Advocacy for animals is a key component of Michigan Humane’s mission. While that advocacy typically focuses on state and local legislation in an effort to improve animal welfare, sometimes we take advantage of unique opportunities to advocate for animals.

In 2017, Michigan Humane joined an amicus brief written by Prof. David Favre at MSU College of Law. The brief pertained to a federal case that involved Detroit police officers who were conducting a drug raid on a house in Detroit in January 2016. There were three unlicensed dogs in the house. In executing a search warrant, the police shot and killed the three dogs.

The plaintiffs sued the City of Detroit for the unlawful seizure of their dogs in violation of the Fourth Amendment. The federal district court held that the plaintiffs did not have a legal property interest in their unlicensed dogs, that they weren’t protected by the Fourth Amendment, and that their unlicensed dogs were contraband.

The trial court’s decision was appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit. The amicus brief was filed with the court to express concern about the trial court’s unprecedented decision and the potential consequences of the court’s ruling.

The court of appeals reversed the district court’s decision and concluded that owners retain a possessory interest in unlicensed dogs that is protected by the Fourth Amendment. The court of appeals returned the case to the trial court for further proceedings. The City of Detroit recently settled the case with the plaintiffs for $60,000.

Michigan Humane joined the amicus brief to express serious concern about the district court’s decision that dog owners do not have a constitutionally protected property interest in unlicensed dogs. We are committed to recognizing, supporting, and elevating the importance of the human-animal bond. The fact that animals are legally viewed as property is already difficult for animal lovers who see their animals as family members. A court opinion that weakened that already limited legal protection was extremely troubling.

Michigan Humane has also been working alongside law enforcement to create more humane, safer communities for people and animals through our Animals in the Field law enforcement training program. In order to effectively carry out their duties and protect the public and animals as the law requires, it is critical for law enforcement officers to receive special training designed to help them understand the laws that apply to situations involving animals, enable them to quickly interpret animal behavior in face-to-face interactions, and make them aware of the special issues that may arise in investigations involving crimes against animals.

The Animals in the Field law enforcement training program is designed to fill a gap in traditional law enforcement training and provide the information that officers need to respond to animal-related issues in the field. Michigan Humane provides this training at no cost to Detroit Police Department officers and is committed to continuing to do so as long as there is a need.

We are going to keep working to improve animal welfare in Michigan. We’ll let you know when you can help advocate for legislation to address animal welfare issues in Michigan. Together, we can continue to make a difference in animals’ lives in Michigan. If you know someone who you think would be interested in these emails, please share this to them and encourage them to sign up for our Legislative Action Network newsletter.

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