Judge rules woman’s unlicensed dogs were ‘contraband’ and too bad they were shot

A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit against the City of Detroit on Wednesday after ruling that dog not properly licensed  are considered “contraband” and are not protected by the Fourth Amendment. According to MetroTimes, all dog owners need to heed the latest decision; stating if your dog is not licensed, a police officer can come to your home and shoot your pet through the head or the heart – and you will have no recourse.

U.S. District Court Judge George Caram Steeh wrote in his ruling Wednesday.  that dogs have no rights, and if they are not licensed, Fido and Fluffy are property even though many pat parents consider dogs as part of their families.

“The requirements of the Michigan Dog Law and the Detroit City Code, including that all dogs be current with their rabies vaccines, exist to safeguard the public from dangerous animals,” Steeh wrote. “When a person owns a dog that is unlicensed, in the eyes of the law it is no different than owning any other type of illegal property or contraband. Without any legitimate possessory interest in the dogs, there can be no violation of the Fourth Amendment.”

The Fourth Amendment (Amendment IV) to the United States Constitution prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures and requires any search warrant to be judicially sanctioned and supported by probable cause. Nikita Smith never imagined her three dogs would be shot dead by police after authorities executed a search warrant and fatally shot each of her family’s beloved pets in January 2016 – including a pregnant dog that died in a pool of blood in the “corner of her basement.” According to Smith’s attorney, the officers searched multiple locations in the home, and wherever there had been one of the family’s dogs, shot and killed them “like a death squad.”

When officers knocked at the family’s door, Smith told authorities she first needed to put her dogs in the basement, however police entered without permission and shot her dogs several times through the closed bathroom door. They then went into the basement and shot the pregnant dog; Smith claimed that pet had not barked nor made any aggressive moves toward the men.

At the time, police had a different version of the disturbing events resulting in the death of the family’s two pit bulls, Debo and Mamma, and a Rottweiler named Smoke -stating the dogs had been aggressive, and they were following department procedures to shoot any animals perceived as threats. That evening Smith was arrested after police found marijuana at her house, but in court Smith pleaded not guilty; the officer never appeared at the proceeding and the case against her was dismissed according to the Detroit News.

And as distressing as the decision made by Steeh, the news gets worse. Reason reports even if the dogs had been licensed, the Smith’s suit would have still been dismissed since the police stated the dogs presented an “imminent danger to the officers.” Graphic photos showed the dogs were behind the bathroom door  and were shot and killed in barrage of bullets; how does that explain danger to the officers?

“Reason has also been tracking lawsuits against the Detroit Police Department related to dog shootings. According to the latest documents obtained by Reason, one officer has so far killed 73 dogs during his career. Two other officers involved in the Smith case testified that they had shot “at least 19″ dogs over the course of their careers.”

Bottom line – instead of training officers how to read a dog’s body language, avoid canine aggressive behavior and preserve life for all humans and animals, it’s Steeh’s opinion to allow police to shoot family pets and not give a hoot. Shame on you judge!

(Photos of dogs as “contraband” via Nikita Smith’s family dogs)

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Hartford pays family $885,000 after police killed their St. Bernard

City officials in Hartford, Connecticut have agreed to pay a family $885,000 to compensate them for a 2006 incident in which police fatally shot their St. Bernard in their yard. On Monday, the Hartford City Council settled the 11-year legal battle involving two police officers who entered the family’s partially fenced yard without a warrant and fatally shot one of the family’s two dogs when it growled and ran toward them.

According to the Hartford Courant, Hartford Police Sergeants Anthony Pia and Johnmichael O’Hare entered the backyard of homeowner Glen Harris in 2006 after receiving a false tip about weapons having been stashed in an abandoned car during an anti-gang crackdown. The two officers shot the dog, named Seven moments after Harris’ 12-year-old daughter returned home from school and let the dogs out into the backyard. The child witnessed her dog’s shooting, and according to court records suffered emotional trauma – becoming suicidal after seeing one of her two pets dogs killed.

Harris sued the police for illegally entering his property, but lost the case in 2008. His attorney, Jon Schoenhorn, appealed- stating this tragedy happened to an innocent family.

“There was no abandoned car. There were no firearms. I want to emphasize that all they found was a homeowner who happened to live in the North End of Hartford who had a 12 year old girl playing with her dog in the backyard,” Schoenhorn told Fox News.

In September 2016, the case was retried; this time the family prevailed and the jury awarded $202,000 to the Harris family against the two officers, including punitive damages adding up to $885,000.  The police officers were indemnified. Glen Harris’ daughter, referred to in legal records as “K”, because of her age is all grown up now, but still suffers the emotional trauma.

“We have warrants for a reason. We have the constitution for a reason and sometimes the police mess up and sometimes as a result a municipality is going to have to pay out for that mistake,” said Schoenhorn.

(Photo of St. Bernard is not Seven – photo from Pinterest)

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