Louisville, KY Gets Spanked by Judge

Verjean’s comment to one of my blog entries is worthy of it’s own entry so, with Verjean’s permission, here it is:

I figured you'd work out that new legislation went into effect 9-1-09. As you probably also know, Louisville's ruling came down about the same time. This was heard in federal court, and argued by constitutional lawyers. There were some provocative findings. First, pet owners CLEARLY have a property interest in their animal(s). While that interest is not ABSOLUTE, and is subject to regulation by state and municipal governments, the government IS NOT PERMITTED to deprive an owner of his property, WITHOUT DUE PROCESS. The court also ruled that any portion of the ordinance that would PERMANENTLY deprive an owner of his property, ABSENT A FINDING OF GUILT, is UNCONSTITUTIONAL.

The typical process of divesting ownership via a hearing in municipal court being heard by a JP (who incidentally, is NOT required to be an attorney, or have any passing knowledge of law), is not a trial and therefore, to my sense, NOT due process. In many cases, when the owner is "accused" of a crime, and the animals are seized, the authorities never even bring formal charges. In just as many cases, the accused, after being divested of their animals, do go to trial, and are found NOT guilty. In either case, their animals are gone, "adopted" to new homes, or even perhaps euthanized. Regardless, these owners have NOT had their day in court, they've simply had a hearing, NOT a trial.

In Texas, prior to September of '09, when you were accused of cruelty, your case had to be heard within ten days, and most seizing/charging agencies would intentionally schedule a hearing within 48 to 72 hours, leaving the accused little time to find legal representation, or to mount any type of defense. The presider at hearing, as I mentioned before is a usually a JP, and therefore is not required to be an attorney or have any legal background, will make a decision about the accused animals that is NOT based upon any "guilt" of the accused, since a trial has not taken place. And should the accused ask for a trial, and be found "not guilty", it still doesn't matter. The JP at the hearing has the power to permanently deprive the owner of their property at the hearing (without a trial).
Louisville was a GREAT victory, but we know how long it takes these types of precedents to take root. It was a HUGE victory in Texas when the appeal bond was passed and those of us who worked toward that goal are still very proud of it, since there were absolutely NO protections of any kind in place prior to this legislative session.
However, we would be far more ecstatic to bow to the constitutional protections in place for our pets, as ruled in the Louisville case, and that any attempt to deprive us of those pets must fall under strict and severe due process guidelines.


My thanks to Verjean for the lovely post and a break for me this morning.

Having been told by a judge to “bring my toothbrush” (which is a threat to hold an attorney in contempt and jail them) if I intended to keep saying “United States Constitution” in his courtroom, I am always thrilled to see any judge rule on a constitutional issue.  In this case, a federal district judge ruled 2 municipal code sections unconstitutional and even enjoined the municipality from attempting to use them.

  1. “declared unconstitutional insofar as it requires owners of unaltered dogs to obtain written approval of their enclosures… enjoined…”
  2. “declared unconstitutional insofar as it threatens to deprive pet owners of their property rights without a finding of guilt… enjoined…”


Hm, that second ordinance, Sec. 91.101, the judge declared unconstitutional looks familiar, about the same as the Texas animal seizure law.  I know what my High School principal would tell Arlington and the State of Texas: Grab your ankles boys!


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