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Quote of the Day - The dog has seldom been successful in pulling man up to its level of sagacity, but man has frequently dragged the dog down to his. - James Thurber
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When You Define 'Livestock,' Would You Include Dogs?

Let's take a trip for a moment to the mountains of Idaho, and go back in time nearly 30 years.  In 1973, Earl and Iona Monroe, owners of a plot of land along the Middle Fork of the Clearwater River in Idaho, including a twoacre tract, granted the United States a scenic easement under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, 16 U.S.C. sections1271-1287. 

The purpose of the easement is to allow the U.S. Forest Service "to administer such land to protect the scenic, recreational, geologic, fish and wildlife, historic, cultural, and other similar values [of the region] and to prevent any developments that will tend to mar or detract from their scenic, recreational, geologic, fish and wildlife, historic, cultural, or other similar values . . . ."

Then, in 1989, Ron and Mary Park purchased the tract of land. At the time there was a chicken coop there. The Parks requested and the Forest Service approved modifications to some of the existing buildings and also approved the addition of horse stalls. In 1990, the Parks received approval to use a portion of their home as a craft and hobby shop. A year later, the Parks received approval to run a bed and breakfast from their home. In 1997, they began advertising that they were offering a dog training and kennel business, Wild River Kennels, on the property.

That's when the Forest Service got fed up and put their foot down, so to say.  They told the Parks to remove the kennels, and when they didn't, the Forest Service sued in the case of US v. Park.  In their defense, the Parks argued that the "senic easement" allowed livestock, and dogs were livestock.  So you're not missing any information, the easement reads, in part:

The Parks "retain the right to use the easement for general crop and livestock farming and for limited residential development consistent with applicable State and local regulations..."

There you have it.

Not so fast, you say.  Maybe cattle, horses, pigs and perhaps goats are livestock, but dogs?  That's the Court's initial reaction:  "Despite a gut inclination that the answer might be "no," resolution of the issue is not so clear, thus precluding summary judgment at this stage of the proceeding. As it turns out, the term 'livestock; is ambiguous at best and much broader than the traditional categories of horses, cattle, sheep, and pigs."

In fact, we get quite a lesson in the definition of livestock.  The Court observes, "The term "livestock" stems from the Middle Ages, when it was used as a measure of wealth or to refer to property that could be moved, particularly to a market for trade. Online Etymology Dictionary, (last visited July 25, 2008). Later, the term began to be used in a more limited sense to describe cattle. Id.  Today, the dictionary definition of 'livestock' is sweeping, capturing every type of domesticated animal. For example, Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary defines 'livestock' as 'animals kept or raised for use or pleasure; esp: farm animals kept for use and profit.' MERRIAMWEBSTER COLLEGIATE DICTIONARY 728 (11th ed. 2003). The Oxford English Dictionary is  in accord and defines "livestock" as 'animals, esp. on a farm, regarded as an asset.' THE CONCISE OXFORD DICTIONARY OF CURRENT ENGLISH 797 (9th ed. 1995).5 Even Black's Law Dictionary defines 'livestock' broadly as 'domestic animals and fowls that (1) are kept for profit or pleasure, (2) can normally be confined within boundaries without seriously impairing their utility, and (3) do not normally intrude on others' land in such a way as to harm the land or growing crops.' BLACK'S LAW DICTIONARY 953 (8th ed. 2004); see also Levine v. Conner, 540 F. Supp. 2d 1113, 1116 (N.D. Cal. 2008) (analyzing the dictionary definitions of the word 'livestock' and observing that 'the scope of domestic animals used or raised on a farm can potentially extend to guinea pigs, cats, dogs, fish, ants, and bees.').

"Despite the broad definitions in the dictionaries, we recognize that 'livestock' has been used to describe a more limited set of animals such as cattle, horses, and pigs. The government calls our attention to § 25-1101 of the Idaho Code, which limits "livestock" to a narrow set of animals, namely, 'cattle, horses, mules, or asses.' Idaho Code § 25.  That section, however, pertains to brands and identifications affixed to the hide of an animal. Not surprisingly, this provision is not the only one in the Idaho Code that defines 'livestock:' § 25-3601 states that cassowary, ostrich, emu, and rhea are 'livestock' and § 25-3701 adds fallow deer, elk, and reindeer to the list. Idaho Code §§ 25-3601, 25-3701."

Wow.  That's a fairly comprehensive list of livestock, but none of the definitions offered by the Court include dogs.

The lower court held that the Parks' dog kennel business was a prohibited commercial activity. The Ninth Circuit observed further that "[a]lthough the Parks are running the kennel for profit, this fact does not preclude the operation from also being a permissible livestock farming use. Farming surely can be undertaken for profit and the easement expressly states that the grantors, now the Parks, 'retain the right' to engage in 'general crop and livestock farming.' This right was retained without exception. The only consistent way to understand the restriction is as prohibiting commercial activity except to the extent that it qualifies as 'general crop and livestock farming.'"  

I've been around farming for a bit, and I wasn't aware that there was much about it that was profitable.  I've also seen lots of dogs on farms, and some fairly helpful dogs at that.  Some dogs have rescued farmers from falls under tractors and some even herd sheep and other animals.  As a former gentleman farmer and now a lawyer, I'd have to agree that dogs can be livestock. 

Besides, if the Parks can operate a bed and breakfast out of their home, why can't they have dog kennels?

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Tuesday, August 12, 2008 at 18:20 Comments Closed (0) |
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