Past Legalization Efforts
Lawsuit against Mayor Giuliani and the Department of Health
Past Lawsuit Updates
September 16, 1999
Ferret owners along with the New York Humane Society and the ASPCA will be filing a lawsuit (*an article 78) challenging the New York City Health Department's list of wild dangerous animals as "arbitrary and capricious". The Lawsuit MUST be filed within 120 days of the DOH's ruling, which means that it must be filed by October 28, 1999.
Mr. Irving Heisler Esq. has agreed to take the case and fight for the rights of both ferrets and iguanas. Mr. Heisler estimates that the total costs of this lawsuit could reach $10,000. It is very important to raise as much of this money as possible before the deadline of October 28th, 1999.
Letters and calls have gone out to several large corporations including Pet Land, PetCo, Pet Company and Marshall Farms, but more funds are needed. Any donation would be helpful to this fight.
Checks should be made payable directly to the lawyer Irving Heisler Esq, and mailed to:
City Friends Of Ferrets
Questions concerning the lawsuit can be directed to Gary@Kaskel.net Tel: (212)-876-0090.
*An article 78 is a challenge to an administrative ruling.
Ferret-Lovers File Lawsuit Against Mayor, Health Dept. A copy of the Press Release is below:
November 22, 1999
A hearing for an "Order to show cause" for the lawsuit against Mayor Giuliani and the NYC Department of Health has been set for Thursday December 2nd, 1999 at 9:30am. The hearing will take place at 80 Center Street on the 3rd floor, in the court room of Judge Braun.
Evidence from both sides will be presented at this hearing. This will be the first time that there will be an opportunity to cross examine the Department of Health officials since they have never engaged in an open discussion about any of the issues concerning the ferret ban. Based on the information presented at this hearing, the judge will determine whether or not this case will go to trial.
Although the public will not be able to speak at this hearing, the hearing is open to the public. It is important that as many ferret owners as possible (and their friends and family members) show up for this event and other similar events still to come (Leave the ferrets at home folks!). Go into work a couple of hours late if possible. Non-workers -wake up a bit earlier! We need to give a strong show of support at the courthouse if "the powers that be" are to be convinced that this is an issue affecting thousands of ferret owners in New York City.
We look forward to seeing many of you there!
December 2, 1999
Today was the first court hearing for NYC ferret-owners' lawsuit challenging last summer's Health Department's anti-ferret ruling (Humane Society of NY, Guy F. Glass, Lewis Reece Baratz and Gary Kaskel vs. The City of New York, The Department of Health of the City of New York, Rudolph Giuliani and Neal L. Cohen; Supreme Court of the State of New York, County of New York, Index No. 121839/99).
Ferret-owners submitted papers contending that the Health Department has no legal right to ban a domestic animal that is legal in the rest of the State, and that even if they did the decision was arbitrary and capricious. The City counters that the Health Department is given wide latitude to promulgate rules to protect the public health and that ferrets have been illegal since 1933 under the Health code prohibition of wild and dangerous animals.
In a conference with the judge's law clerk, attorneys and plaintiff Gary Kaskel explained their respective sides in lieu of a formal oral argument before the judge, who will rule on the submitted papers. Ferret-owners want an injunction preventing the City from enforcing the new rule and the city has made a cross-motion to dismiss the case. A decision will be issued in the next few weeks.
The issue for NYC is that they believe ferrets pose a biting threat, particularly to small children. If you wish to write the judge to tell him of your positive experiences with ferrets, please do so. Stick to your own personal observations and please don't argue legal theory or factual information. Just your own rewarding experiences with your pet ferrets. Perhaps the judge will be swayed to not dismiss the case and hear more of such testimony at a trial.
February 4, 2000
There has been a change in judges:
It seems as though the original judge may have wanted to dismiss the case, but instead of doing so he passed it on to another judge. Your letters may have played a crucial part in his handing off this case instead of dismissing it outright so take a bow everyone! Great job!
Time to write more letters!
If you sent any letters to the original judge (Judge Braun), re-send them to the new judge since she will have copies of all the legal documents pertaining to the case but none of the letters which seem to have made such a significant impact.
Once again, please do not argue the law or facts of the case -leave that to the lawyer! Just tell the judge about your positive experiences with ferrets and let her know that this case is important to you. If this ban has had an affect on you, tell her! Ask her to please hear this case and allow it to be given a fair trial in court.
The New Judge and address to write to are:
April 6, 2000
Judge Braun requested the case back!
Confused? So were we! Judge Braun is the judge that was originally assigned to this lawsuit. After a period of time, the judge wanted to change the DOH's motion to dismiss to a motion for summary judgment. The lawyer for our side was not certain that the judge would rule in our favor with a summary judgment. and stated that he wanted this case to be given a fair trial in court. A short time later the case was given to a different judge.
It originally seemed as though the judge might have wanted to dismiss the case and instead of doing so, had turned over the case to another judge. However, cases sometimes get shifted around and reassigned for no reason other than the current work load. In light of Judge Braun's requesting the case back, it's possible that the earlier reassignment of the case was purely random and had nothing to do with politics or any negative feelings on his part towards the case.
At this time, the judge seems amicable and open to carefully giving both sides of the case his full consideration. He presented a small pile of letters, magazines and videos from the public and asked if any of the lawyers objected to his reading them. Both sides agreed to his reading the letters regarding this case if he chose to do so. He did not make it clear that he would read any of the letters when considering the issues involved in this case, but the fact that he asked this question is promising. He also stated that he has all the correspondence that was sent to Judge Freedman (the second judge), so if you've written to either judge, there is no need to write again.
If you'd like, you may still write to Judge Braun and tell the him about your positive experiences with ferrets and let him know that this case is important to you. If this ban has had an affect on you, be sure to let him know.
Judge Braun's Address:
April 19, 2000
Judge Braun grants a temporary injunction prohibiting the city from enforcing its ferret ban pending the outcome of the lawsuit.
On Monday April 17th 2000, New York State Supreme Court Judge Richard Braun granted ferret-owners' motion for a temporary injunction prohibiting the City from enforcing its ferret ban. This injunction will remain in effect for at least a month and possibly longer pending the outcome of upcoming events.
Although the temporary injunction means that for now New York City ferret owners can breathe a bit easier knowing that their ferrets are safe from confiscation, bear in mind that the injunction is temporary. I would still advise discretion with regards to letting the world know you have ferrets living with you until the final outcome of the lawsuit.
As Gary Kaskel put it: "We've won the first battle. Now on to win the war!"
May 4, 2000
Judge Braun stated that he intends to make a decision regarding this case as quickly as possible.
Both the Department of Health and Ferret Owners have now filed additional papers supporting their respective sides. In court today, Judge Braun stated that he intends to review those papers and push the process along to make a decision regarding this case as quickly as possible. He may choose to decide the case based on the papers alone or he might decide to take the case to trial and allow both sides to present further evidence.
He stated that although he is generally against making judicial decisions based on letters, he has been reading the mail he's received regarding this case since neither side had any objections to his doing so when he raised that issue with them approximately one month ago.
Shortly after the temporary injunction was ordered two weeks ago, Gary Kaskel called the Center for Animal Control and asked if there were any seized ferrets at the shelter that were ready to be destroyed. Although he reminded them about the temporary injunction prohibiting the DOH from enforcing the ferret ban pending the outcome of the lawsuit, the CAC refused to answer his questions. A letter was then written to the judge explaining that by refusing to answer his questions concerning the possibility of ferrets at the shelter and by continuing to act as if ferrets were prohibited animals in the City of New York, the city was violating the temporary injunction.
The Judge stated clearly that he was disturbed by this lack of compliance on the part of the DOH. The DOH responded by saying that they planned to file an appeal against the temporary injunction anyway, to which the judge replied that he'd most likely decide on this case long before their appeal had any time to take effect.
So now we wait....
Keep your fingers crossed folks.
June 1, 2000
(See June 13th)
June 13, 2000
We now have a written transcript of Judge Braun's Ruling.
You may read:
August 9, 2000
Due to a lack of funds we are uncertain about the current status of the lawsuit. If it is determined that this case will continue to trial, we will post that information as well as the name of the new judge for this case and an address for sending donations towards legal fees. (Note: Donations towards legal fees are different from donations to NYC Ferrets. NYC Ferrets still needs your support!)
Questions concerning the lawsuit can be directed to Gary Kaskel (212)-876-0090.
Current Update: June 21, 2002
Some relatively minor news in the fight to legalize ferrets in NYC. I say minor because it has very little relevance to our efforts overall, and yet for those of you who might read about this in the papers tomorrow, here's what's happening.
In an effort to legalize ferrets in NYC, all possible avenues for overturning the ban needed to be explored. One of those avenues was the legal system and as such, several years ago a lawsuit was filed against the Department of Health (DOH) and Mayor Giuliani. This was never our most promising method for overturning the ban but still, it was a necessary avenue to explore.
Two years ago, the Judge who had the case at that time (Judge Richard Braun) said he was disheartened by the DOH's attempts to ban ferrets. His comments and his actions suggested that he, personally, might have been sympathetic to overturning the ban. However, he made it clear that the courts have very little to no power to overturn a decision made by the Department of Health. They simply don't have the legal authority to do it. That's a little frightening -to realize that the DOH has the authority to do as it pleases and the courts have no legal power to stop them, but nevertheless, it's the law and judges have to act within established law.
To refresh your memories, here are some quotes from Judge Braun's ruling two years ago (The full text from Judge Braun's ruling can be found here.)
So, with Judge Braun's comments in mind, it didn't seem very likely that the courts would have the ability to overrule the DOH no matter how valid our case was. And as expected, after months of putting our case on the back burner, a different judge (Judge Michael Stallman) made the decision yesterday to dismiss the case and not allow it to go to trial.
It is important to realize that:
In short (for those of you looking to quote us)
Judge Stallman's decision to dismiss the case is not a decision against ferrets, but a decision to dismiss primarily based on the fact that whether or not the DOH has made faulty policy, the courts have limited, if any, legal power to do anything about it. The lawsuit was never our most promising method for overturning the ban, but in the interest of exploring all possible avenues, the possibility of overturning the ban through the courts (however slight) had to be explored. Nothing has changed with regard to legalizing ferrets through the City's other more promising and more likely channels i.e. the new Mayor, the new DOH, or the new City Council. Every single politician, without exception, who has taken the time to review the facts and current information on ferrets has been overwhelmingly supportive of ferret legalization. Those who have opposed legalization have openly admitted that they didn't have the time or the interest to review the information made available to them. We remain confident that once the remaining politicians take the time to reveiw the facts on the domesticated pet ferret, there will be an immediate lifting of the ban.