailee Leonard, hit and killed a dog belonging to a state conservation officer, Scott Johnson. In response, Officer Johnson pursued misdemeanor charges against Leonard for leaving the scene of the accident. Leonard was subsequently charged but never arrested, and the charges were later dropped at Officer Johnson's request. Leonard then filed a federal lawsuit against Officer Johnson, claiming false arrest. The jury found in Leonard's favor, awarding her $10,000 in damages and $52,462 in attorney’s fees and costs. Unable to pay the full amount, Officer Johnson assigned his indemnification rights against the State to Leonard and her attorney. Leonard subsequently sued the State for a declaratory judgment that the State had a duty to indemnify Officer Johnson and pay the judgment. The trial court found in Leonard's favor, but the State appealed, arguing that Officer Johnson's actions constituted a criminal act.The Indiana Supreme Court held that Leonard had shown that Officer Johnson’s conduct was noncriminal, and the State did not rebut that showing. The Court clarified that a party seeking indemnification under the Indiana public-employee indemnification statute must initially show that the loss occurred because of a noncriminal act or omission. The burden then shifts to the State to rebut that showing by producing evidence establishing a prima facie case of criminal conduct. In this case, Leonard met her burden of producing evidence that Officer Johnson’s conduct was noncriminal, and the State failed to establish a prima facie case that he had committed the crime of false informing. Therefore, the court affirmed the trial court's decision ordering the State to indemnify Officer Johnson and pay the federal judgment. View "State v. Smith" on Justia Law

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The United States District Court certified a question of law to the Washington Supreme Court, asking whether a violation of Washington’s animal protection laws could establish a claim for a public nuisance, absent an indication that the legislature so intended and absent a showing that the violation interfered with the use and enjoyment of property or was injurious to public health and safety. The case was brought by the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) against the Olympic Game Farm Inc. (OGF). ALDF argued OGF violated Washington’s wildlife laws, animal cruelty laws, and both the Washington and federal Endangered Species Act of 1973, thus creating a public nuisance. OGF argued ALDF had no valid legal claim for public nuisance because ALDF did not demonstrate any wildlife statutes have been violated. Even if ALDF could prove such a violation, the Washington Supreme Court determined the state legislature has not named such violations a nuisance nor has ALDF demonstrated that a property interference or threat to public health and safety has occurred. Based on Washington case law and statutory definitions of public nuisance, and the lack of any indication in case law or statute that violation of animal protection laws has been declared a nuisance, the Supreme Court answered the federal court's certified question in the negative. View "Animal Legal Def. Fund v. Olympic Game Farm, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court upheld the final determination of the Maryland Department of the Environment to reissue with revisions a general discharge permit to Animal Feeding Operations (AFOs), holding that the Department's final determination was reasonable and complied with applicable water quality standards.The most recent iteration of the general discharge permit the Department issued to AFOs was finalized by the Department pursuant to certain statutory requirements requiring the Department to review and issue or reissue water pollution control permits once every five years. The circuit court vacated the permit and remanded the matter with instructions to incorporate certain water quality standards into the permit. The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court, holding (1) the Department's AFO general discharge permit framework was reasonable and consistent with federal and state law; and (2) the Department's decision to evaluate each AFO individually and to require appropriately-tailored best-management practices to control the emissions where they presented a risk of discharge was reasonable and not an abuse of discretion. View "Dep't of Environment v. Assateague Coastal Trust" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the order of the district court finding that the city council of the City of Fremont (Council) and the City of Fremont (City) lacked reasonable sufficient evidence to terminate a contract with the Dodge County Humane Society for animal control, holding that the district court lacked petition in error jurisdiction to review the decision.At a regularly scheduled meeting, the Council approved a motion authorizing Fremont's mayor to terminate the contract for animal control. The Humane Society later filed a petition in error alleging that the Council and the City had no cause to terminate the contract. Thereafter, the district court entered a temporary injunction / temporary restraining order in favor of the Humane Society. The County and City moved to dismiss, asserting that the Council's decision to authorize the mayor to send a letter was not an action that could support a petition in error. The district court sustained the petition in error and ordered the contract to be reinstated. The Supreme Court vacated the order below, holding (1) the Council did not exercise a judicial or quasi-judicial function in voting on the motion to send the disputed letter to the Humane Society; and (2) therefore, the district court lacked jurisdiction to review this action. View "Dodge County Humane Society v. City of Fremont" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court dismissed this case involving permits issued in 2017 and 2018 by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) to four different swine confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs), holding that current circumstances rendered moot the legal challenges brought by Sierra Club.In 2017, Husky Hogs LLC formulated a plan to rebuild and expand its CAFO. As part of the plan, the rebuild planners formed Prairie Dog Pork, LLC, which was granted a portion of Husky Hogs' property. Thereafter, KDHE granted each LLC a permit. Subsequently, the same group of landowners created two additional LLCs to further their growing capacities and were given permits from KDHE. Sierra Club brought this lawsuit alleging that the permits issued to the four CAFOs violated the surface water setback requirements of Kan. Stat. Ann. 65-1,180. The district court held that the permits were unlawful. The CAFOs appealed, and while the appeal was pending KDHE issued four new permits to the CAFOs reflecting new legal descriptions of the four facilities. The court of appeals remanded the case with directions to reinstate the 2017 and 2018 permits, which were no longer operational. The Supreme Court dismissed the case, holding that there was no longer any actual controversy concerning the 2017 and 2018 permits. View "Sierra Club v. Stanek" 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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In this claim brought by an organization dedicated to ocean preservation against the National Marine Fisheries Service, a division of the U.S. Department of Commerce, the DC Circuit affirmed the judgment of the trial court in favor of the government defendants. In doing so, the court rejected both of the organization's claims that the National Marine Fisheries Service failed to provide sufficient protection for the dusky shark.The court held that the National Marine Fisheries Service did not violate the Magnuson-Stevens Act by failing to actually limit bycatch of the overfished dusky shark or hold fisheries accountable to any level of dusky shark bycatch. Nor did the national Marine Fisheries Service violate the Magnuson-Stevens Act by failing to establish a reasonable likelihood that training measures, communication protocols, and minor gear changes would reduce dusky shark bycatch by 35 percent, which is the minimum reduction needed to meet the statutory requirement to rebuild the dusky shark population. View "Oceana, Inc. v. Gina Raimondo" on Justia Law