Justia Animal / Dog Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Government & Administrative 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

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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

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court modifying an arbitration award compensating Appellant, a rancher, for calf damage he sustained during the 2018 grazing season as a result of grizzly bear predation, holding that the district court did not err in modifying the award.Appellant reported the number of his calves dead from grizzly bear predation to the Wyoming Game and Fish Department and submitted a claim requesting that the Department compensate him $349,730. The Department rejected the damage claim and agreed to compensate Appellant $61,203. After the Commission affirmed Appellant requested arbitration. The arbitrators awarded Appellant $266,685 for his calf damage. The Department filed a motion to modify the arbitration award. The district court granted the motion and modified the award to reflect the amount of $61,203. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the arbitrators made an award on a matter not submitted to them and thus did not follow the law. View "Longwell v. Wyoming Game & Fish Department" 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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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