AELE LAW LIBRARY OF CASE SUMMARIES:
Civil Liability
of Law Enforcement Agencies & Personnel


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Animal Control Issues


     Monthly Law Journal Article: Civil Liability for Use of Police Dogs, Part 1, 2014 (8) AELE Mo. L. J. 101.
     Monthly Law Journal Article: Civil Liability for Use of Police Dogs, Part 2, 2014 (9) AELE Mo. L. J. 101.   
     Monthly Law Journal Article: Civil Liability for Use of Police Dogs, Part 3, 2014 (10) AELE Mo. L. J. 101.

     Occupants of a home sued two officers and a city for a warrantless entry into the home's yard to investigate a tip that two guns were in an abandoned vehicle on the property, in the course of which one of the officers shot and killed the family dog. A federal appeals court found that the officers had no warrant, no probable cause plus exigent circumstances, and had not offered any other basis that would make their entry lawful. The officers therefore violated the plaintiffs' Fourth Amendment rights and were not entitled to qualified immunity as their actions, under the undisputed facts, would not have been objectively reasonable. Harris v. O’Hare, #12-4350, 770 F.3d 224 (2nd Cir. 2014).
     A private non-profit corporation that contracted with a city to provide animal welfare services received complaints about conditions at a local pet store. Employees of the company found, during a visit to the store, that the animals there lacked water and that the air conditioning was not working. They removed animals and business records from the store and revoked the store's permit to be a pet dealer. The store sued the city, the company, and its employees (in both their individual and official capacities), claiming that the warrantless seizures violated the Fourth Amendment and that removing the animals and revoking the store's permit without a prior hearing violated procedural due process. A federal appeals court held that one employee, who acted solely as a private animal-welfare officer, could not assert a qualified immunity defense to a personal capacity claim. Two other employees, however, acted both as private animal-welfare officers and also as specially commissioned city police officers. They were granted summary judgment on the basis of qualified immunity on the procedural due process claims, and Fourth Amendment claims regarding the seizure of the animals. One was granted summary judgment on claims regarding the seizure of the business records, while a second employee was denied summary judgment on the same claims. Qualified immunity was not available to any employees on the official capacity claims. The city had a strong interest in immediately seizing the animals to protect them from squalid and hot conditions without water, and the post-deprivation hearing was an adequate remedy, so their removal did not violate due process or violate the Fourth Amendment. The revocation of the store's permit violated due process, however, as neither a pre-deprivation or post-deprivation hearing was offered. United Pet Supply, Inc. v. City of Chattanooga, #13-5181, 2014 U.S. App. Lexis 17900, 2014 Fed. App. 240P (6th Cir.).
     A woman owned a property that she operated as an animal shelter until an ASPCA investigation led to a search of that property, her firing as the county dogcatcher, and her being sentenced for animal neglect. The ASPCA investigator, although a private party, was able under state law to obtain a warrant to search the property, and it directed officers to enlist veterinarians or other persons or agencies authorized by the county prosecutor to assist in the search. Deputy sheriffs entering the property were accompanied by 40-50 undeputized animal rights volunteers who actually carried out the search, with the deputies just there to keep the peace. A federal appeals court upheld an award of damages in a lawsuit claiming unreasonable search and negligence in failing to adequately train or supervise the amateur searchers, resulting in needless property damage. The "incompetence of the amateur searchers is apparent from the reports of the deputy sheriffs," the court noted. Petkus v. Richland County, #13-3700, 2014 U.S. App. Lexis 16054 (7th Cir.).
     Police mistook a Hispanic teenage boy and his friends, who were in his own home, for two white male intruders being sought. They pointed guns at them, entered the home without a warrant, and shot and killed the family's pet dog. An excessive force claim could go forward, as the evidence, viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiffs, indicated that they fully complied with the officers' orders at all times. An unlawful entry claim could also go forward as the officers did not have probable cause in the absence of any information to suggest that the boys were illegally on the premises, and the lack of an objective basis for applying an emergency aid exception, as well as disputed issues of fact as to whether any violence was imminent. The officers were not entitled to qualified immunity. The shooting of the dog did not amount to a deprivation of a familial relationship.
Sandoval v. Las Vegas Metro Police Dep't., #12-15654, 2014 U.S. App. Lexis 12395 (9th Cir.).
     Two undercover animal services officers visited a couple's home, where they observed some puppies that the couple advertised in a local newspaper. The couple had bred their two pet bulldogs to produce the puppies for sale. Uniformed animal service officers then knocked on the door, entering and seizing all nine of the dogs, claiming, erroneously, that the couple had violated an ordinance about breeding dogs. All dogs were taken to an animal shelter, where they had microchips placed in them, and the adult dogs were neutered. The couple was asked for over $1,000 for the return of the dogs. It turned out that the couple was not violating the ordinance, as they were not operating an unlicensed Class A kennel, as defined in the ordinance. The initial entry by the undercover officers did not violate the Fourth Amendment, as it was pursuant to the couple's newspaper ad inviting the public to come inspect the dogs for sale. The subsequent entry by the uniformed officers without a warrant, for law enforcement purposes, however, raised valid Fourth Amendment claims. The officers may have also violated procedural due process by depriving the couple of their property, the dogs and the ability to breed them, without written notice of the alleged violation on which the seizure was based. O'Neill v. Louisville/Jefferson County Metro Government, #10-5699,  2011 U.S. App. Lexis 22530 (6th Cir.).
     Public housing residents claimed that "precipitous" seizures and "cruel" killings of their pet cats and dogs by city personnel violated their Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. Upholding the denial of qualified immunity to a city's mayor on procedural due process and Fourth Amendment claims, a federal appeals court found that killing a pet without the owner's consent is a Fourth Amendment seizure. The appeals court, relying on caselaw from other federal circuit courts of appeal, rejected the argument that the law on the subject was not clearly established. The court did, however, grant the mayor qualified immunity on the plaintiffs' substantive due process claims because of his lack of sufficiently direct personal involvement in the killings, applying the analysis adopted by the U.S. Supreme Court in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, #07-1015, 129 S. Ct. 1937 (2009). Maldonado v. Fontanes, #08-2211, 2009 U.S. App. Lexis 12716 (1st Cir.).
     A local ordinance banning "pit bull" dogs was not impermissibly vague, and was specific enough that it did not encourage arbitrary enforcement. Ruling on dog owners' challenges to the ordinance, a federal appeals court held that there was no showing that the "human/companion animal" bond involved a constitutionally protected liberty interest, so that strict scrutiny analysis would not apply to the ordinance. The plaintiffs, however, did assert a possibly viable claim that the ordinance did not have a rational relationship to a legitimate government interest, so further proceedings were required on their substantive due process claims. Dias v. Denver, #08-1132, 2009 U.S. App. Lexis 11163 (10th Cir.).
     Man's claim that a county animal shelter mistakenly killed his pet dog was insufficient to show a violation of the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment or the Fourth Amendment, since the claim essentially was for negligence or accident, rather than a violation of civil rights. Raiford v. Greenville County Animal Shelter, #6:09-0287, 2009 U.S. Dist. Lexis 20367 (D.S.C.), magistrate's recommendation adopted by Raiford v. Greenville County Animal Shelter, 2009 U.S. Dist. Lexis 20173 (D.S.C.).
     Woman allegedly attacked and injured on public property by a privately owned dog while walking home from work failed to show that a city was liable for her injuries under either federal civil rights law of Texas state law, despite her argument that the city's past failure to adequately enforce its animal control laws was a due process violation that had resulted in the attack. The plaintiff claimed that, on "one or more occasions prior to [the date of the attack]. . . the dog attacked a human” within the city and that the city knew that but, contrary to the provisions of its animal control ordinance, did not seize the dog and deliver it to an animal control shelter, declare it a vicious animal, notify the owners of or conduct a hearing to declare the dog vicious, and “did not condition the city’s release" of the dog to its owners. The city, however, did not own, use, or possess the dog. "There is no allegation whatever in the complaint that the city or any city officer or employee or anyone acting for the city ever had any intent to injure plaintiff or anyone else, or knew of any danger to plaintiff or to any particular, identifiable discrete group including plaintiff (as distinguished from members of the public at large within the city). ... [N]or is it in anyway alleged that the city ever did anything to the dog which made it more vicious or changed it in any way." Jaramillo v. City of McAllen, Texas, No. 08-40308, 2009 U.S. App. Lexis 275 (Unpub. 5th Cir.).
     Officers who searched the plaintiff's house without a warrant were entitled to qualified immunity because the information they had at the time of their entry indicated to them that a number of her dogs, seen and heard barking inside the apparently uninhabited, partially renovated house, lacking heat and electricity on a cold day, were in urgent need of assistance. There was no clearly established law as to whether officers could make a warrantless entry into a home to provide emergency assistance to animals. Shapiro v. City of Glen Cove, No. 05-3827, 2007 U.S. App. Lexis 12138 (2nd Cir.).
     Officer did not act unreasonably during plaintiff's arrest by shooting and killing his pit bull. Evidence showed that witnesses saw the dog growling, being aggressive, and advancing towards the officer, justifying the officer's actions. Chambers v. Doe, No. Civ. 04-415, 2006 U.S.Dist. Lexis 69965 (D. Del. 2006). [N/R]
     Police chief was not entitled to qualified immunity on a Fourth Amendment claim that he acted unreasonably in shooting and killing a family's pet dog while it was in their enclosed backyard, mistakenly believing that it was a loose dog that he had earlier pursued through the neighborhood. Andrews v. City of W. Branch, No. 05-1188, 2006 U.S. App. Lexis 18748 (8th Cir.). [2006 LR Sep]
     Officer's shooting and killing of man's pet dog was not an unreasonable seizure under the Fourth Amendment. The officer could have, under the circumstances, reasonably believed that the dog posed an imminent threat to his safety, based on its weight of 55 to 60 lbs, its speed in traveling 15 feet in five seconds, and the fact that it would have reached him in five seconds had he not shot it. While the dog owner did yell that the dog would not hurt the officer, the officer did not have to wait until the dog was within biting range before taking action to protect himself. Dziekan v. Gaynor, No. 3:03CV1486, 376 F. Supp. 2d 267 (D. Conn. 2005). [N/R]
     Owner of dog failed to assert a viable constitutional claim in seeking damages for the loss of 60 days of the companionship of her pet on a theory that her due process property rights had been violated by the dog's detention. Plaintiff ordered to show cause why she should not be sanctioned for making a "frivolous argument in a meritless case." Wall v. City of Brookfield, No. 04-313, 406      A police dog bite of a handcuffed vehicle passenger at the scene of a traffic stop was not a Fourth Amendment seizure, because the police officer did not intentionally use the dog to seize the passenger or direct the dog to bite him. Cardona v. Connolly, No. 3:03CV1838, 361 F. Supp. 2d 25 (D. Conn. 2005). [N/R]
     Police officers and sheriff's deputy were not entitled to qualified immunity for allegedly seizing "truckloads" of personal property while executing search warrant at residence for the sole purpose of supporting sentencing enhancement in a pending case by proving that the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club was a gang, or for shooting two dogs at the residence. San Jose Charter of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club v. City of San Jose, No. 02-16329, 402 F.3d 962 (9th Cir. 2005). [2005 LR Jun]
     The seizure and immediate euthanization of over 200 dogs and cats seized from a woman's trailer home and its attached fenced-in yard did not give rise to a viable claim for deprivation of property without due process of law when the county employees' actions were "random and unauthorized" under state law. This made it impracticable to provide a pre-deprivation hearing, and was not unconstitutional so long as there were available state remedies to compensate the woman for any losses. Bogart v. Chapell, No. 03-2092, 2005 U.S. App. Lexis 1650 (4th Cir.). [2005 LR Mar]
     Police officer who shot and killed a dog which had chased and pinned down a man in his back yard was entitled to immunity from liability under a Louisiana statute providing that an officer may kill any dangerous or vicious animal and shall not be liable for damages as a result of such killing. Hebert v. Broussard, No. 04-485, 886 So.2d 666 (La. App. 3rd Cir. 2004). [N/R]
     Wisconsin Supreme Court declines to extend "firefighters' rule," barring landowners' liability for injuries firefighters suffer in coming onto their property to fight fires to injuries suffered by police officers in the course of performing their duties. Wisconsin police officer, therefore, was not barred from pursuing injuries claims against the owners of a loose dog which bit her. Cole v. Hubanks, No. 02-1416, 681 N.W.2d 147 (Wis. 2004). [2004 LR Aug]
     Family could not recover damages for loss of consortium or intentional infliction of emotional distress based on county dog warden's shooting of their pet dog. Loss of "love and affection" from death of dog was not the kind of damages family could obtain under Kentucky state law, the shooting did not take place in front of the family, and there was no evidence that defendant intended, by his actions, to inflict emotional harm. Court also refuses to find a practice of destroying impounded dogs by shooting them inhumane, leaving such issues to be decided by the legislature. Ammon v. Welty, No. 1999-CA-001759-MR, 113 S.W.3d 185 (Ky. App. 2003). [N/R]
     Federal appeals court holds that privately owned pet dogs are personal "effects" protected under the Fourth Amendment from unreasonable searches and seizures, but also finds that animal control officers' actions in shooting and killing the plaintiffs' dogs were objectively reasonable under circumstances where the dogs posed an actual or potential threat to the officers or others. Altman v. City of High Point, North Carolina, No. 02-1178, 330 F.3d 194 (4th Cir. 2003). [2003 LR Sep]
     Building owner was not liable to deputy sheriff for dog bite suffered while attempting to serve process on a tenant in an eviction case. Landlord was not reasonably on notice of the presence of the dog on the building premises simply because of dog droppings in the yard. Landlord was also entitled to protection under the one-bite rule even if they knew of the dog's presence, when they had no knowledge of this dog's dangerous propensities. Montier v. Silver Lake I, L.P., #2001-514, 813 A.2d 978 (RI 2003). [N/R]
    Under District of Columbia law, a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress could be based on officers' alleged unlawful entry into and search of arrestee's home without justification, killing of his pet dog inside the residence, and failure to secure the premises after his arrest, resulting in the loss of property alleged to have a value in excess of $6,000. Amons v. District of Columbia, 231 F. Supp. 2d 109 (D.D.C. 2002). [N/R]
     326:20 Police officers did not violate dog owner's property rights when they shot and killed her pit bull, which had just bitten a woman and was coming towards them and ambulance attendants in a menacing manner; city did not act with deliberate indifference to plaintiff's rights by limiting training to situations involving mad dogs with rabies. Hooper v. City of Detroit, 50 F.Supp. 2d 689 (E.D. Mich. 1999).
     318:94 Jury awards $255,000 in damages to owners of pet dog shot and killed by officers in the yard of owner's home; officers claimed that dog jumped at them, while plaintiffs argued that dog merely stared at officers, was arthritic, and was unable to leap in the air. Fuller v. City of Richmond, U.S. Dist. Ct. N.D. Cal


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