After one of her rescue dogs gave birth to nine puppies, which resulted in fifteen dogs and a cat living at her New York residence, Plaintiff tried unsuccessfully to find homes for the puppies. Upon seeing the dogs’ living conditions, many prospective buyers reported the Plaintiff to the authorities.
According to these witnesses, some of the dogs had their snout’s taped shut; some of the dogs had untreated medical conditions; dogs were being crammed into cages; and trash bags filled with feces were strewn across the house. Although authorities visited the Plaintiff’s house multiple times and found no violations, a state judge approved a warrant for the SPCA, an animal rescue organization, to seize the animals after more reports kept coming in.
When the SPCA discovered the animals’ living conditions, all but two dogs were seized and the Plaintiff was charged with five counts of animal cruelty. After the Plaintiff was found innocent on state criminal charges, she and her attorney filed a federal civil rights suit against SPCA, several of its employees, veterinarians, veterinary technicians, and some of the prospective adopters who originally alerted the SPCA about the dogs’ conditions.
In the complaint, Plaintiff sought hundreds of millions of dollars in compensatory and punitive damages for malicious prosecution and for violations of her rights to due process, the presumption of innocence, counsel, and freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures. The United States Court of Appeals, Second Circuit held that even though the SPCA was a state actor, it had qualified immunity, which protected it from the Plaintiff’s charges. Additionally, the court held that SPCA investigators had probable cause to seize the dogs, which also defeated the Plaintiff’s charges.
If you or someone you know has questions regarding the legal rights of animals within the state of New York, please call the Law Office of Friedman and Ranzenhofer at 716-542-5444 for a free consultation.