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6th Circuit: Detroit's Dog Ordinance Bites

By William Vogeler, Esq. | Last updated on

Some 50,000 stray dogs roam -- sometimes in packs -- the streets and abandoned homes of Detroit.

That's how the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals describes the "dog problem" in Motor City. So how bad is it?

It's so bad the city passed an ordinance authorizing police to enter private property and seize animals without a warrant. That's bad, too, the appeals court said in Hardrick v. City of Detroit.

18 Pit Bulls...

Animal control captured countless dogs, but 18 pit bulls tells it all. They are killer dogs, subject to a separate ordinance; however, that's another story.

In Hardrick's case, the owner/plaintiffs said the city violated their due process rights by taking their animals without a warrant. A trial judge agreed, and the city responded by pledging to rewrite the law.

In the meantime, they appealed the ruling because authorities had taken most of the dogs off the street or for other reasons. Four dogs -- Isis, Heru, Beautiful, and Charlotte -- were at home.

The appeals court said that if they had attacked somebody or another animal, police could have entered under exigent circumstances. But that was not the story for the foursome.

Exigent Circumstances

The situation was especially sketchy because officers seized the dogs fifty-three days after a neighbor's complaint.

"If that is an emergency, the concept has little meaning," the appeals court said. "An allegation that a dog bit another dog on a previous occasion does not create an exigency now and forever."

The Sixth Circuit affirmed the district court's ruling dismissing the claims of those plaintiffs whose dogs were not captured with warrantless entries. Isis, Heru, Beautiful, and Charlotte, however, got a reprieve.

And the plaintiff's attorney's fees were awarded. Hey, it was a rough case.

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