Justia Animal / Dog Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Government & Administrative Law
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The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's decision to uphold HHS's redaction of certain types of information in response to PETA's request for information about the importation of nonhuman primates under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The court noted that it would have little difficulty concluding that the market for importing nonhuman primates was competitive even without PETA's waiver. The court held that releasing shipment-by-shipment quantity, crate size, and airline carrier information would cause substantial harm to the competitive position of each importer. Therefore, such information was confidential and protected from disclosure by FOIA Exemption 4. Finally, the court held that the district court did not err by granting HHS's Rule 60(b)(6) motion for reconsideration of the judgment regarding three importers, which the district court had mistakenly assumed their silence was intentional. View "People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals v. HHS" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit affirmed the Service's 2014 and 2015 findings that information concerning the size of the Zimbabwean elephant population and status of conservation efforts in Zimbabwe did not support a conclusion that killing the animal would enhance the survival of the species. The court rejected appellants' contention that the Service erred because it applied a standard that was more stringent than the "enhance" standard in the Service's regulation. However, the court reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the Service on a claim under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), 5 U.S.C. 553, because the Service erred in adopting the findings without first following the notice-and-comment rulemaking requirements of the APA. The court remanded with instructions. View "Safari Club International v. Zinke" on Justia Law

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The Animal Welfare Act's (AWA), 7 U.S.C. 2133, compliance demonstration requirement does not unambiguously preclude USDA's license renewal scheme and the scheme is not facially unreasonable. In this case, plaintiffs filed suit challenging the USDA's most recent renewal of a license for animal exhibitors (Cricket Hollow Zoo), alleging that, at the time of the renewal, the agency was aware that Cricket Hollow was in violation of numerous animal welfare requirements under the Act and its implementing regulations. The DC Circuit held that the agency's renewal scheme was consistent with the demonstration requirement in section 2133. Because the agency's decision to renew the Cricket Hollow Zoo license was made in compliance with that regulatory scheme, it was not inconsistent with the Act. Therefore, the court affirmed the district court's judgment on the statutory claim; vacated the district court's order granting the Government's motion to dismiss plaintiffs' arbitrary and capricious claim; and remanded to the district court with instructions to remand the record to the agency for further proceedings. View "Animal Legal Defense Fund v. Perdue" on Justia Law

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Under Chicago’s 2014 “puppy mill” ordinance, pet retailers in the city “may offer for sale only those dogs, cats, or rabbits” obtained from an animal control or care center, pound, or kennel operated by local, state, or federal government or “a humane society or rescue organization.” Plaintiffs challenged the ordinance as exceeding the city’s home-rule powers and the implied limits on state power imposed by the Commerce Clause. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the case. The Illinois Constitution permits home-rule units like Chicago to regulate animal control and welfare concurrently with the state. The ordinance does not discriminate against interstate commerce, even in mild practical effect, so it requires no special cost-benefit justification under the Commerce Clause. The court found that the ordinance survives rational-basis review, noting the city’s concerns that large mill-style breeders are notorious for deplorable conditions and abusive breeding practices, including overbreeding, inbreeding, crowded and filthy living conditions, lack of appropriate socialization, and inadequate food, water, and veterinary care, causing pets to develop health and behavioral problems, creating economic and emotional burdens for pet owners and imposing financial costs on the city as owners abandon their pets. View "Park Pet Shop, Inc. v. City of Chicago" on Justia Law

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The Animal Welfare Act does not directly address license renewal but does expressly authorize the USDA to promulgate and implement its own renewal standards. PETA filed suit challenging the license renewal process for animal exhibitors promulgated by the USDA through which the USDA may renew such license despite a licensee's noncompliance with the Act. The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of the USDA's Rule 12(c) motion for judgment on the pleadings. The court agreed with the Eleventh Circuit that the Act's licensing regulations embody a reasonable accommodation of the conflicting policy interests Congress has delegated to the USDA and were entitled to Chevron deference. View "PETA v. USDA" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, individuals who breed and sell animals, filed the underlying action in district court, challenging a 2012 rule in which the Fish and Wildlife Service designated as injurious four species of snakes. At issue on appeal was the shipment clause in the Lacey Act, 18 U.S.C. 42(a)(1), which bars "any shipment" of certain injurious species of animals "between the continental United States, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, or any possession of the United States." Plaintiffs argued that the Service lacks authority under the Lacey Act to prohibit transportation of the listed species between the 49 continental States. The court agreed with the district court that the shipment clause has no bearing on shipments of animals from one of the 49 continental States to another. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's judgment in favor of plaintiffs. View "U.S. Assoc. of Reptile Keepers v. Zinke" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a quarter horse trainer, appeals the trial court's denial of his petition for a writ of administrative mandamus. Specifically, petitioner challenges a license suspension and fine imposed upon him by the Board after finding that he violated regulations, California Code of Regulations, title 4, section 1844, subdivision (e)(9), by racing horses medicated with a drug, Clenbuterol, that the Board had temporarily suspended from authorized use. The court concluded that the Board's interpretation of the regulation at the time it extended or reenacted the Clenbuterol ban and in the instant litigation is not entitled to deference because the Board has vacillated. The court explained that, after considering the regulation's text and history, a temporary suspension of authorized use of a particular substance under section 1844.1 may not be extended beyond 12 months through reenactment or extension of the temporary suspension. Therefore, the allegations against and findings of regulatory violations by plaintiff had no legal basis, and the penalties imposed upon him were equally invalid. Accordingly, the court reversed the judgment. View "De La Torre v. California Horse Racing Board" on Justia Law

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Big Cats of Serenity Springs was a Colorado-based non-profit that provided housing, food, and veterinary care for exotic animals. The facility was regulated by the United States Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). Three APHIS inspectors accompanied by sheriff’s deputies broke into the Big Cats facility without its permission to perform an unannounced inspection of two tiger cubs. But at the time the inspectors entered the facility, the cubs were at a veterinarian’s office receiving treatment, just as Big Cats had promised the APHIS inspectors the previous day. Big Cats and its directors sued the APHIS inspectors for the unauthorized entry pursuant to "Bivens v. Six Unknown Narcotics Agents," (403 U.S. 388 (1971)) and 42 U.S.C. 1983, asserting the entry was an illegal search under the Fourth Amendment. The district court denied the APHIS inspectors’ motion to dismiss the complaint and they filed an interlocutory appeal challenging the court’s failure to grant qualified immunity. The Tenth Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part. Big Cats’ complaint stated a claim for relief under "Bivens." No APHIS inspector would reasonably have believed unauthorized forcible entry of the Big Cats facility was permissible, and therefore Big Cats and its directors could have a claim for violation of their Fourth Amendment right to be free from an unreasonable search. But the Court reversed on Big Cats’ civil rights claim because the federal inspectors were not liable under section 1983 in the circumstances here. View "Big Cats of Serenity Springs v. Vilsack" on Justia Law

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Cynthia Huntsman operated a farm on which she kept multiple species of wild animals that are regulated by the Ohio Dangerous Wild Animals and Restricted Snakes Act. Huntsman had no permit to possess “dangerous wild animals” under the Act. The Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) ordered the transfer of multiple dangerous wild animals found in Huntsman’s facility to a temporary holding facility established by the ODA. A Stark County Common Pleas Court judge granted Huntsman a temporary restraining order against the ODA and ordered the ODA to return the seized animals to Huntsman. The director of the ODA sought a writ of prohibition to prevent the judge from continuing to exercise jurisdiction over the case. The Supreme Court granted a peremptory writ of prohibition to prevent the judge from proceeding in the underlying case and ordered him to vacate his previous orders in the case, holding that the judge patently and unambiguously lacked jurisdiction to order the return of the dangerous wild animals seized from Huntsman and her farm. View "State ex rel. Dir., Ohio Dep’t of Agriculture v. Forchione" on Justia Law

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During the investigation of a complaint that Arlie Risner was hunting without permission, Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Wildlife (“ODNR”) officers seized parts of an antlered white-tailed deer. Risner later pled no contest to hunting without permission, and the court ordered the meat and antlers forfeited to ODNR. ODNR subsequently notified Risner that he owed $27,851 in restitution to the state pursuant to Ohio Rev. Code 1531.201. Risner filed a declaratory-judgment action against ODNR alleging that the order of restitution was illegal and unconstitutional because the state had taken possession of the deer in the criminal proceeding. The trial court ruled in favor of Risner. The Court of Appeals reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that section 1531.201(B) permits ODNR to file a civil action to recover the civil restitution value of an antlered white-tailed deer even though it had seized the deer meat and antlers as evidence in the investigation of an offender who was convicted of a violation of Ohio Rev. Code 1531 or 1533 or a division rule and was awarded possession as a result of the conviction. View "Risner v. Ohio Dep’t of Natural Res., Ohio Div. of Wildlife" on Justia Law