United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR
Corbett O'Meara United States District Judge.
the court are Defendant's motion for summary judgment,
filed June 29, 2017, and Plaintiff's motion to amend
complaint, filed July 24, 2017. The court heard oral argument
on October 12, 2017, and took the matter under advisement.
For the reason explained below, Defendant's motion is
granted and Plaintiff's motion is denied.
Hazell Hayes and Melvin Short filed a complaint against the
City of Detroit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 to recover for
the seizure of their dog, Penny. In their complaint,
Plaintiffs also list several “John Doe” police
officers as defendants. Plaintiffs seek to amend their
complaint to add Officer Lamar Williams, who shot Penny
during a search of Plaintiffs' home. The City opposes
Plaintiff's motion to amend and seeks summary judgment.
Hayes is a student and employee at Wayne County Community
College. She and Plaintiff Short leased a home at 18601
Moenart Street, Detroit, Michigan, from Marion Rutland. The
lease between Plaintiffs and Rutland contained a “no
pets” clause, but Rutland made an exception for Penny,
so long as Penny was kept confined to the side door landing
area when Plaintiffs were not home. Hayes testified that they
always chained Penny, a pit bull, when they were not home.
23, 2016, Plaintiff Hayes secured Penny to a two-foot chain
on the side door landing of her home before she left for
school. The chain confined Penny to the side door landing
area below the kitchen and prevented her from entering the
kitchen. Rutland saw Hayes take Penny into the house on the
morning of June 23. When Hayes left for school, Penny was
chained to the side door landing, Short was at work, and the
only other occupant, Short's daughter, was also at
day, Detroit police officers raided Plaintiffs' home in
the mistaken belief that it was a drug house. The officers
did not have information that a dog lived in the home.
Williams Dep. at 40. As officers secured the house, Officer
Williams “peeked around the corner” and
“observed the pit bull, ” which was “one or
two feet” away from him. Id. at 31, 35. The
dog was approximately forty or fifty pounds and prevented
Williams from entering the basement to secure it.
Id. at 50, 63-64. Williams testified that the dog
“growled, ” “showed its teeth, ” and
“proceeded up the step.” Id. at 32.
According to Williams, the dog approached him in “an
aggressive manner.” Id. “It proceeded up
the first step, which is when I fired the shot.”
Id. Williams testified that he did not see a chain
confining Penny to the side landing area. Id. at
59-60 (“There was no chain or anything restricting it
from moving.”). Penny died immediately after the
Standard of Review
judgment is appropriate if “there is no genuine issue
as to any material fact and . . . the moving party is
entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). When reviewing a motion for summary
judgment, the facts and any reasonable inferences drawn from
the facts must be viewed in the light most favorable to the
nonmoving party. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v.
Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). The party
opposing summary judgment, however, must present more than a
“mere scintilla” of evidence; the evidence must
be such that a reasonable jury could find in favor of the
plaintiff. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S.
242, 252 (1986).
Fourth Amendment Violation
Sixth Circuit has held that “a dog is property, and the
unreasonable seizure of that property is a violation of the
Fourth Amendment.” Brown v. Battle Creek Police
Dep't, 844 F.3d 556, 566 (6th Cir. 2016).
“Reasonableness is the touchstone of any seizure under
the Fourth Amendment.” Id. at 567 (citation
omitted). “[A] police officer's use of deadly force
against a dog while executing a warrant to search a home for
illegal drug activity is reasonable under the Fourth
Amendment when, given the totality of the circumstances and
viewed from the perspective of an objectively reasonable
officer, the dog poses an imminent threat to the
officer's safety.” Id.
Sixth Circuit has emphasized, “[t]his analysis allow[s]
for the fact that police officers are often forced to make
split-second judgments - in circumstances that are tense,
uncertain, and rapidly evolving - about the amount of force
that is necessary in a particular situation. The task of this
[C]ourt is to put itself into the shoes of the officers at
the time the actions took place and to ask whether the
actions taken by the officers were objectively
unreasonable.” Brown, 844 F.3d at 567-68
Officer Williams testified that he made split-second
determination that Penny posed an imminent threat to his
safety. The pit bull approached him in close quarters,
growling and baring her teeth. Although Hayes testified that
she left the dog chained, there is no evidence that Officer
Williams actually observed the chain or that he had the time
or ability to do so. Nor is there evidence that Officer
Williams should have known in advance that the dog was