United States District Court, D. Utah
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER GRANTING
DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
Waddoups, United States District Judge
Clark Waddoups Before the court is the motion for summary
judgment (ECF No. 60) filed by defendants Steve Reaves, Mark
Acker, Ogden City, Ogden City Police Department, and Ogden
City Animal Services (“Defendants”). Plaintiff
Michael Taren (“Mr. Taren”) failed to respond to
Defendants' motion. Having reviewed the motion and the
pleadings in this action, the court now enters this order
GRANTING Defendants' motion.
September 23, 2014, Mr. Taren was parked on the side of a
street in Ogden, Utah. (ECF No. 38, at ¶ 17, Amend.
Compl.) His dog, Annie, was with him in the car. Id.
Defendant Officer Reaves approached Mr. Taren's vehicle,
and Mr. Taren drove away, and then abandoned his car on foot,
leaving Annie inside. Id. at ¶ 18. Officer
Reaves, or another officer of defendant Ogden City Police
Department, impounded Annie. Id. Annie was
thereafter placed in the custody of the Weber County Animal
Shelter. (ECF No. 60-1, at ¶¶ 3-6.) Mr. Taren was
arrested the next day and remained in jail throughout the
events that gave rise to his complaint. (ECF No. 38, at
¶¶ 20 & 24, Amend. Compl.) Thereafter,
“sometimes before September 30, 2014, ” an
acquaintance of Mr. Taren, Mr. Reyna, attempted to retrieve
Annie, but Weber County Animal Shelter would not release her
to him. Id. at ¶ 25. Annie was euthanized on
September 30, 2014. Id. at ¶ 33. By Amended
Complaint filed on August 4, 2017, Mr. Taren alleges that
Defendants violated his rights under the Fourth and
Fourteenth Amendments by seizing and destroying Annie without
notice and asks this court to grant him declaratory judgment
affirming that Defendants had a constitutional duty to warn
him before Annie was euthanized. Id. at ¶¶
40-63. Defendants move for summary judgment on each of these
claims. Defendants' motion for summary judgment was filed
and mailed to Mr. Taren on January 15, 2019. Mr. Taren has
not responded to the motion.
judgment is proper when the moving party demonstrates that
there is no genuine issue of material fact and that it is
entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a).
A material fact is one that may affect the outcome of the
litigation. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477
U.S. 242, 248 (1986). The moving party bears the initial
burden of showing an absence of evidence to support the
nonmoving party's case. Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325 (1986). “Once the
moving party meets this burden, the burden shifts to the
nonmoving party to demonstrate a genuine issue for trial on a
material matter.” Id. The court must
“view the evidence and draw reasonable inferences
therefrom in a light most favorable to the nonmoving
party.” Commercial Union Ins. Co. v. Sea Harvest
Seafood Co., 251 F.3d 1294, 1298 (10th Cir. 2001).
Taren is proceeding pro se. While the court
therefore interprets the allegations in the complaint
liberally, “even pro se litigants must do more than
make mere conclusory statements regarding constitutional
claims.” Brown v. Zavaras, 63 F.3d 967, 972
(10th Cir. 1995) (citing United States v. Fisher, 38
F.3d 1144, 1147 (10th Cir.1994)). And although the court will
not require from Mr. Taren the formality expected of parties
proceeding with the representation of counsel, he
“nevertheless must follow the same rules of procedure
that govern other litigants.” Green v.
Dorrell, 969 F.2d 915, 917 (10th Cir. 1992) (citation
omitted). One of these such rules is that “‘once
a properly supported summary judgment motion is made, the
opposing party may not rest on the allegations contained in
his complaint, but must respond with specific facts showing
the existence of a genuine factual issue to be
tried.'” Otteson v. United States, 622
F.2d 516, 519 (10th Cir. 1980) (quoting Coleman v.
Darden, 595 F.2d 533, 536 (10th Cir. 1979)). Mr. Taren
did not respond to Defendants' motion for summary
judgment, and although the Court views the allegations of Mr.
Taren's Amended Complaint as true, in determining if
summary judgment is proper, Mr. Taren's Amended Complaint
cannot refute Defendants' arguments.
Defendants are entitled to summary judgment on Mr.
Taren's first and second causes of action because Mr.
Taren abandoned Annie and because Defendants did not have
custody of Annie and were not responsible for her
Taren's first and second causes of action allege that
Defendants violated 42 USC § 1983 and the Fourth and
Fourteenth Amendments through four actions: 1) impounding
Annie; 2) euthanizing Annie; 3) not providing him notice that
Annie would be euthanized; and 4) refusing to release Annie
to his authorized representative. The Fourth Amendment, made
applicable to the States by the Fourteenth Amendment,
protects “[t]he right of the people to be secure in
their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against
unreasonable searches and seizures.” U.S. Const. amend.
IV. The Fourteenth Amendment guarantees that no State shall
“deprive any person of life, liberty, or property,
without due process of law.” U.S. Const. amend. XIV,
§ 1. The court reads Mr. Taren's pleadings to allege
that the first two actions of Defendants violated the Fourth
Amendment and the second two violated the Fourteenth
Defendants did not violate Mr. Taren's Fourth
uncontested that Defendants took Annie and put her in the
custody of the Weber County Animal Shelter. (ECF No. 38, at
¶ 18, Amend. Compl.; ECF No. 60-1, at ¶¶ 3-6.)
This clearly constitutes a “seizure” under the
Fourth Amendment. Mayfield v. Bethards, 826 F.3d
1252, 1256 (10th Cir. 2016) (“‘A
“seizure” of property occurs when there is some
meaningful interference with an individual's possessory
interests in that property.'” (quoting United
States v. Jacobsen, 466 U.S. 109, 113 (1984)). The Tenth
Circuit has specifically recognized that “it is
unlawful to seize a dog absent a warrant or circumstances
justifying an exception to the warrant requirement.”
Id. However, the Tenth Circuit has also recognized
that “[w]hen individuals voluntarily abandon property,
they forfeit any expectation of privacy in it that they might
have had. Therefore, a warrantless search or seizure of
abandoned property is not unreasonable under the Fourth
Amendment.” United States v. Jones, 707 F.2d
1169, 1172 (10th Cir. 1983) (citations omitted). Here, it is
uncontested that Defendants only seized Annie because Mr.
Taren had abandoned her inside of his car as he fled from the
police. (ECF No. 38, at ¶ 18, Amend. Compl.) Thus, an
“exception to the warrant requirement” existed,
and it was not unreasonable, and therefore not a violation of
the Fourth Amendment, for Defendants to seize Annie.
to Mr. Taren's claim that Defendants violated the Fourth
Amendment by euthanizing Annie, the court finds that
Defendants were not responsible for Annie's death. In his
Amended Complaint, Mr. Taren's alleges that Defendants
impounded Annie with “Ogden Animal Services” and
that “Animal Services killed Annie.” (ECF No. 38,
at ¶¶ 18 and 33, Amend. Compl.) However, Defendants
allege that, pursuant to Ogden City Ordinance 13-2-9(B),
they placed Annie in the custody of Weber County Animal
Shelter, and that Weber County Animal Shelter was responsible
for Annie's euthanasia. (ECF No. 60-1, at ¶¶
3-6.) Because Mr. Taren has not responded to Defendants'
motion or refuted these assertions, the court treats them as
uncontested. See Otteson, 622 F.2d at 519.
Defendants did not euthanize Annie and had no control over
the entity that did euthanize her. They are not therefore
responsible for her death and cannot be found to have
violated Mr. Taren's constitutional rights.
Defendants had been responsible for Annie's euthanasia,
such action was not a violation of Mr. Taren's
constitutional rights. As recognized by the Tenth Circuit,
“[k]illing a dog meaningfully and permanently
interferes with the owner's possessory interest. It
therefore constitutes a violation of the owner's Fourth
Amendment rights absent a warrant or some exception to the
warrant requirement.” Mayfield, 826 F.3d at
1256. Again, because Mr. Taren abandoned Annie, it was not
unreasonable under, or a violation of, the Fourth Amendment
for Defendants to euthanize her. See Jones, 707 F.2d
at 1172. While the court is sympathetic to the emotional pain
that Mr. Taren suffered as a result of Annie's death, he
simply does not have a claim against Defendants. Defendants
are entitled to summary judgment on Mr. Taren's claims
that they violated his Fourth Amendment rights.
Defendants did not violate Mr. Taren's ...