Doggie Due Process:
The Saga of "Tut-Tut," "Bandit," "Boo Boo,"
Altman v. City of High Point, N.C., 330
F.3d 194 (4th Cir.(N.C.) 2003)
Why Should We Care About Animal
Rabies, Intestinal parasites, lots of dog shit issues
What does animal control do?
What do you do with all the bad/sick/unwanted dogs?
What do animal rights folks want?
Do they want to pay for it?
What is a dog "at large"
Why were the animal control officers called?
Describe the interaction between the dogs and the
What happened to the dogs?
What would have happened had they been people?
What due process was provided?
How did plaintiff characterize the act in legal terms?
42 USC § 1983. Civil action for deprivation
Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance,
regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the
District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any
citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction
thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities
secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party
injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper
proceeding for redress, except that in any action brought against a
judicial officer for an act or omission taken in such officer’s
judicial capacity, injunctive relief shall not be granted unless a
declaratory decree was violated or declaratory relief was
Who is the state actor?
What is the relationship to the state?
Why were civil rights acts passed?
What sort of color of state action was Congress
Is the city a political subdivision of the state, i.e.,
is the city covered by the 11th Amendment?
Why does this matter?
The Constitutional Violation
Is 1983 just a substitute for tort laws?
What type of violation is necessary for a 1983
What kind of torts might qualify?
Whose rights were violated in this case?
What is the constitutional claim, i.e., what part of
the constitution has been violated?
Dog Law in History
Sentell v. New Orleans & C.R. Co., 166
U.S. 698, 701 (1897)
"[P]roperty in dogs is of an imperfect or qualified
nature, and [ ] they stand, as it were, between
animals ferae naturae, in which until killed or
subdued, there is no property, and domestic
animals, in which the right of property is perfect
Nicchia v. People of State of New York,
254 U.S. 228, 230 (1920)
"Property in dogs is of an imperfect or qualified
nature and they may be subjected to peculiar and
drastic police regulations by the state without
depriving their owners of any federal right."
Jones v. Craddock, 187 S.E. 558, 559 (N.C.
"Even in the days of Blackstone, while it was
declared that property in a dog was 'base
property,' it was nevertheless asserted that such
property was sufficient to maintain a civil action
for its loss.").
Is this Like Conversion?
"The present action by the plaintiffs, though
brought under a federal statute pursuant to a
constitutional amendment, is not in nature unlike
a common-law action for trover based on the
officers' conversion of their dogs. In this way, the
plaintiffs clearly assert a right with an analog at
common law, a fact which strongly suggests that,
at least to this extent, dogs would have been
protected as "effects" within the meaning of the
Fourth Amendment at common law.
The Role of Dogs in Modern Day Society
Has the historic view of dogs changed?
Do some people pay for dogs?
Do some people confuse dogs with relatives?
What did the Katrina evacuation tell us about dogs?
Should the constitutional view of dogs evolve as well?
Did this court find dogs to be 4th Amendment effects?
What type of property does the court hold the dog to
Is Killing a Dog a Seizure?
If the dog is property, what is the effect of killing
Does the state need to take possession of
property to seize it?
What is the test: is killing a dog a seizure of a
Is this Seizure a Taking?
What is a taking under the constitution?
What must the government do if it takes property?
If killing the dog was justified, must the
government pay for the value of the dog?
What if the killing was not justified?
Qualified Immunity: Harlow v. Fitzgerald,
457 U.S. 800 (1982)
The Court ruled that government officials
performing discretionary functions should be
protected from liability for civil damages if their
conduct does not violate clearly established
statutory or constitutional rights of which a
reasonable person would be aware.
Those who are plainly incompetent or who
knowingly violate the law cannot invoke qualified
The Policy Rationale for Qualified
Why is qualified immunity necessary for
What would be a Mathews analysis?
Does litigation only cost when the defendant
Why is there a strong policy for summary
judgment in 1st amendment news cases?
Who has to pay the damages if the officers get
qualified immunity but did improperly kill the dog?
Standards for Qualified Immunity
...the Fourth Circuit considered whether police officers
who bound a defenseless man to a pole with flex cuffs at
three in the morning in a deserted parking lot and then
abandoned him, all with admittedly no legitimate law
enforcement purpose, were entitled to qualified immunity.
(Robles v. Prince George's County, Maryland, 302 F.3d
262 (4th Cir. 2002))
What does this tell us about the standard for qualified
Do the Officers Get Qualified Immunity?
Assume that it is ultimately found that the dog was
improperly destroyed and that damages are owed.
Is 1983 the way to get those damages?
Were the officers acting reasonably in their belief that
they had the right to shoot the dogs?
Finally, city ordinance provides that"[i]t shall be lawful
for the animal control specialist or police officers of
the city to tranquilize or kill any dog at large within the
city which cannot safely be taken up and impounded."
The Dissent on Standard of Proof
The dissent reminds the majority that they are supposed
to be looking on the plaintiff's allegations as true for the
purposes of the motion.
What is plaintiff's story about the dogs?
Can the plaintiff rebut the dogs being a large?
Can you believe their claims the dogs were harmless?
What personal history does he point to that he sees as
discrediting the officers?
Do we know if this is excessive?
The Dissent on Qualified Immunity
...an officer violates clearly established federal
law" when he shoots and kills an individual's
family pet when that pet presented no danger and
when nonlethal methods of capture would have
Where does he find this law?
Does the majority agree?
Is that alone evidence to support qualified
What is the Right Question?
What would Atticus Finch have Done?
Even if you believe the plaintiff's story, were the
dogs at large as defined by the statute?
Was there evidence that they were menacing
Given this information, was it clearly
unconstitutional to kill them, rather than using
non-deadly means to subdue them?
If this is not clear, then defendants get qualified