Federal Judge Rules Unlicensed Dogs Aren’t Protected By Fourth Amendment

A federal judge ruled Wednesday that a Michigan woman has no basis to sue the Detroit Police Department (DPD) for shooting her three dogs because they were not properly licensed.

U.S. District Court Judge George Caram Steeh dismissed a federal civil rights lawsuit filed by Detroit resident Nikita Smith last last year after a marijuana raid by Detroit police left her three dogs shot to death.

The ruling is the first time a federal court has considered the question of whether an unlicensed pet—in violation of city or state code—is protected property under the Fourth Amendment. Federal courts have established that pets are protected from unreasonable seizures (read: killing) by police, but the city of Detroit argued in a motion in March that Smith’s dogs, because they were unlicensed, were “contraband” for the purposes of the Fourth Amendment, meaning she had no legitimate property interest in them and therefore no basis to sue the officers or department.

In his Wednesday opinion Steeh agreed.

“The Court is aware that this conclusion may not sit well with dog owners and animal lovers in general,” the judge wrote. “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 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,” he continued. “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.”

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Filming Cops
Filming Cops 3181 posts

Filming Cops was started in 2010 as a conglomerative blogging service documenting police abuse. The aim isn’t to demonize the natural concept of security provision as such, but to highlight specific cases of State-monopolized police brutality that are otherwise ignored by traditional media outlets.

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  • James Michael

    ALL of a mans property is covered by these felon traitors sworn oaths, just another treasonous felon in a black robe, covering up for their armed robbing, extortionate scumbags with badges….