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Titlesort descending Citation Alternate Citation Summary Type
Robinson v. Pezzat 818 F.3d 1 (D.C. Cir. 2016) 2016 WL 1274044 (D.C. Cir. Apr. 1, 2016) Plaintiff filed suit against two police officers and the District of Columbia after the officers shot and killed her dog while executing a warrant to search her home. She brought a § 1983 claim, alleging that the officers seized her property in violation of the Fourth Amendment. The Court of Appeals reversed the District Court’s ruling for summary judgment, holding that a jury could find in favor of the plaintiff based on her witness testimony that the dog was lying down when it was first shot. Additionally, the court maintained summary judgment for the second police officer, McLeod, who shot and killed the dog after it bit Officer Pezzat and charged forward. Case
Romero v. Bexar County 993 F.Supp.2d 658 (W.D. Tex. 2014) Several reports to the police were made that a man had threatened several individuals with a firearm. In responding to the calls, the police identified the plaintiff pet owner as the allegedly armed man. Officers then proceeded to the plaintiff’s home and acknowledged that they saw a “Beware of Dogs” sign, but still entered the fenced-in premises. Upon entering the yard, four dogs approached and one of the officers shot and killed one of the dogs. The plaintiff brought suit against the officer and municipality and alleged violations of his Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. In evaluating the officer’s claim of qualified immunity, the court held that the officer’s actions were objectively reasonable, considering he had reason to believe the plaintiff may be armed and dangerous and claimed “several large dogs ran out aggressively charging, barking and growling.” The officer’s relation of events was backed up by his fellow officer on the scene. Case
San Jose Charter of Hells Angels Motorcycle Club v. City of San Jose 402 F.3d 962 (C.A.9 (Cal.),2005) 05 Cal. Daily Op. Serv. 2853, 2005 Daily Journal D.A.R. 3920

In this civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Defendants-Appellants, seven San Jose City Police Officers and Deputy Sheriff Linderman, appeal from an order of the district court denying in part their motions for qualified immunity. This action arises out of the simultaneous execution of search warrants at the residences of members of the Hells Angels, and at the Hells Angels clubhouse on January 21, 1998. While executing search warrants at two plaintiffs' residences, the officers shot a total of three dogs. This court held that the shooting of the dogs at the Vieira and Souza residences was an unreasonable seizure, and an unreasonable execution of the search warrants, in violation of the Fourth Amendment. Exigent circumstances did not exist at either residence, as the officers had a week to consider the options and tactics available for an encounter with the dogs. The unlawfulness of the officers' conduct would have been apparent to a reasonable officer at the time the officers planned for serving the search warrants.

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Schor v. N. Braddock Borough 801 F. Supp. 2d 369 (W.D. Pa. 2011) Sadie, a six (6) year old pit bull and family pet was shot and killed by the Defendant Officer Wittlinger. The Plaintiff, Sadie’s owner, filed a twelve count complaint alleging four § 1983 claims under federal law against all Defendants including the borough, police department, board of supervisors, police chief, and Officer Wittlinger. The remaining eight counts alleged claims solely against the officer. The Defendants' filed a partial motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. The Court granted the dismissal of claims against the board, police chief, and officer in their official capacities. The court also dismissed the Plaintiff’s state negligence claims. However, the court did not dismiss claims brought against Police Chief Bazzone and Officer Wittlinger in their individual capacities. The court reasoned that the facts pled by the Plaintiff were sufficient to show that Chief Bazzone may have acted with deliberate indifference by not disciplining Officer Wittlinger after a prior dog shooting incident, and maintained a custom within the Police Department that it was proper to shoot a pet dog wandering the streets. The court also denied the motion to dismiss Plaintiff’s fourth amendment rights claim. The court reasoned that the facts pled by the Plaintiff were sufficient to state a claim for violation of her Fourth Amendment rights because the plaintiff had a possessory interest in her dog Sadie as “property” and the officer used excessive force while seizing the Plaintiff’s property. Case
Schor v. North Braddock Borough 801 F.Supp.2d 369 (W.D. Pa. 2011) The plaintiff’s dog jumped her fence and after encountering a couple of friendly people in the neighborhood, was confronted by two police officers. At the same time the officers arrived, the plaintiff and her sister arrived at the scene. The plaintiff’s sister yelled to the officer, “that’s our dog,” and while displaying no signs of aggression, with her owner 10-15 feet away, an officer shot the dog four times, killing her. The officer had previous similar encounters with dogs, having shot another dog approximately six months prior to this event. In evaluating the immunity of the police officer, the court held that the plaintiff failed to establish an exception to immunity under the Pennsylvania Subdivision Tort Claims Act. However, the court denied the defendants’ motion to dismiss the plaintiff’s Fourth Amendment claims. Case
Scott v. Jackson County 403 F.Supp.2d 999 (D.Or.,2005)

On July 22, 2003, plaintiff filed suit alleging violations of her constitutional rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, various state common law claims, and violation of the Oregon Property Protection Act (plaintiff's neighbor complained to animal control in May 2001 after hearing the rabbits "screaming and dying"). Plaintiff's claims arise from the seizure of over 400 rabbits from her property, and the subsequent adoption and/or euthanasia of these rabbits. Defendants move for summary judgment on grounds of qualified immunity, failure to allege the proper defendant, and failure to provide notice under the Oregon Tort Claims Act. In granting defendants' motion for summary judgment, the Court found that even if the officers' entry and seizure of plaintiff's property was unlawful, they reasonably believed their actions to be lawful, therefore affording them qualified immunity protection. Further, the court found no taking occurred where the rabbits were euthanized and/or adopted out as part of a initial criminal forfeiture action.

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Sixth Angel Shepherd Rescue Inc. v. Pennsylvania SPCA 2011 WL 605697 (2011) (Slip Copy)

Plaintiff dog rescue received a shipment of dogs from a North Carolina animal shelter. Joseph Loughlin, a warden from the Pennsylvania Dog Law Enforcement Bureau, and officials from the Pennsylvania SPCA (“PSPCA”) seized the dogs. Plaintiff filed suit seeking a court order for the return of the dogs. Loughlin mailed to Plaintiff’s counsel a citation for violating the Pennsylvania Dog Law. Plaintiff filed this action, alleging malicious prosecution, abuse of process, a claim that both §§ 459-209(b) and 459-603(c) are unconstitutional, and damages for defamation and “derogatory publication.” The court dismissed all claims except for those relating to the Pennsylvania Dog Law, The court held that the as-applied dormant Commerce Clause challenges to §§ 459-209(b) and 459-603(c) were not ripe and moot, respectively. The First Amendment challenge to § 459-603(c) failed because the statute was not unconstitutionally vague.

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Sixth Angel Shepherd Rescue, Inc v. Bengal 2011 WL 4867541 (C.A.3 (Pa.),2011)

Sixth Angel Shepherd Rescue rescued three dogs from North Carolina and had them delivered to Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement seized them and turned them over to Appellants PSPCA. The District Court ordered Appellants to return the dogs to Sixth Angel based on a state law conversion claim. The motion was affirmed because PSPCA deprived Sixth Angel of its unique property. Returning the dogs to their owner served the public interest by settling property rights and allowing Sixth Angel to fulfill its mission of finding homes for the dogs.

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Smith v. City of Detroit Slip Copy, 2017 WL 3279170 (E.D. Mich. Aug. 2, 2017) This case stems from the killing of three dogs by Detroit Police Officers in 2016. Plaintiff-dog owners brought a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action based on unlawful seizure their dogs in violation of the Fourth Amendment. In addition, plaintiffs raised Monell municipal liability claims and state laws claims for conversion and intentional infliction of emotional distress (IIED). Before this court is defendants' motion for summary judgment. The shooting of the dogs occurred during a drug raid pursuant to a search warrant (the marijuana charges were eventually dismissed due to the failure of police officers to appear at trial). One of the dogs escaped his barricade in the basement and was shot after allegedly charging the officers. The other dog "opened and closed the bathroom door by himself" according to testimony of the officers in their depositions, information that was absent from initial police reports according to the court. The last dog was shot as she began "charging" up the basement stairs while officers were at the top of the stairs. Depositions statements also reveal that none of the officers received any specific training on handling animal encounters during raids and one of the officers indicated he had shot at least 69 animals and another had shot 39. In analyzing the plaintiffs' Fourth Amendment interests in their dogs, the court held that because plaintiffs failed to properly license their dogs under Michigan law, they did not have a "legitimate possessory interest protected by the Fourth Amendment." Thus, plaintiffs' claims based on the Fourth Amendment were dismissed. Specifically, the court stated, "in the eyes of the law it is no different than owning any other type of illegal property or contraband." As to the violation of a clearly established constitutional right for the seizure of the dogs under the Fourth Amendment against the police department, the court found the Detroit Police Department's plan did not violate the Fourth Amendment, especially where the informant said there was only a "small dog" present at the residence. The individual officers' actions were also found to be reasonable based on the "imminent threat" of the dogs. As to the Monell claim, plaintiffs failed to establish a pattern of violations showing deliberate indifference that is sufficient to establish municipal liability. Finally, on the IIED claim, the court relied on the fact that there is no precedent in Michigan to permit recovery for damage to property (to wit, a dog). Similarly, plaintiffs' conversion claim also failed where the court found the unlicensed status removed any "legitimate interest" in the dogs. The court subsequently granted defendants' motion for summary judgment. Case
Soldal v. County of Cook 506 US 56 (1992)

Fourth Amendment protections apply regardless of the specific reasons for why a seizure may have occurred.

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