Tag Archives: court case

Salina, Kansas, family fights for their dogs

A single working mother in Salina, Kansas, is in trouble with the city after her two dogs got escaped the yard and were picked up by animal control.

Jo Ann Morgan has two dogs that officials claim fall under the breed ban that Salina maintains.  Morgan stated that she sees “pit bulls” everyday in the community and had been unaware of the ban until obtaining her first dog.

The first dog, Celeste, was obtained not knowing there was a ban in place.  When the family asked a friend about a good vet in town, they then became aware of the ban.  Soon after, the second dog, Maicee, came to the family because of the ban.  The dog was owned by a boyfriend and girlfriend who had domestic issues.  At one point the girlfriend had threatened to call animal control on the dog for being a banned type as revenge.  The dog was taken in by Morgan, in what was supposed to be a temporary situation.

The dogs escaped the yard when the gate to their yard was left open after a trash pick up.  It was not noticed the gate was left open until the next morning, when the dogs were let out as the family got ready for their day.  A few minutes after they got out, on the morning of October 23rd, Morgan discovered the yard was empty and immediately began looking for the dogs.

They were picked up by animal control in a nearby parking lot.  It was later discovered, on a lost pets page for the community, that someone had spotted the dogs and was urging people to pick them up before animal control got them.

After searching for sometime, Morgan contacted the shelter, where she was told the dogs cannot be released because they are banned and that she would be charged.  Morgan also told that if she signed over the rights to Celeste and Maicee to the shelter, the prosecutor would drop the charges for harboring dangerous dogs.  Salina law declares “pit bulls” dangerous by appearance only, so any person caught with a banned type is charged with harboring a dangerous dog.  Celeste and Maicee had not harmed anyone.  Morgan asked if the dogs would be killed if signed over and was told that is the case.  She refused to sign over the dogs and was given a summons for the possession of two dangerous dogs.

Celeste and Maicee are currently being held as evidence and there are multiple criminal charges against Morgan.  Though Morgan is seeking legal representation, it is an expensive proposition for a case of this nature.

Salina has a bad track record with their handling of these sorts of cases.  Few, if any, confiscated dogs make it out of the shelter alive.  There was the story of Lucey, from 2010, who was taken as a banned dog and released after a DNA test showed she was a pure through and through mixed breed.  Officials came back on that family, saying the DNA tests are not reliable after the vet responsible for breed identification, Dr. Atherton, got a DNA test on his own dog and didn’t like the results.

Dr. Atherton is notorious for bad identification practices, and has, in at least one case, identified a pure breed dog (not a banned breed) as banned because of the dog’s teeth structure.

Morgan would love to get Celeste and Maicee back home but the odds of that are extremely slim.  The best hope right now is for the dogs to be placed in rescue.  When asked about it, Morgan was told that they do not release “pit bulls” to residents of other towns because of the “legal liability” of doing so.

The council is not open to discussing the issue.  Morgan attended a meeting and was told she would need to make a formal paper petition of registered voters and file specific forms in order for the council to consider the issue.

At this time, there is a Christmas card campaign for Celeste and Maicee, as well as one other confiscated dog.  The families are asking for cards to be sent, individually, to Celeste Morgan, Maicee Morgan and Remi Phillips, care of Salina Animal Shelter, 329 North 2nd Street, Salina, KS, 67401.  The families are asking that the messages in the cards be ones of support only and not directed at shelter staff in anyway.  The idea behind the campaign is to subtly let people know that the dogs are cared about without engaging in any animosity or vitriol.

For those who want to help more, there is a fundraiser being held to cover legal fees.  The odds that there will be a fair trial in municipal court are slim.  Appeals are expensive and funds must be raised in order for there to be any chance of Celeste and Maicee being about to get out of the shelter alive.

 

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Pawtucket Rhode Island loses battle to keep ban

When Rhode Island legislators passed a law that prohibits municipalities from enacting any breed discriminatory laws, Pawtucket officials balked.  They claimed that the law only addressed future laws, and did not apply to them because Pawtucket’s breed ban was in effect before the passage of the state law.  As a result, they continued to enforce the ban after the state law had been passed.

A man by the name of Albert Alix stepped up to take on Pawtucket’s ban.   Alix was cited under the ban after his dog, Chubs, escaped his yard.  There was no bite incident.

In late 2013, a case was filed in court, challenging Pawtucket’s ban, with The Defenders of Animals and Alix as co-plaintiffs.  The city maintained the position that they were allowed to keep their ban because the state law wasn’t expressly retroactive, while Alix’s attorney, Mark Morse, stated that the ban was invalid because of the state law.

A Superior Court judge has ruled in favor of Alix.  The judge found that the state law does supersede Pawtucket’s ban.  This means that, at this time, Pawtucket is no longer allowed to enforce their ban.  This also means that there is a precedent set against any other municipality that would attempt to continue enforcement of a breed discriminatory law.  If this ruling stands, it clarifies the state law so that it is clear that no breed discriminatory laws are allowed, regardless of when they were enacted.

It is interesting to note that Pawtucket attempted to have a grandfather clause included in the prohibition on breed discriminatory laws during the Senate committee hearings, but the grandfather clause was rejected.  This speaks to the intent of the law and legislators.  Had they intended to allow existing ordinances to be maintained, they would have expressly included the grandfather clause.  This was not the only way Pawtucket officials attempted to keep their ban.  They also tried an e-mail campaign to defeat the state law prohibiting BDL while the bill was moving through the legislative process.  That was unsuccessful as well.  The contention at the time was that reversal of the ban would make their community un-safe.

The city does have the option to appeal the decision.  At this time, the cities attorneys are waiting to see the written order, and a transcript of the proceedings before deciding whether or not to appeal.  Pawtucket was the only city to try and keep their breed discriminatory law, with active enforcement, after the state prohibition was passed.