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Madero v. Luffey --- F.Supp.3d ----, 2020 WL 733766 (W.D. Pa. Feb. 13, 2020) Ronald Madero allegedly took care of abandoned cats in his neighborhood by giving them food, shelter, and occasional medical care. Madero lived in a duplex in which his son owned both halves of the building. A neighbor contacted Animal Care and Control (ACC) and complained about abandoned kittens in front of her residence. On or about June 15, 2017, Officer Christine Luffey of the Pittsburgh Police Department arrived at Madero’s residence with a non-officer volunteer, Mary Kay Gentert. Officer Luffey requested to inspect the inside of both sides of the duplex. Madero refused and Luffey claimed she had a search warrant. Madero believed that Gentert was present to assist with spay and neuter services for the cats and consented to allow Gentert to inspect the premises while Luffey waited outside. Gentert took photographs inside. Some time afterwards, Luffey executed a search warrant. Madero asserted that the information gathered and photographs taken by Gentert were used to obtain the search warrant. A total of forty-two cats were seized. Madero asserts that after the cats were seized the cats were left for hours on the hot concrete in direct sunlight with no water and that snare catch poles were used to strangle the cats and force them into carriers or traps. Madero further asserted that the cats were not provided with veterinary care for several weeks and were kept in small cages in a windowless room. Some of the cats were ultimately euthanized. On August 7, 2017, Officer Luffey filed a criminal complaint against Madero accusing him of five counts of misdemeanor cruelty to animals and thirty-seven summary counts of cruelty to animals. Madero pled nolo contendere to twenty counts of disorderly conduct and was sentenced to ninety days of probation for each count with all twenty sentences to run consecutively. Madero filed a complaint asserting various causes of action under 42 U.S.C. 1983 and state law alleging illegal search and wrongful seizure of the cats against Officer Luffey, Homeless Cat Management Team (“HCMT”), Provident, and Humane Animal Rescue (“HAR”). The defendants each filed Motions to Dismiss. Madero pled that the cats were abandoned or stray cats, however, he also pled that the cats were his property and evidenced this by pleading that he fed the cats and provided shelter as well as veterinary care. The Court found that Madero pled sufficient facts to support ownership of the cats to afford him the standing to maintain his claims under section 1983 and common law. The Court held that Madero pled a plausible claim against Luffey on all counts of his complaint. Madero alleged that Officer Luffey violated his Fourth Amendment rights by lying about having a search warrant and securing consent by threatening to bust his door down. As for Madero’s state law claims, the court dismissed his negligent misrepresentation claim against Luffey as well as his claims for concerted tortious conduct. Madero failed to plead a threshold color of state law claim against the HAR defendants. There can be no violation of constitutional rights without state action. Madero’s claims for conversion and trespass to chattel against the HAR defendants were also dismissed. All claims against Provident were dismissed, however, Madero’s claim against HCMT for conspiracy was able to proceed. The Court ultimately denied in part and granted in part Officer Luffey’s Motion to Dismiss, Granted HAR’s Motion to Dismiss, and denied in part and granted in part HCMT’s and Provident’s Motion to Dismiss. Case
Maldonado v. Fontanes 568 F.3d 263 (C.A.1 (Puerto Rico),2009) 2009 WL 1547737 (C.A.1 (Puerto Rico))

At issue in this particular opinion is the interlocutory appeal of the Mayor of Barceloneta, Puerto Rico based on the district court's denial of his motion to dismiss on the basis of qualified immunity. This case was initially brought after two successive raids on public housing complexes, within ten days of the Municipality of Barceloneta assuming control of the public housing complexes from the Puerto Rico Public Housing Administration on October 1, 2007. Prior to the raid, the residents, mostly Spanish-speakers, were given notice of the new "no pet policy," which were written in English. During the raids, plaintiffs' pets were seized and then killed by either being slammed against the side of a van or thrown off a 50-foot bridge. This First Circuit affirmed the denial of the Mayor's motion for qualified immunity on the Fourth Amendment and Fourteenth Amendment procedural due process claims. However, it reversed the denial of qualified immunity to the Mayor as to the plaintiffs' Fourteenth Amendment substantive due process claims and ordered those claims dismissed.

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Martin v. Columbia Greene Humane Society, Inc. 793 N.Y.S.2d 586 (2005) 2005 Slip Op. 02927

A dog breeder was required to abstain from selling dogs for three years or else criminal charges would be reinstated for failing to file health certificates for the dogs they sold or report deaths due to contagious diseases.  The breeder brought claims for malicious prosecution, tortious interference with a business relation, and section 1983 violations.  The trial court denied defendants motion to dismiss and the Court of Appeals affirmed in part holding the complaint failed to state a claim for malicious prosecution and the humane society volunteer was entitled to statutory immunity as an unpaid officer of a not-for-profit corporation.  

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Mayfield v. Bethards 826 F.3d 1252 (10th Cir. 2016) 2016 WL 3397503 (10th Cir. June 20, 2016) In this case, plaintiffs sued defendant, Officer Bethards, for unlawfully killing their pet dog Majka. Plaintiffs' dogs were lying in plaintiffs' unfenced front yard when the officers entered the yard and then followed the dogs to the back of the house, eventually killing one of the dogs. The plaintiffs argued that by unlawfully killing their dog, Officer Bethards violated their constitutional rights under the Fourth Amendment by entering the property without a warrant with the intention of killing the dogs. Officer Bethards moved to have the complaint dismissed for a failure to state a claim and the court denied this motion. Specifically, Officer Bethards argued that this was not a violation of the Fourth Amendment because the Fourth Amendment only applies to “effects,” which does not include dogs. The court disagreed, finding that Fourth Amendment protection for pet dogs is a clearly established right. Ultimately, the court held that the plaintiffs asserted facts sufficient to show a violation of their clearly established Fourth Amendment rights and the district court's order denying Deputy Bethards's motion to dismiss was affirmed. Case
McClendon v. Story County Sheriff's Office 403 F.3d 510 (8th Cir. 2005) 403 F.3d 510 (8th Cir. 2005)

A farmer was neglecting her horses and the entire herd confiscated by animal control officers.  The farmer brought a section 1983 claim against the animal control officers for acting outside of the scope of their warrant by removing more than just the sick horses.  The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court in part, holding the animal control officers were entitled to qualified immunity and seizure of all the horses was not unreasonable or outside the scope of the warrant. 

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Milburn v. City of Lebanon 221 F. Supp. 3d 1217 (D. Or. 2016) 2016 WL 6908100 (D. Or. Nov. 21, 2016)

Plaintiff Milburn was acquitted of misdemeanor animal abuse on appeal, but a Lebanon police officer removed Milburns’ dog from her possession. While the appeal was pending, the Defendant, City of Lebanon, gave the dog to an animal shelter. The dog was later adopted by a new owner. The Linn County Circuit Court ordered the City to return the dog to Milburn after the acquittal but the Defendant City failed to comply. Milburn then brought this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981 and 1983 against the City of Lebanon. The City moved for dismissal for failure to state a claim, and the United States District Court, for the District of Oregon, granted that motion while giving leave for Milburn to amend her complaint. In the Amended Complaint, Milburn contended that the City’s refusal to return her dog pursuant to the state court order deprived her of property without due process of law, in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. Milburn also asserted a violation of her procedural due process rights. The United States District Court, for the District of Oregon, reasoned that while Milburn alleged a state-law property interest in her dog, she failed to allege that the Defendant City deprived her of that interest without adequate process. Milburn also did not allege state remedies to be inadequate. Those two omissions in combination were fatal to Miburn's procedural due process claim. Also, Milburn's assertion that the court issued an order and that the City did not comply with, is an attack on the result of the procedure. The court reasoned that attacking the result instead of the process of a procedure does not state a procedural due process claim. Milburn’s procedural due process claim was then dismissed. The Court also held that it did not have jurisdiction over Milburn’s injunctive relief claim. Therefore, Milburn's request for injunctive relief was dismissed with prejudice. However, the court held that Milburn could seek monetary damages. While Defendant City’s second motion to dismiss was granted, Milburn was granted leave to amend her complaint within 90 days with regard to her claim for actual and compensatory damages.

 

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Monell v. Department of Social Services 436 US 658 (1978)

Female employees of the Department of Social Services and the Board of Education of the City of New York brought an action challenging the policies of those bodies in requiring pregnant employees to take unpaid leaves of absence before those leaves were required for medical reasons.  The decision of this case addresses issues of immunity.

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Moreland v. Marion County, Miss. 2008 WL 4551443 (S.D.Miss.)

Plaintiff brought action against Marion County (“County”) and several animal control officers (“Officers”) in their official capacities, after the Officers crossed county lines and confiscated several dogs that appeared severely dehydrated and malnourished, and euthanized at least one dog.   On Defendants’ motion for summary judgment, the United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Hattiesburg Division held that since there was no evidence to indicate that Defendants’ actions were anything more than negligence not rising to the level of reckless disregard, Plaintiff’s state law claims against Defendants should be dismissed.   The Court dismissed Plaintiff’s § 1983 claim, finding that the record did not support a finding of a pattern of inadequate training rising to the level of deliberate indifference to known or obvious consequence, and that the Officers’ actions could not be found to be a known or obvious result of the County’s training.   The Court dismissed Plaintiff’s claim with prejudice.  

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Moreno v. Hughes 2016 WL 212932 (E.D. Mich. Jan. 19, 2016) This § 1983 action arises from the shooting of Plaintiffs' dog by Defendant Ronald Hughes, a Michigan Department of Corrections Absconder Recovery Unit Investigator. Defendant shot Plaintiffs' dog after entering her house by mistake to execute a fugitive warrant. This proceeding concerns a Motion in Limine filed by defendant seeking an order that plaintiffs are not entitled to noneconomic losses for the pain and suffering they sustained as a result of Defendant shooting their dog. Defendant contends that damage to personal property (including dogs) is limited to market value only. In rejecting Defendant's argument, this court found that it is "beyond dispute" that compensatory damages under § 1983 may include noneconomic injuries. A Plaintiff's interests in § 1983 actions contain different policy considerations than in traditional negligence claims. In fact, the court stated that, "[p]rohibiting recovery for emotional damages stemming from the loss of, or harm to, an animal caused by a constitutional violation would conflict with the compensatory and deterrence aims of § 1983." Additionally, applying Michigan law on the issue of emotional damages for injury to an animal would create inconsistency in civil rights actions since other states allow such damages. The court found that the determination of both compensatory and punitive damages must be left to the fact finder for each case, including this one. Defendant's Motion in Limine was denied. Case
Moser v. Pennsylvania Soc. for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Slip Copy, 2012 WL 4932046 (E.D. Penn.)

After the defendants confiscated mare without a warrant and required that the plaintiff surrender another mare and a few other animals in order to avoid prosecution, the plaintiffs sued the defendants for violating the U.S. Constitution, the U.S. Civil Rights Act and Pennsylvania statutory and common law. However, the plaintiffs lost when the district court granted the defendants motion for summary judgment on all counts.

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