Part of lawsuit against Farmers Inn dismissed

By Rodney L. Sherman

CLARION NEWS Editor

SIGEL

A federal judge has dismissed part of a lawsuit filed in January against Farmers Inn, a roadside zoo in Sigel, Jefferson County, for allegedly maintaining animals in squalid conditions in violation of the Endangered Species Act and state animal cruelty laws.

The Animal Legal Defense Fund, a legal advocacy organization for animals, filed the suit Jan. 15.

According to the ALFD lawsuit, Farmers Inn holds multiple endangered animals, and other animals, in grossly deficient conditions. These include Queen Louise, a ring-tailed lemur, who despite belonging to a highly social species is kept alone in a small, filthy cage. Other ESA-protected animals were also found to be confined in cramped cages. These include Russell, a black leopard; Jack and Jill, two black bears; a gray wolf and a hyacinth macaw.

A complete report on the original lawsuit can be found at:

https://http://www.theclarionnews.com/news/local/article_fb998a32-030b-53eb-87bb-fd4eccbfc61c.html

Legal moves

Since the filing of the original lawsuit, both sides have filed several motions, answers and other legal documents.

Matthew R. Zwick, a DuBois-based attorney representing Farmers Inn owner Kimberly A. Lucas, filed a motion seeking the dismissal of the lawsuit.

Zwick argues the ALFD complaint lacked sufficient specificity, was inadequate as a matter of law and lacked the requisite standing to assert a claim under the Pennsylvania Public Nuisance Doctrine.

As of sufficient specificity, Zwick said the complaint contained vague, conclusory and irrelevant allegations.

As to the public nuisance allegation, Zwick argued for the ALFD to sustain the allegation it, or its members have suffered special harm, one would have to believe the ALFD members are the only members of the general public to be upset by the alleged conditions of the animals in question.

Arguing against the claim of violations of the Pennsylvania Public Nuisance Doctrine, Zwick countered the ALFD can only assert such a claim if it meets one of three criteria set forth by the law.

Those criteria are the plaintiff must have the right to recover damages; must have the authority as a public official or agency to represent the state or a political subdivision; or have standing to sue as a representative of the general public or as a member of a class in a class-action suit.

Zwick asserted the ALFD meets none of those three criteria.

Attorney Jeffrey P. Richter, of the Pittsburgh-based K&L Gates law firm, representing the ALFD, and its three attorneys, in turn argue none of its claims were vague.

The plaintiff argued additional supporting evidence would be provided through the discovery process.

Richter said the ALFD alleges its members suffered specific harm distinct from that suffered by the general public.

"Specifically, while the broader public has suffered injury as a result of Farmers Inn engaging in ongoing conduct proscribed by Pennsylvania Wildlife Regulations, ALDF members who visited Farmers Inn have also suffered cognizable emotional and aesthetic injuries as a result of personally viewing the animals in the present inadequate conditions with their own eyes," stated Richter.

Richter also said ALDF members experienced "significant distress" as a result of viewing the animals in their deplorable conditions.

Judge dismisses one of three charges

On March 7, U.S. District Judge Arthur J. Schwab dismissed the charge of violating the Pennsylvania Public Nuisance Doctrine.

Schwab also ruled the other complaints against Lucas and the Framers Inn can proceed.

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