Justia Animal / Dog Law Opinion Summaries
State ex rel. Bechtel v. Cornachio
In this animal seizure case, the Supreme Court denied a writ of procedendo to compel Respondent, Willoughby Municipal Court Judge Marisa Cornachio, to enter a final judgment regarding a magistrate's probable cause finding in an animal seizure case, holding that the case was moot.Relators commenced this action to compel Judge Cornachio to issue a final judgment in the seizure case. Judge Cornachio subsequently issued a judgment entry in the seizure case. The Supreme Court denied the writ, holding that because Judge Cornachio provided the relief that Relators sought in procedendo and because procedendo will not compel the performance of a duty that has already been performed, the case was moot. View "State ex rel. Bechtel v. Cornachio" on Justia Law
C. L. v. Del Amo Hospital, Inc.
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
Leining v. Foster Poultry Farms, Inc.
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
Idaho v. Huckabay
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
New Hampshire v. Fay
Defendant Christina Fay appealed her convictions on seventeen counts of cruelty to animals. The Wolfeboro Police Department executed a search warrant at defendant’s residence in June 2017 with the aid of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and others, pursuant to which over seventy Great Danes were seized. One of defendant's employees informed the police that there were seventy-eight dogs living at the residence. She stated that the dogs rarely went outside and were not housebroken, and that the residence was covered in animal waste. She reported that the dogs only received water when they were let outside, but that it was not uncommon for the dogs to remain inside for an entire weekend. She also stated that the dogs were fed spoiled meat, and that many vomited often, were underweight, and had liquid stool. In addition, the employee stated that there were riding crops located throughout the house to break up fights among the dogs, and that one dog would bite anyone other than defendant who got near it. Because police did not have resources to execute a search warrant and seizing seventy-eight dogs, HSUS was called to assist in the search. Every member of the police department, the Wolfeboro Fire Department, members of the ambulance team, employees from other town agencies, and staff from HSUS and the Pope Memorial SPCA, executed the warrant on June 16, 2017. Defendant moved to suppress the evidence seized as a result of the search, arguing, among other things, that HSUS’s involvement violated her right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. After a hearing, the trial court denied the defendant’s motion. Defendant argued on appeal that the trial court erred in denying her motion to suppress. Finding no reversible error, the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed the trial court. View "New Hampshire v. Fay" on Justia Law
Bletz v. Corrie
Jeffrey was at home in York County, Pennsylvania with his daughter, young grandson, and their pet dog, Ace, a seven-year-old Rottweiler/Labrador Retriever mix. Jeffrey opened the door to let Ace outside, unaware that Trooper Corrie and other officers were swarming his property to serve an arrest warrant on an armed robbery suspect believed to be living there. Corrie heard Trooper Drum yell “whoa” several times, prompting Corrie “to turn around.” He saw a large dog coming toward him, “already mid-leap, within an arm’s reach.” Ace “was showing teeth, and growling in an aggressive manner.” Corrie says he “backpedaled to create distance,” and Ace circled around him, “attempt[ing] to attack.” Corrie “believe[s] there was another snarl,” and he fired a shot. Ace “began to come after [him] again.” Corrie fired a second shot and then a third. The dog yelped, ran to Jeffrey, and died within minutes. Trooper Drum stated that Ace had behaved aggressively. The family did not witness the incident.The family sued Corrie, claiming unlawful seizure under the Fourth Amendment and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The Third Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of Corrie. The use of deadly force against a household pet is reasonable if the pet poses an imminent threat to the officer’s safety, viewed from the perspective of an objectively reasonable officer. Unrebutted testimony established that Act aggressively charged at Corrie, growled, and showed his teeth, as though about to attack. View "Bletz v. Corrie" on Justia Law
West v. Kentucky Horse Racing Commission
In 144 years of the Kentucky Derby, only one horse to cross the finish line first had been disqualified. No winning horse had ever been disqualified for misconduct during the race itself. In 2019, at the 145th Derby, “Maximum Security,” the horse that finished first, was not declared the winner. He would come in last, based on the stewards’ call that Maximum Security committed fouls by impeding the progress of other horses. His owners, the Wests, were not awarded the Derby Trophy, an approximate $1.5 million purse, and potentially far greater financial benefits from owning a stallion that won the Derby.They filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 against the individual stewards, the individual members of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, an independent state agency, and the Commission, claiming that the regulation that gave the stewards authority to disqualify Maximum Security is unconstitutionally vague.The Sixth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit. The decision to disqualify Maximum Security was not a “final order of an agency” under KRS 13B.140(1) and is not subject to judicial review. The owners had no constitutionally-protected right. Kentucky law provides that “the conduct of horse racing, or the participation in any way in horse racing, . . . is a privilege and not a personal right; and ... may be granted or denied by the racing commission or its duly approved representatives.” View "West v. Kentucky Horse Racing Commission" on Justia Law
Cisneros v. Petland, Inc.
After plaintiff bought a puppy from Petland and the puppy died a week later, plaintiff filed suit under the civil provisions contained in the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), alleging that the puppy's death was the result of a nationwide racketeering conspiracy. Plaintiff alleged that defendants are involved in a conspiracy to sell sick puppies for premium prices and engaged in a campaign of obfuscation after the sale to aid Petland in avoiding its warranties.The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's RICO complaint for failure to state a claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). The court held that the complaint failed to plead facts that plausibly support the inference that defendants shared a common purpose to commit the massive fraud she alleges. Furthermore, plaintiff has failed to allege with particularity that each defendant engaged in a pattern of racketeering activity. The court also held that plaintiff adequately alleged in her complaint that the Class Action Fairness Act vested the district court with original jurisdiction over her Georgia RICO claim. Therefore, the court vacated the portion of the district court's order declining to exercise supplemental jurisdiction and remanded with instructions to dismiss plaintiff's state-law RICO claim with prejudice. View "Cisneros v. Petland, Inc." 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
American Wild Horse Campaign v. Bernhardt
The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for defendants in an action alleging that the BLM's geld and release plan for wild horses violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), and the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act.The panel held that the BLM did not act arbitrarily or capriciously when it chose to geld and release some of the male horses that would otherwise be permanently removed. The panel also held that the BLM permissibly determined that the intensity factors, whether considered individually or collectively, did not show that the Gather Plan would have a significant effect on the environment; the BLM considered and addressed the relevant factor that the Gelding Study raised and explained why additional information was not available, which meets NEPA's "hard look" standard; the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act does not require the BLM to discuss explicitly all expert opinions submitted during the public-comment period; and by addressing the concerns and factors that the NAS Report raised, the BLM complied with the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act's requirement that the BLM "consult" the National Academy of Sciences. View "American Wild Horse Campaign v. Bernhardt" on Justia Law