Cases: Police Shooting Pets

Escrito por Michigan State University. Publicado en Formación de Cuerpos Policiales.


Sec. 1983 Actions: Related Cases 

Case Name Citation Summary
Ammon v. Welty   113 S.W.3d 185 (Ky.App.,2002)   In this Kentucky case, the plaintiffs brought an action against the county dog warden for shooting their dog. Before the statutorily imposed 7-day waiting limit had expired, the warden euthanized the dog by shooting him in the head. The Court of Appeals held that while a family dog can be beloved by a family, loss of the pet does not support an action for loss of consortium. Further, the dog warden was not liable for intentional infliction of emotional distress because his actions did not rise to the outrageous level where the dog was not shot in the presence of the family and there was no evidence that Brewer intended to inflict emotional harm.  
Anderson v. Creighton   483 US 635 (1987)   Suit was brought against FBI agent seeking damages resulting from warrantless search of residents' home.  
Black v. Coughlin   76 F.3d 72 (2nd Cir. 1996)   Prisoner brought action under § 1983 against commissioner of state department of correctional services to recover damages for punishment imposed as a result of improperly conducted disciplinary hearing.  
Brandon v. Village of Maywood   157 F. Supp.2d 917 (N.D. Ill. 2001)   Plaintiffs brought § 1983 action against village and police officers after botched drug bust in which bystander and dog were wounded.  The court held that the police officers were entitled to qualified immunity in shooting of dog and the village did not have policies on police conduct that warranted liability.  However, issues of fact precluded summary judgment on false imprisonment claim based on officers' assertion of immunity.
Brown v. Muhlenberg Tp.   269 F.3d 205 (3rd Cir. 2001)   Pet owners were unreasonably deprived of their Fourth Amendment rights to their pet by police officer. Pennsylvania Court would recognize a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress based upon the killing of a pet.  
City of Canton v. Harris   489 US 378 (1989)   Detainee brought civil rights action against city, alleging violation of her right to receive necessary medical attention while in police custody. The Supreme Court held that inadequacy of police training may serve as basis for § 1983 municipal liability only where failure to train amounts to deliberate indifference to rights of persons with whom police come into contact.

City of Garland v. White   368 S.W.2d 12 (Tex. Civ. App. 1963).  Police officers were trespassers and could be held civilly liable for damages when they entered a dog owner's property with the intent to unlawfully kill the dog. Reports had been made that the dog was attacking other animals but because the attacks were not imminent, in progress, or recent, the killing of the dog was not lawful.  
Folkers v. City of Waterloo, Iowa   582 F.Supp.2d 1141 (N.D.Iowa,2008)   Plaintiff brought civil rights action against the City of Waterloo, Iowa (City) alleging procedural and substantive due process violations after Animal Control Officers seized Plaintiff’s dog and detained the dog for one hundred days while an appeal was pending. On Plaintiff’s motion for partial summary judgment, the United States District Court, N.D. Iowa, Eastern Division, found that the Fifth Amendment Due Process Clause did not apply to Plaintiff’s claim, the Animal Control Officers were acting under color of state law, and that the one hundred day detention of Plaintiff’s dog was a meaningful interference with Plaintiff’s possessory interest in his dog. The Court also found that Plaintiff’s right to procedural due process under the Fourteenth Amendment was satisfied by the post-deprivation hearing provided Plaintiff, Plaintiff’s claim that the decision to detain Plaintiff’s dog was unreasonable or arbitrary, implicated the “unreasonable seizure” provisions of the Fourth Amendment, rather than the substantive due process provisions of the Fourteenth Amendment, and that even if the substantive due process provisions of the Fourteenth Amendment were otherwise applicable, Plaintiff would not have been entitled to relief under the substantive due process provisions of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Fuller v. Vines   36 F3d 65 (9th Cir. 1994)   Motion for leave to amend § 1983 civil rights complaint to add claims that police officer violated Fourth Amendment by shooting pet dog and by pointing gun at one plaintiff was denied and the United States District Court for the Northern District of California entered summary judgment in favor of police officers and city. Plaintiffs appealed. The Court of Appeals held that: (1) killing of pet dog stated Fourth Amendment violation, but (2) no seizure of plaintiff occurred when police pointed gun.  
Giaconia v. Delaware County Soc. for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals   Slip Copy, 2008 WL 4442632 (E.D.Pa.)   Plaintiff brought various claims against Defendants after Plaintiff’s cat was euthanized prior to the standard 72 hour waiting period.  On Defendants’ motion to dismiss, the United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania found that Defendants were not acting under color of law.  Because any and all claims for which the Court had original jurisdiction were being dismissed, the Court declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiff’s State law claims. 

Greenway v. Northside Hosp., Inc.   2012 WL 2819420 (Ga.App.,2012)   While completely disoriented at a hospital, the plaintiff was asked by deputies to sign a form releasing his two yellow labs to animal control in the event of the plaintiff's demise. The plaintiff was allegedly informed that if he did not die, he could retrieve his dogs in 7 to 10 days; he therefore signed the form without reading the terms. Later, the nurse informed him that his dogs had been euthanized and plaintiff filed suit. The trial court granted all of the defendants' motions for summary judgment, so the plaintiff appealed. The appellate court found an issue of material fact existed towards all defendants and therefore concluded that the trial court erred in granting all motions for summary judgment. This opinion was vacated and superseded by Greenway v. Northside Hosp., Inc., 730 S.E.2d 742 (Ga. App. 2012).  
Harlow v. Fitzgerald   457 US 800 (1982)   Plaintiff brought suit for damages based on his allegedly unlawful discharge from employment in Department of Air Force.  U.S. Supreme Court reviewed immunity issues and held that while presidential aides are entitled to qualified immunity, government officials performing discretionary functions are shielded only where their conduct does not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights.  
Lesher v. Reed   12 F.3d 148 (8th Cir. 1994)   Seizure of pet dog violated Fourth Amendment where police acted unreasonably in going to canine police officer's house to seize the dog after the dog bit a child.  
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.  
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. 

Mostek v. Genesee County Animal Control   Slip Copy, 2012 WL 683430 (E.D., Mich. 2012)   Defendant officer removed a gravely-ill cat that needed veterinary care from Plaintiff's backyard. Plaintiff sued alleging Fourth Amendment claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff disclaimed ownership of the cat, thus her property rights were not violated by the seizure. Officer was shielded by the doctrine of qualified immunity, because animal control officers may enter property and remove animals that appear to be in danger.  
Newsome v. Erwin   137 F.Supp.2d 934 (S.D. Ohio 2000)   Plaintiff brought § 1983 action against county sheriff and others alleging that defendants violated his Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights when they shot and killed his pet lioness.  
Pfeil v. Rogers   757 F.2d 850 (7th Cir. 1985)   Where sheriffs deputies acted in accordance with applicable state laws, there was no violation of Fourth Amendment rights in the shooting of plaintiff's dogs.  
Range v. Brubaker   Slip Copy, 2008 WL 5248983 (N.D.Ind.)   Plaintiff brought a civil rights action against Defendants employed by the City of South Bend, Indiana (the “City”), part of the allegations being that Defendants unlawfully failed to interview Plaintiff for a position on the Animal Control Commission (the “Commission”).  During discovery, Defendants filed a, after Defendants had already disclosed the names of such individuals.  The United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Fort Wayne Division granted Defendants’ motion for a protective order to bar the disclosure of the home addresses of the Commission’s volunteer members, finding that Defendants provided “a particular and specific demonstration of fact” such that Plaintiff’s discover of the Commission members’ addresses should be barred, and that the relative lack of relevance of the discovery sought did not outweigh the potential harm caused by disclosure of the Commission members’ addresses. 

Rivero v. Humane Soc. of Fayette County   Slip Copy, 2009 WL 18704 (W.D.Pa.)  Plaintiffs brought action against Defendants under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging Defendants violated their First and Fourth Amendment rights under the United States Constitution after Defendant dog control officers removed Plaintiffs’ dog from their home during an investigation into a report of a dead dog.  The United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania granted Defendant Township’s motion for partial summary judgment, finding that Plaintiffs’ allegations, standing alone, do not state a claim against Defendant-Township, and that Plaintiffs failed to provide any factual support for their state law claims.  
Ruiz v. Franklin County Animal Control   732 S.E.2d 393 (Table), 2012 WL 4510934 (N.C.App.) (unpublished)   This North Carolina case is an appeal from a denial of summary judgment in favor of Franklin County Animal Control. Defendants argue that the trial court erred by declining to enter summary judgment in their favor on the basis of governmental immunity. The appellate court agreed, reversed the trial court's decision, and remanded for an entry of summary judgment for defendants. The court found that there is no dispute in the record that Franklin County Animal Control and Stallings, in his official capacity as an Animal Control Officer, were performing a governmental function in impounding and euthanizing plaintiff's dog. Further, plaintiff failed to allege in her complaint that defendants waived governmental immunity, subjecting her action to dismissal.  
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.  
U.S. v. Gregory (Unpublished Opinion)   933 F.2d 1016 (1991)   Defendant challenged the search of his residence in a drug raid in which his dog was shot.  The court held that the shooting of Gregory's dog was done excusably by an officer who reacted quickly in a potentially dangerous situation to a perceived attack by an animal reasonably believed to be an attack dog. The shooting of the dog did not render the search unreasonable.  
U.S. v. Jacobsen   466 US 109 (1984)   Defendants were convicted in the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota of possession of an illegal substance with intent to distribute, and they appealed. This case discussed searches and seizures and the Fourth Amendment.  
United States v. Place   462 US 696 (1983)   This case addressed issues relating to searches and seizures and violations of Fourth Amendment rights.

Viilo v. Eyre   547 F.3d 707 (C.A.7 (Wis.),2008)   Virginia Viilo sued the City of Milwaukee and two of its police officers under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 after an officer shot and killed her dog 'Bubba.' The district court denied the defendants' motion for summary judgment on the basis of qualified immunity and the defendants took an interlocutory appeal challenging this denial. The court found that defendants' interjection of factual disputes deprived the court of jurisdiction. The court further held that it is a violation of the Fourth Amendment for a police officer to shoot and kill a companion dog that poses no imminent danger while the dog’s owner is present and trying to assert custody over her pet.