In January of 2016, five Detroit Police Officers and a Sargent entered a home as part of a drug raid. The two suspects who were squatting in the home had three dogs in the home with them. In executing the raid all three dogs were shot and killed.

Police officers have incredibly difficult jobs and the Michigan Humane Society (MHS) is proud to partner with, and work alongside, the Detroit Police Department. MHS stands by the Detroit Police Department and has no position on the merits of the shooting.

In the time after the shooting, the suspects filed a lawsuit against the City of Detroit for the death of their dogs as a violation of their 4th amendment rights. The case was dismissed by the court after the city argued that because the dogs were unlicensed they were illegal to possess. They were deemed contraband and therefore the suspects had no legal rights to that “property” (the dogs).

MHS does not, in any way, defend any illegal activities the suspects have been alleged to be a part of. While MHS supports the Detroit Police Department and expresses no opinion regarding whether the killing of the dogs in this case was justified, we strenuously object to the court’s decision to dismiss the case based on the conclusion that the plaintiffs did not have a right or interest in the dogs because of their licensing status.

Our pets are a part of our lives. They are a source of unconditional love and companionship. Even though their definition under law says otherwise, they are not property to us. We cannot allow ourselves to undercut the foundation that the Michigan Humane Society and our incredible community partners have laid over the last 140 years. We must recognize the values of those we represent and the citizens of Detroit – that these pets are part of our families.

The basis for this ruling is an attack on the human/animal bond. This bond, our connection to the animals we share our lives with, is something MHS is committed to defending and protecting. A majority of pet owners view pets as an integral part of the family and the protection afforded to our pets under property laws are already viewed as insignificant given the powerful and emotional connection we have to them. To deny even those most basic protections, as this court did, could have unintended consequences that extend far beyond this case.

Ann Griffin serves as MHS’ Director of Advocacy and is the Chair of the animal law section of the State Bar of Michigan. She has drafted a more detailed document regarding our position and action to address this ruling by the court. It can be read HERE.