Justia Animal / Dog Law Opinion Summaries

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Plaintiff Andrew Pankey (Andrew) filed a products liability claim against Petco Animal Supplies, Inc., after his son Aidan contracted a rare bacterial infection from a rat purchased at Petco. Aidan later died as a result of complications related to his infection. Andrew alleged, among other things, that Petco was strictly liable for injuries resulting from the sale of the pet rat, which he argued was a product for purposes of strict products liability. The trial court instructed the jury on negligence under ordinary negligence and negligent failure-to-warn theories, as well as three theories of strict products liability: (1) failure to warn, (2) manufacturing defect, and (3) design defect under a risk-benefit test. The jury returned verdicts in favor of Petco. On appeal, Andrew contended the trial court erred by refusing to instruct the jury on an alternative strict liability design defect theory, the "consumer expectations test." He argued there was sufficient evidence from which the jury could have concluded the pet rat purchased from Petco failed to perform as safely as an ordinary consumer would expect when used in an intended or reasonably foreseeable manner. The Court of Appeal affirmed, finding a live pet animal sold in its unaltered state was not a product subject to the design defect consumer expectations theory of strict products liability. The Court therefore did not reach a conclusion regarding applicability of the consumer expectations test or the prejudicial effect of its exclusion. View "Pankey v. Petco Animal Supplies, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the clean water commission approving Trenton Farms' permit to establish a twin concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO), holding that House Bill No. 1713 (HB 1713) does not violate the original purpose, single subject, or clear title requirements of the Missouri Constitution and that there was sufficient evidence regarding the CAFO's protection from a 100-year flood.The clean water commission affirmed the department of natural resource's issuance of a permit to Trenton Farms to establish a CAFO. Hickory Neighbors United, Inc. appealed, arguing (1) HB 1713, which amended Mo. Rev. Stat. 644.021.1 to change the criteria for members of the commission, violated Missouri Constitution article III's original purpose requirement and single subject and clear title requirements; and (2) there was insufficient evidence that CAFO's manure containment structures would be protected from inundation or damages in the event of a 100-year flood, a requirement of 10 C.S.R. 20-8.300. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) HB 1713 is constitutionally valid; and (2) there was sufficient evidence that CAFO structures met regulatory requirements. View "In re Trenton Farms RE, LLC Permit No. MOGS10520" on Justia Law

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In late 2015, Michael Charnota was walking his dog “Katie,” who was leashed, in front of his residence in Paulding County, Georgia when a dog later identified as “Tucker” attacked and killed Katie. When Charnota carried Katie into his home, Tucker followed and attacked Charnota, seriously injuring him. Prior to the attack, Tucker had been kept on the premises of S&S Towing & Recovery, Ltd., which is located approximately 1,000 feet from Charnota’s residence and owned by Timothy and Paula Seals. On the day of the attack, Tucker had apparently escaped from the S&S Towing lot and was not on a leash or under the control of a person as required by the Paulding County Code. Charnota filed a complaint for damages against the Sealses, individually, and S&S Towing (collectively “S&S Towing”). Charnota asserted several causes of action, including a claim for liability under OCGA 51-2-7. The Georgia Supreme Court granted an interlocutory appeal in this case, expressing particular concern about whether the second sentence of OCGA 51-2-7, which provided that an animal running at large in violation of a local “leash law” was considered a “vicious” animal, violated procedural due process. On the facts of this case, the Court concluded that it did not, and remanded this case for further proceedings. View "S&S Towing & Recovery, Ltd. v. Charnota" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals holding that the Texas Farm Animal Activity Act (the Act), Tex. Civ. Proc. & Rem. Code 87.001-87.005, does not apply to ranchers and ranch hands, holding that the court of appeals did not err.The Act limits liability for injury to "a participant in a farm animal activity or livestock show" that results from an "inherent risk" of those activities. Raul Zuniga worked full-time for Conway and Marlene Waak to work cattle on a ranch, landscape, and cut hay. Zuniga died after being trampled. Plaintiffs, Zuniga's family, sued the Waaks, on wrongful death and survival claims. The trial court granted summary judgment for the Waaks, concluding that the Act barred Plaintiffs' claims. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that Zuniga was not "a participant in a farm animal activity" for whose injuries and death the Act limits liability. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the Act does not cover ranchers and ranch hands and, therefore, did not shield the Waaks from liability for their negligence resulting in Zuniga's death. View "Waak v. Rodriguez" on Justia Law

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Defendants Thomas and Katherine Ferguson appealed their respective convictions for animal cruelty and a judgment for animal forfeiture, both arising from the conditions in which they kept over twenty animals in their care. In September 2017, defendants’ landlord entered their trailer to check the smoke detectors. He found the interior of the residence smelled strongly of urine and ammonia, and he observed more than two dozen animals in “questionable living conditions.” Numerous dogs were crowded into small crates and lacked access to food and water, including a nursing mother and her puppies. Birds were kept in dirty cages and their water was viscous and filled with feces, food, and feathers. Landlord took photographs and a video of some of the animals, including three dogs sharing one travel crate. Landlord, his family, and other contractors continued to do maintenance work on the property for the next month, during which time the animals remained in similar conditions. One of landlord’s contractors eventually contacted the police regarding the animals’ conditions. Defendants challenged their ultimate convictions on the basis that the affidavit prepared by a police officer in support of the search warrant that led to the charges relied on information obtained from a prior illegal search, and therefore the court should have excluded all evidence obtained as a result of the warrant. They challenged the forfeiture order on the ground that the court improperly admitted hearsay statements in the forfeiture hearing. After review, the Vermont Supreme Court affirmed as to the criminal convictions because even if the information from the challenged prior search was stricken, the remaining portions of the affidavit were sufficient to support the search warrant that led to the charges. The Court agreed that the court improperly allowed hearsay evidence in the forfeiture proceeding, and remanded for the court to reconsider its ruling without the objectionable evidence. View "Vermont v. Ferguson" on Justia Law

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Deer breeders Terry Kennedy and Johnny McDonald sought to raise and hunt bigger deer by artificially inseminating whitetail deer with mule-deer semen. Whether they could do so depended on whether the resulting hybrid deer were covered by Alabama's definition of "protected game animals" in section 9-11-30(a), Ala. Code 1975. On a motion for a judgment on the pleadings, the Circuit Court concluded that, because the hybrid deer were the offspring of a female whitetail deer, they were "protected game animals," both by virtue of the inclusion in that definition of "whitetail deer ... and their offspring," and by virtue of an old legal doctrine called partus sequitur ventrem. The trial court therefore entered a judgment in favor of the deer breeders. The Alabama Supreme Court disagreed: because the modifier "and their offspring" in section 9-11-30(a) did not reach back to apply to the term "whitetail deer," and because the Latin maxim cited as an alternative theory for relief had no application in this case, the Supreme Court reversed and remanded. View "Blankenship v. Kennedy" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed a putative class action alleging that defendants deceived plaintiffs into believing their products were approved by the FDA. After the district court remanded the case back to state court, the Eighth Circuit granted defendants' petition for review under 28 U.S.C. 1453(c)(1), limiting review to the issue of federal question jurisdiction.The court held that federal question jurisdiction exists in this case, because plaintiffs rely explicitly on federal law throughout their pleadings and their prayer for relief invokes federal jurisdiction where it seeks injunctive and declaratory relief that necessarily requires the interpretation and application of federal law, including the Food Drug and Cosmetic Act. Therefore, based on the allegations in the complaint and relief sought, the court found that a federal issue surrounding the state law claims is necessarily raised, actually disputed, substantial, and capable of resolution in federal court without disrupting the federal-state balance approved by Congress. Accordingly, the court vacated and remanded for further proceedings. View "Wullschleger v. Royal Canin U.S.A., Inc." on Justia Law

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In 2017, the Union County Sheriff’s Department seized six horses, four cats and three dogs belonging to Michael Dancy. The Justice Court of Union County found Dancy guilty of three counts of animal cruelty and ordered the permanent forfeiture of Dancy’s animals. Dancy appealed to the Circuit Court of Union County, where a bench trial was held de novo. The circuit court ordered that the animals be permanently forfeited and found Dancy guilty of three counts of animal cruelty. The circuit court further ordered Dancy to reimburse the temporary custodian of the horses $39,225 for care and boarding costs incurred during the pendency of the forfeiture and animal-cruelty proceedings. Aggrieved, Dancy appealed to the Mississippi SUpreme Court. Finding the forfeiture and reimbursement orders supported by substantial evidence, the Supreme Court affirmed. Furthermore, the Court found the circuit court did not abse its discretion in allowing a veterinarian testify for the State. The Supreme Court affirmed Dancy’s conviction under Section 97-41-7, and Section 97-41- 16(2)(a) that coincided with Union County Justice Court Arrest Warrant 7036216. However, the Court found Section 97-41-16(2)(a) made Dancy’s cruelty to his dogs and cats one offense. As a result, Dancy’s second conviction under Section 97-41-16(2)(a) that coincides with Union County Justice Court Arrest Warrant 7036219 was vacated. View "Dancy v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit reversed the district court's grant of the USDA's motion to dismiss, based on failure to state a claim, an action brought under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) by two animal-rights groups, alleging that the agency's failure to issue standards governing the humane handling and care of birds not bred for use in research amounted to arbitrary and capricious action.The court held that the Coalition has alleged facts sufficient to establish Article III standing, and thus the court need not consider whether the Anti-Vivisection Society too has standing. On the merits, the court held that the Coalition has adequately alleged that USDA has failed to take a discrete agency action that it is required to take. In this case, the Animal Welfare Act was amended eighteen years ago to require USDA to issue standards governing the humane treatment, not of animals generally, but of animals as a defined category of creatures including birds not bred for use in research. USDA has conceded that its general animal-welfare standards are inadequate to ensure the humane treatment of birds, and USDA has yet to fulfill its statutory responsibility to issue standards regarding the humane treatment of birds. Because the issue of whether such action has been unreasonably delayed has been unbriefed, the court remanded for the district court to consider it in the first instance. View "American Anti-Vivisection Society v. United States Department of Agriculture" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed an amended complaint seeking damages under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging that each individual defendant violated his constitutional right to procedural due process under the Fourteenth Amendment when the local animal shelter, after a five-day holding period, put a stray dog up for adoption and spayed the dog before delivering it to the adopting family. Defendants did not know that the stray dog was plaintiff's young German Shepherd, which boasts world champion lineage and had escaped from plaintiff's back yard two weeks earlier.The Eighth Circuit held that the district court failed to devote sufficient attention to whether plaintiff had a protected procedural due process property interest and if so, the nature and extent of that interest. The court agreed with the Supreme Court of Arkansas that affirmative pre-deprivation notice is not constitutionally required in this situation, when an animal shelter holds a stray dog for more than five days and then adopts out and spays the dog after the owner fails to file a claim. The court also held that plaintiff failed to prove that each individual defendant's conduct violated his right to procedural due process. Therefore, the court reversed the district court's order insofar as it denied summary judgment to the individual defendants acting in their individual capacities, remanding with directions. View "Lunon v. Botsford" on Justia Law