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Hardrick v. City of Detroit, Michigan

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

November 22, 2017

Floyd Allen Hardrick, Jr.; Bianca Peterson; Theresa Robinson; Rochelle Munson-Griffin; Frederick Douglas Weems; Rousia May; Thomasina McConnell; Veronica Seward; Christie Nelson; Alicia Kathleen Napier; Stephen Shackelford; Kenneth D. Savage; Myrtle Rice; Joseph A. Link, II, Plaintiffs-Appellants, Plaintiffs-Appellees,
v.
City of Detroit, Michigan; Harry Ward, Defendants-Appellees, Defendants-Appellants.

          Argued: October 5, 2017

         Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan at Detroit. No. 2:15-cv-13884-Nancy G. Edmunds, District Judge.

         ARGUED:

          Stephen T. McKenney, NEUMAN ANDERSON GRIECO & MCKENNEY, P.C., Birmingham, Michigan, for Appellants in 16-2704 and Appellees in 17-2077.

          James P. Allen, Sr., ALLEN BROTHERS, Detroit, Michigan, for Appellees in 16-2704 and Appellants in 17-2077.

         ON BRIEF:

          Stephen T. McKenney, Jennifer M. Grieco, NEUMAN ANDERSON GRIECO & MCKENNEY, P.C., Birmingham, Michigan, for Appellants in 16-2704 and Appellees in 17-2077.

          James P. Allen, Sr., ALLEN BROTHERS, Detroit, Michigan, for Appellees in 16-2704.

          Neil B. Pioch, ALLEN BROTHERS, Detroit, Michigan, for Apellants in 17-2077.

          Before: SUTTON, DONALD, and THAPAR, Circuit Judges.

          OPINION

          SUTTON, CIRCUIT JUDGE.

         Dog bites dog. So begins this federal case about searches and seizures allegedly gone awry, if not the newspaper story about the dispute. Detroit has a stray-dog problem. As many as 50, 000 of them roam the city's streets and abandoned homes, sometimes in packs. One group in a position to appreciate the seriousness of the problem, the United States Postal Service, ranked Detroit sixth in its "Annual Dog Attack City Rankings" in 2016.

         The Detroit City Council sought to address the problem by enacting an ordinance that tightened the regulation of animals within City limits. The law imposed licensing and vaccination requirements on owners, sought to prevent the spread of rabies, and targeted "dangerous" or "vicious" animals. It also empowered law enforcement to enter the homes and yards of pet owners if probable cause existed that they (or their dogs) had violated the regulations. An assortment of dog seizures under the ordinance by officers of Detroit Animal Control, an agency of the City, prompted the dispute. Some of the seizures arose from dog attacks on other dogs, some from attacks on people, some from reports of dogs menacing the neighborhood, some from rabies concerns, some from neglected dogs, and some from unlicensed dogs.

         In response to these seizures, fourteen individuals, the owners collectively of twenty-three dogs (18 Pit Bulls, 3 Presa Canarios, 1 German Shephard, 1 Boxer), filed this § 1983 action, making three essential claims against the City and the Director of Detroit Animal Control. The first: One part of the 2004 Detroit ordinance violated the Fourth Amendment by permitting officers to make warrantless searches of houses and yards to determine if the owners were complying with the City's dog-licensing rules and related regulations. The second: The City had a policy of unreasonably seizing dogs in violation of the Fourth Amendment. The third: The City had a policy of depriving owners of their pets without due process in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. The individuals did not sue any of the individual officers who conducted the seizures.

         The district court granted the individuals the requested relief-an injunction-with respect to the warrantless search-and-seizure claim, and the defendants have not appealed that ruling. The district court granted the defendants judgment as a matter of law as to the other claims because the plaintiffs could not show any constitutional violations, and the individuals appealed both rulings. Because most of the plaintiffs cannot show that a Detroit policy or custom directly caused the alleged search-and-seizure ...


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