Woman sues Animal Control over ‘wrongful seizure’ of 15 dogs

By Jimmy Settle, USA TODAY NETWORK – Tennessee

A woman whose attorney said she was wrongly accused of animal cruelty is suing Montgomery County, two local enforcement officers and the former Animal Control director.

In Middle Tennessee U.S. District Court, Cindy Leeann King, represented by Nashville attorney Eddie Schmidt, is suing Montgomery County, Clarksville Police Officer John Matos, local Animal Control officer Jessica Cook and former Animal Care and Control Director Jeanette Farrell.

Farrell recently resigned and moved to Oregon, where she is working at an animal shelter.

Montgomery County officials are not commenting on the pending litigation.

More:  Farrell resigns as director of Montgomery County Animal Control

In the case, King is alleging “wrongful seizure” of her dogs, among other claims.

From volunteer to arrest warrant

According to the lawsuit, King had been a volunteer working with Chinese Shar-Pei Rescue Inc., a state-chartered nonprofit animal rescue organization.

As a “dog rescuer,” King would respond to reports of abandoned and mistreated dogs, take them in, and care for them at her own expense until the dog could be adopted through the Chinese Shar Pei network, says the lawsuit.

On Aug. 11, 2016, Cook issued an arrest warrant for King on five counts of animal cruelty related to a search of her home and dogs in her possession.

Later, in December, the Montgomery County grand jury indicted King on 10 counts of animal cruelty, and a few months later, in May 2017, Farrell notified King in writing that Animal Control had retained possession of five of her dogs that were impounded in August 2016, and that King had seven business days to reclaim them after paying accumulated fees of $20,760, according to the suit. King was unable to pay.

Charges dismissed

In the summer of 2017, criminal charges against King were dismissed, and King subsequently asked to see her dogs and that they be released.

“On Aug. 4, 2017, Ms. King was finally allowed to see five of her dogs remaining in impoundment,” the suit states.

“Despite repeated requests, Montgomery County Animal Control refused to provide any information concerning the other dogs Ms. King owned or was caring for … (and) on Aug. 4, 2017, at the time Ms. King was allowed to see five of the dogs … Farrell delivered a letter to Ms. King which stated that Ms. King could re-claim the dogs being held by the shelter only if she paid accumulated fees in the amount of $750.”

She ultimately agreed to pay that amount, the suit states, but later that day, “Ms. King’s counsel was given an amended invoice showing a total due of $44,008,” says the suit. Again, she was unable to pay the amended amount.

Schmidt, King’s attorney, told The Leaf-Chronicle that a federal trial is set in King’s lawsuit for April 9, 2019.

“The behavior of the Animal Control people in Montgomery County is totally outrageous, and what happened to Ms. King shouldn’t happen to anybody,” Schmidt said.

“Of the 15 dogs that were sealed, Ms. King did recover five of them, and the other 10 were adopted out … and that’s all we know,” he said. “She should have gotten all 15 of them back,” he said, adding King’s criminal trial, eventually dismissed, occurred about a year after “this illegal search and seizure occurred.”

King is suing over what she claims was an illegal search of her 3637 Aurora Drive home by Matos and Cook, as well as for two counts of unreasonable seizure and procedural due process in the impoundment of the 15 dogs, and for invasion of privacy in the release of photographs of her home to local media.

King is seeking damages in the case for “severe mental anguish … seizure and impoundment, and loss of her dogs, loss of earnings, and past and future costs of counseling, psychiatric help and prescriptive drug medication.”

%d bloggers like this: