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Nuisance: Wild Animals' Stench May Be Unpleasant, But It's Not A Public Nuisance

Friday, March 03, 2017

Public nuisances must be caused by the defendant's conduct, and a California city did not cause wild sea lions to gather in large numbers on its beaches and defecate, producing widespread noxious odors.

Facts: La Jolla Cove in the City of San Diego has become home to a large and growing sea lion population. The sea lions produce excrement that builds up on the bluffs of the cove. This buildup causes ''foul and noxious animal waste odors,'' which nearby residents and business owners find quite unpleasant.

Birds also cover the bluffs with their waste, or ''guano.'' And, in 2013, the City's mayor declared that bird odors from ''cormorants, gulls, pigeons and pelicans'' were a public health hazard that required remediation. The City contracted with a company to treat the guano with a microbial cleaner that met all relevant environmental regulations. The microbial cleaner successfully eliminated guano odors and removed some of the old sea lion waste buildup as well. However, it did not solve the sea lion waste odors, in part because of the quantity and frequency of new deposits.

Later that year, a nonprofit citizen's group called the Citizens for Odor Nuisance Abatement (CONA) sued the City and the State of California for public nuisance. It alleged that the City had caused the odors by building a fence that prevented people fro[...]

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