Justia U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Animal / Dog 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
Wysong Corp. v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.
Based on allegedly deceptive pictures on pet food packaging, Wysong alleged false advertising under the Lanham Act, requiring proof that the Defendants made false or misleading statements of fact about their products, which actually deceived or had a tendency to deceive a substantial portion of the intended audience, and likely influenced the deceived consumers’ purchasing decisions, 15 U.S.C. 1125(a). The Sixth Circuit affirmed the complaint's dismissal. If a plaintiff shows that the defendant’s advertising communicated a “literally false” message to consumers, courts presume that consumers were actually deceived. Wysong claimed the Defendants’ messaging was literally false because the photographs on their packages tell consumers their kibble is made from premium cuts of meat—when it is actually made from the trimmings. A reasonable consumer could understand the Defendants’ packaging as indicating the type of animal from which the food was made but not the precise cut used so that Wysong’s literal-falsity argument fails. A plaintiff can, alternatively, show that the defendant’s messaging was “misleading,” by proving that a “significant portion” of reasonable consumers were actually deceived by the defendant’s messaging, usually by using consumer surveys. Wysong’s complaints do not support a plausible inference that the Defendants’ packaging caused a significant number of reasonable consumers to believe their pet food was made from premium lamb chops, T-bone steaks, and the like. Reasonable consumers know that marketing involves some level of exaggeration. View "Wysong Corp. v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc." on Justia Law
Hardrick v. City of Detroit
As many as 50,000 stray dogs roam Detroit’s streets, sometimes in packs. An ordinance allows animal control officers to capture and impound stray dogs owned in violation of licensing and vaccination provisions and to euthanize them under some circumstances. It makes it unlawful to refuse to surrender an animal that has attacked or bitten a person or other animal. It allows officers to enter “real property ... for the purpose of capturing, collecting, or restraining any animal,” without a warrant. Violations are misdemeanors. Detroit Animal Control officers seized each of the plaintiff’s dogs because the dogs were running loose off of the owners’ property, attacked a person or other animal, or during evictions. In their suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, the district court granted the plaintiffs an injunction with respect to the warrantless search-and-seizure claim but granted the defendants judgment as a matter of law as to other claims because the plaintiffs could not show any constitutional violations. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the rejection of the Fourteenth Amendment and several Fourth Amendment claims but reversed rejection of two Fourth Amendment claims. Most of the plaintiffs cannot show that a Detroit policy or custom directly caused the alleged search-and-seizure violations, and all of them cannot show a cognizable due-process violation. View "Hardrick v. City of Detroit" on Justia Law
Woudenberg v. Dep’t of Agric.
Department of Agriculture regulations promulgated under the federal Animal Welfare Act (with exceptions), prohibit those who buy and sell dogs and cats from obtaining animals from an individual donor “who did not breed and raise them on … premises.” A dealer must obtain certification that the animals were born and raised on that person’s premises. Woudenberg sells animals for use in medical research. Some are donated. Before accepting dogs and cat from four donors, Woudenberg required each to complete and sign a release: I Certify that I have bred, raised, and do own the animal(s) listed below, and I understand that they may be used in research or testing. The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), a USDA agency, reviewed Woudenberg’s records and contacted the donors, who admitted that they had not raised the animals from birth and that the animals were owned previously by others. An ALJ dismissed, reasoning that the “regulations do not hold dealers strictly liable.” The USDA reversed. The Sixth Circuit affirmed: the regulation is clear that a dealer violates the law by obtaining an animal from a donor who did not breed or raise it on the donor’s premises. It is a violation even when the dealer in good faith obtained certifications. Certification is an enforcement mechanism for the prohibition, not an exception. View "Woudenberg v. Dep't of Agric." on Justia Law
Posted in: Animal / Dog Law
United Pet Supply, Inc. v. City of Chattanooga
McKamey, a private non-profit corporation that contracted with Chattanooga to provide animal-welfare services, received complaints about conditions at United pet store. McKamey employees Walsh and Nicholson discovered animals without water, and with no working air conditioning. Aided by Hurn, they removed animals and business records from the store and proceeded to revoke its pet-dealer permit. United filed a 42 U.S.C. 1983 suit against the city; McKamey; and the employees, in their individual and official capacities, alleging that removal of its animals and revocation of its permit without a prior hearing violated procedural due process and that the warrantless seizures violated the Fourth Amendment. The Sixth Circuit held that Hurn, acting as a private animal-welfare officer, may not assert qualified immunity as a defense in the personal capacity suit. Walsh and Nicholson, however, acted as both private animal-welfare officers and specially-commissioned city police officers; they are entitled to summary judgment of qualified immunity on the procedural due-process claims based on the seizure of the animals and of the permit. Regarding the Fourth Amendment claims: Walsh and Nicholson are entitled to summary judgment of qualified immunity on claims based on the seizure of the animals. Nicholson is entitled to summary judgment on the claim based on seizure of the business records. Walsh is denied summary judgment on the claim based on the seizure of business records. Qualified immunity is not an available defense to an official-capacity suit. View "United Pet Supply, Inc. v. City of Chattanooga" on Justia Law
Simms v. Bayer Healthcare, LLC
The flea-and-tick “spot-on products” at issue claim that their active ingredient works by topical application to a pet’s skin rather than through the pet’s bloodstream. According to the manufacturers, after the product is applied to one area, it disperses over the rest of the pet’s body within one day because it collects in the oil glands and natural oils spread the product over the surface of the pet’s skin and “wick” the product over the hair. The plaintiffs alleged false advertising based on statements that the products are self-dispersing and cover the entire surface of the pet’s body when applied in a single spot; that they are effective for one month and require monthly applications to continue to work; that they do not enter the bloodstream; and that they are waterproof and effective after shampooing, swimming, and exposure to rain or sunlight. The district court repeatedly referred to a one-issue case: whether the product covers the pet’s entire body with a single application. The case management order stated that the manufacturers would bear the initial burden to produce studies that substantiated their claims; the plaintiffs would then have to refute the studies, “or these cases will be dismissed.” The manufacturers objected. The plaintiffs argued that the plan would save time, effort, and money. The manufacturers submitted studies. The plaintiffs’ response included information provided by one plaintiff and his adolescent son and an independent examination of whether translocation occurred that detected the product’s active ingredient in a dog’s bloodstream. The district court concluded that the manufacturers’ studies substantiated their claims and denied all of plaintiffs’ discovery requests, except a request for consumer complaints, then granted the manufacturers summary judgment. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. The doctrines of waiver and invited error precluded challenges to the case management plan. View "Simms v. Bayer Healthcare, LLC" on Justia Law
Nielsen v. McLean
Minnesota-based Everest breeds and races thoroughbreds. Crestwood is a thoroughbred farm in Kentucky. The businesses began working together in 1993. The parties entered a more definite arrangement in 2008, for sale of Everest’s horses. Everest would transfer ownership of more than 100 horses to Crestwood, which would pay the horses’ day-to-day costs and would sell the horses at a public auction or a private sale. The agreement prohibited Crestwood from setting a “reserve” on any horse, a price floor below which the sale would not go. Crestwood was to keep 25-50 percent of the proceeds from each sale. The agreement provided that Island Fashion and its unnamed filly would be sold at auction, but remained Everest’s property. Crestwood tried to sell several horses, including the Island Fashion filly. There were bids of $850,000 and $875,000 for the filly. Everest had planted a separate agent at the auction without Crestwood’s knowledge, who tried to drive the selling price higher by placing a $900,000 bid. The sale failed. After learning what Everest had done, Crestwood kept $219,513.89, 25 from selling other horses based on the failed high bid for the filly (plus auction fees). Everest sued and Crestwood counterclaimed. The district court granted summary judgment to Crestwood and awarded $272,486.30 in attorney’s fees. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. View "Nielsen v. McLean" on Justia Law
Wilkins v. Daniels
In 2011, an Ohio man released more than 50 exotic animals before committing suicide. Partially in response, the state enacted the Dangerous Wild Animals and Restricted Snakes Act, Ohio Rev. Code 935.01–935.99. All persons in possession of dangerous wild animals before September 5, 2012, were required to register with the Ohio Department of Agriculture and to microchip each registered animal upon registration. The Act prohibits possession of a dangerous wild animal after January 1, 2014. A person already in possession of a dangerous wild animal and wishing to continue to possess the animal after that date may obtain a wildlife shelter permit or a wildlife propagation permit. Owners of exotic animals challenged the Act as violating First Amendment rights to freedom of association and speech, arguing that the permitting requirements are so onerously expensive that the only viable means of compliance would be to join the Association of Zoos and Aquariums or the Zoological Association of America, for which there are exemptions. They argued that they are compelled to associate with those organizations and to subsidize the organizations’ speech and that the microchipping requirement constitutes a physical taking in violation of the Fifth Amendment. The district court denied injunctive relief. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. The owners are not compelled to join the AZA or ZAA and the Act does not effect a physical taking.View "Wilkins v. Daniels" on Justia Law
Campbell v. City of Springboro
Campbell and Gemperline were attacked on different dates by a canine unit police dog (Spike). They filed suit under 42 U.S.C 1983 against the canine’s handler, the chief of police, and the city, alleging excessive force, failure to supervise, failure to properly train, and state law claims for assault and battery. The district court denied defendants’ motion for summary judgment. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. Prior to both bite incidents, the handler notified supervisors that he had been unable to keep up with maintenance training and repeatedly requested that they allow him time to attend training sessions, but his requests were denied. Spike’s state certifications lapsed for several months. There was evidence that Spike was involved in biting incidents with growing frequency in the first three years of his deployment in the field. A jury could also reasonably conclude that the handler acted in bad faith or in a wanton or reckless manner, based on the plaintiffs’ allegations about his conduct and statements at the time of the attacks. View "Campbell v. City of Springboro" on Justia Law
O’Neill v. Louisville/Jefferson County Metro Gov’t
Plaintiffs bred their dogs to each other and advertised 11 puppies for sale. Undercover animal services officers visited on the pretense of interest in the puppies. Without a warrant or consent, officers re-entered the home and took all the dogs, stating that they could confiscate the dogs because plaintiffs did not have a breeder's license and that if more than one dog were unlicensed, they could seize all the animals. Neither adult dog was licensed. Before the dogs were released, the adult dogs were neutered, all had identification microchips inserted, and plaintiffs purchased a breeder's license and paid $1,020.95. Plaintiffs were never provided written notice of alleged ordinance violations. The dogs contracted infections that required expensive veterinary treatment. The district court rejected plaintiffs' state law and constitutional claims. The Sixth Circuit reversed. Plaintiffs were not operating a kennel and were not required to obtain a license for a single litter. The court rejected an argument that the officers violated the Fourth Amendment by using subterfuge, but found that plaintiffs stated a claim with respect to the second, warrantless entry. Characterizing the release of the dogs as having elements of a shakedown, the court found that plaintiffs stated a claim for procedural due process claims. The court rejected substantive due process and equal protection claims.