Animal Cruelty and the Courts: Recent Cases

Gillian Lyons

Being an all purpose animal law blog, it seems appropriate to give our readers a rundown of some recent key jurisprudence dealing with cruelty towards domestic animals.  These are a few cruelty related cases decided by state courts in the last three months.

Sullivan v. Commonwealth, 2010 WL 4352715 (Va. Nov. 4, 2010):  In a recent decision, the Virginia Supreme Court upheld a misdemeanor cruelty conviction against a president of a horse rescue organization.  The charge against defendant was based on her failure to provide necessary emergency veterinary treatment.  Defendant claimed she was unaware of the horse’s grave condition, but expert testimony led the court to believe the condition was not only obvious for at least 48 hours before the horse’s death, but readily observable for weeks prior.  The court thus affirmed the trial court which had found the Defendant guilty and sentenced her to twelve months in jail, with six months suspended on conditions of good behavior and “no possession of horses” for 24 months.

Eckhart v. Department of Agriculture, 2010 WL 4596316 (Pa. Cmwlth. Nov. 15, 2010):  The Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania recently issued a decision upholding almost $170,000 in administrative penalties, issued by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, against a former kennel operator.  Petitioner, former operator of “Almost Heaven Kennels,” had sought renewal permits from the Department’s Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement to operate kennels within the state. Both permits were rejected by the Department based on previous and pending animal cruelty conviction charges.  In response to Petitioner’s renewal request, the Department issued a Refusal Order demanding that Petitioner acquire no additional dogs, and that he cease and desist operating the kennel.  For Petitioner’s failure to abide by the order, he was charged almost 170,000 in penalties.  Petitioner appealed the penalties as excessive under the Eighth Amendment, but the Commonwealth Court disagreed with this argument and affirmed the penalties as reasonable.            Continue reading

Recent Animal Law Scholarship

David Cassuto

With a hat tip to ace Pace Law Librarian, Jack McNeil, here is some animal law scholarship published this month:

ANIMAL LAW.
Gregory, John DeWitt. Pet custody: distorting language and the law. 44 Fam. L.Q. 35-64 (2010).

Karp, Adam P. and Julie I. Fershtman. Recent developments in animal tort and insurance law. 45 Tort Trial & Ins. Prac. L.J. 149-177 (2010).

Renwick, Megan L. Note. Animal hoarding: a legislative solution. 47 U. Louisville L. Rev. 585-606 (2009).

Seps, Christopher D. Note. Animal law evolution: treating pets as persons in tort and custody disputes. 2010 U. Ill. L. Rev. 1339-1373.

Thinking About Animal Law

Bruce Wagman

Lately, I have been thinking about animal law almost constantly.  That has been the case for some time actually.  I’ve had the honor of being involved in the field for about eighteen years at some level, and pretty much had a full time animal law practice for the last five years.  I’ve been talking about animal law, reading about it, going to conferences and meeting the leaders in the field, and I have been privileged to participate in the national moot court competitions and work on a wide variety of cases.  Since I work it, live it and breathe it, I am also always talking about it.  I spend significant time explaining what animal law is – to other lawyers, to clients and to friends.  Being forced to describe and define it in ways that others understand, and so that they can get an idea of the scope of the field, requires some distillation.  Because at this point the field is expansive and has a variety of sub-specialties.  There are many lawyers who incorporate animal law into their practice and focus almost exclusively on one specific area within the field — companion animals, farmed animals, wills and trusts.       Continue reading

Still Thinking About Dogs (and Cats Too)

Bruce Wagman

There’s so many issues that come up with dogs that I am still thinking about them.  And much of this applies to cats as well.  Let me be clear to start that I live with three dogs, five cats and one wife, and it’s the rare event that I get to sleep on my pillow (because Nzuri beats me there every night) or stretch out my legs (Rafiki) or get near the middle of the bed (Paka, Sybil).  And the ones that are not there are sleeping not just on the couches, but actually on special beds that sit atop the couches, because those big-pillowed couches are just too hard for the cats and dogs to sleep on without some other cushion.  So I am certainly a canine and feline worshipper.  The smell and feel of dog or cat fur are nectar and succor; and if one of them decides to perch on me, their presence freezes time.

Continue reading

Thinking About Dogs

Bruce Wagman

I have had dogs on my mind lately.  They are the main players in many of my (and many animal lawyers’) cases, and they are the species I get the most calls about.  This week I had a call about a sheep owner shooting a roaming dog, with the caller wondering about the implication of the California statute that allows a livestock owner to shoot any dog on his land, even if the dog is nowhere near livestock, Cal. Food and Agric. Code section 31103, and the case that upheld the broad scope of that statute, Katsaris v. Cook, 180 Cal. App. 3d 256 (Cal. App. 1986).  I talked earlier in the year with a lawyer who convinced a court that her client’s dog breeding operation was a livestock facility, United States v. Park, 536 F.3d 1058 (9th Cir. 2008), on remand, 2009 WL 2949333 (D. Idaho).  The irony of that case seemed to escape everyone involved.  The issue in the case was whether this breeding operation could operate on land with a federal easement.  “Livestock operations” were allowed to do so.  So the interesting point of the ruling for me is the conclusion that breeders are in fact just like factory (livestock) farmers and others who operate commercial operations, use animals for profit, and in the short and long run contribute directly to the death of thousands of animals in shelters around the country.  When someone buys a dog from a breeder, they automatically kill a dog in a shelter who could have been saved – “buy one, get one killed,” as one of my t-shirts says.  The math is simple and can’t be denied; if a new dog if brought into the world for profit, and given to someone who has room for a dog, then that breed dog replaces the life of a dog in a shelter, who will then be gassed, injected or otherwise summarily wiped off the planet, dying sad and alone and wondering why.    Continue reading

How Many is Too Many? When Does Having Too Many Pets Become Hoarding Syndrome?

Tiffany Gallo

Hoarding is a syndrome that has become more publicized in the recent years.  Normally, a hoarder collects inanimate objects and is addicted to the clutter. Compulsive Hoarding is the acquisition of and failure to use or discard such large numbers of seemingly useless possessions that it causes significant clutter and impairment to basic living activities.  Animal Hoarding is a similar, but involves the keeping of higher than usual numbers of pets without having the ability to properly house or care for them properly.  Compulsive hoarding is not a crime, but is rather considered a mental disorder.  Animal hoarding, on the other hand, leads to the abuse and neglect of animals. This raises the question: when does having too many pets become a syndrome?  Continue reading

Some Good News from the Courts

Hot off the email:

Dear friends and colleagues,

I’m happy to share with you that the story of Animal Legal Defense Fund  v. Woodley has been reported on with great care as a big feature story in the June issue of O, The Oprah Magazine. It’s a fantastic tribute to the huge team effort that helped secure our victory in the largest civil animal cruelty case in American history, and it tells in-depth the stories of several of the rescued dogs with their new adoptive families.

The June issue of O is now available on newsstands.

Please share these links with your friends and contacts. We’re also posting an announcement on Facebook, so be sure you are an ALDF fan on Facebook and share the story with your Facebook friends as well. Please help us get the word out about the tragedy of animal hoarding.