An ordinance adopted in 2004 has caused havoc for some Detroit residents, because it allowed Detroit Animal Control or the Detroit Police to break into your house and take your animals if they believed you were in violation of any animal control ordinance.

Back in November, eleven residents sued claiming animal control officers seized their dogs, imprisoned the animals in reportedly filthy conditions and then charged exorbitant fees.

On Monday, U.S. District Judge Nancy G. Edmunds issued the order saying the city of Detroit violated the constitutional rights of the eleven residents who sued when it acted to take a dog without a warrant, consent or exigent circumstances.

Under the Bill of Rights in the United States, the Fourth Amendment protects against unreasonable searches and seizures.

“The public interest is served by an injunction here because it will protect the due process rights of all dog-owning Detroit residents,” Edmunds wrote. “The court has little trouble concluding that the public’s interest under the Fourth Amendment is far greater than any law enforcement objective advanced by the law.”

In a statement, the plaintiffs were pleased with the ruling.

“We knew that we were right on the law and we are pleased that Judge Edmunds did not delay her ruling pursuant to the city’s request,” Grieco and co-counsel Stephen McKenney said in a statement.

“Judge Edmunds issued a strong opinion by not only striking down the (portion of the) Detroit Animal Control code as unconstitutional but also in noting that when the City of Detroit acted to take a dog without a warrant, consent or exigent circumstances, as it did with Floyd Hardrick’s dogs as well as the other plaintiffs’ dogs in our case, it violated our clients’ constitutional rights.”

A little background. According to the complaint, Detroit Animal Control officers seized three dogs, Rocky, Mama and Puppy from Floyd Hardrick’s backyard and basement on July 13, 2015, after breaking into the home without a warrant.

Hardrick was short the $390 to rescue the dogs from the city shelter. With only $130, he rescued Rocky after four days. But during the stay, Rocky the dog lost weight, came home with kennel cough, and according to the complaint, died July 21 only four days after returning from the shelter.

“Mr. Hardrick was never able to afford to retrieve Mama and Puppy who were, on information and belief, destroyed,” Grieco wrote.

The residents are seeking unspecified damages, attorney fees and costs. For its part, the city says they will amend the ordinance to comply with the ruling.

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