A civil suit was filed today against ex-Louisville Metro Animal Services Director Dr. Gilles Meloche, interim LMAS director Wayne Zelisky and other employees for violating the fourth and fourteenth amendment rights of two Louisville pet owners.
In the lawsuit (PDF, FYI), plaintiffs Angela and Jim O’Neill charge Meloche, Zelinsky & Co. with illegally seizing two adult purebred American bulldogs and seven bulldog puppies without a warrant or probable cause, forcing them to pay $1020.95 to retrieve the animals who became sick and were forcibly neutered/spayed while impounded at LMAS, and then had to pay veterinary costs to fix the damage done once the animals returned home.
Dinsmore & Shohl attorney Jon Fleischaker, who will be representing the O’Neills, commented on the scope of the suit. ”The focus will be twofold,” he said. “One: the entry into the home and the seizure of the puppies and dogs without a warrant. And two, the lack of due process. When the city failed to even give them them a citation, it deprived the O’Neills of the right to prove their innocence.”
The O’Neills declined to comment.
“It’s just wrong,” Fleischaker said, adding that while the subject of this suit may be unique — dogs — they’re legally classified as property and, therefore, the case is given more precedent than first glance might suggest.
According to the initial complaint filed with the Kentucky Board of Veternary Examiners, the O’Neill’s were told by animal control officers that LMAS was “making an example” of them, specifically to enforce the Class-A Breeder license provision that doesn’t actually apply to breeders who don’t breed for monetary gain. Here’s a snippet:
We asked if there was anything we could do for them to not take our dogs to LMAS, and the female animal control officer that was there told us “No. If more than one dog is unlicensed, then Animal Control has the right to seize all animals on the premises”. They did not leave us a written citation or even verbally tell us what specific rules we had violated. They did hand us a photocopy of a few excerpts from the ‘newly revised’ animal control ordinance, but that was it…
My husband and I feel that our rights were violated, that we were certainly “made an example of” by LMAS, and that none of this should have happened. If, indeed their own staff is sorry to see animals come in because of their risk to rampant diseases that are killing animals there, what right do they have to come into our clean home and tell us how to raise our animals?
But given the city’s “political winds” as of late, the most interesting part of the suit (which you really should read) deals with Zelinsky’s involvement, alleging that the new director was, at the time of the October 30, 2008 offense, “the commanding officer and supervisor of [fellow] defendants Terry Pendelton and [other LMAS employees],” and was “responsible for their training, supervision, and conduct.”
We’re awaiting comment from the mayor’s office at the moment, so we’ll keep ye posted…