Thursday, August 3, 2017

Unlicensed dogs shot to death are 'contraband,' federal judge rules in Detroit case

Posted By on Thu, Aug 3, 2017 at 2:38 PM

click to enlarge COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy photo
A federal judge dismissed the case of a Detroit woman who filed a lawsuit against the City of Detroit after police shot and killed her three dogs — ruling that because the dogs were not properly licensed they are contraband, and not protected by the Fourth Amendment.

"The Court is aware that this conclusion may not sit well with dog owners and animal lovers in general," U.S. District Court Judge George Caram Steeh wrote in his ruling Wednesday. "The reason for any unease stems from the fact that while pet owners consider their pets to be family members, the law considers pets to be property."

The lawsuit follows a marijuana raid last last year that left Smith's three dogs — two Pitt Bulls and a Rottweiler — shot and killed. In violation of both Detroit city code and Michigan law, Smith's dogs were unlicensed.

"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."

As Reason points out, it's the first time a federal court has considered whether unlicensed pets are protected by the Fourth Amendment.

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.


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