United States District Court, C.D. Illinois, Rock Island Division
DARROW DISTRICT JUDGE
the Court is the United States of America's motion for an
order of disposition of two pit-bull type dogs seized
pursuant to federal search warrants by the United States
Marshals in April 2016. Mot. Order Disposition 1, ECF No. 27.
The United States seeks authorization to euthanize the dogs
pursuant to 7 U.S.C. § 2156(f) of the Animal Welfare
Act. For the following reasons, the motion is GRANTED.
April 14, 2016, the United States Marshals seized sixty four
pit-bull type dogs as a result of an investigation into a
dog-fighting operation, including two identified as Brownie,
IL11DG03 and Taz, IL10C01. Mot. Order Disposition
(“Mot.”) 2, 3-7. Both dogs were seized from
locations containing strong indicia of dog-fighting,
including training devices, medications, documents, and
conditions of confinement (i.e. kennels with lack of access
to food and water) associated with dog-fighting, and both
dogs had typical, if not conclusive, physical indicia that
they had been subject to fighting. Mot. 3-7. The dogs have
remained in the custody of the American Society for the
Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (“ASPCA”), which
has provided shelter and administered veterinary and
rehabilitative care including medication and behavioral
modification training. See Mot. 8-11.
McDuffy, a resident where Brownie was seized, filed a claim
on May 13, 2016 stating that he had not participated in any
dog-fighting, and requesting that his “listed item[s],
” including nine pit-bull type dogs-one of which was
Brownie-be returned to him. McDuffy's Claim, ECF No. 11.
The claim was not verified by oath or affirmation, nor was it
served on the appropriate attorney for the United States.
Id. McDuffy filed an answer on June 7, 2016,
McDuffy's Ans. 2-3, ECF No. 22, denying all allegations
in the Verified Complaint relating to him, though his answer
was not served on the appropriate attorney for the United
States. Mot. 6.
McCoy, a resident where Taz was seized, filed a claim on May
17, 2016, requesting his “things back.”
McCoy's Claim, ECF No. 14. Taz was one of two pit-bull
type dogs seized at the location. Id. at 2; Mot. 7.
The claim was not verified nor was it served on the
appropriate attorney for the United States. See Id.
McCoy did not file an answer.
custody, ASPCA veterinarians assessed Brownie and found
physical signs that he had been forced to fight. Mot. 8. Over
the course of several months, Brownie's disposition
changed from fearfulness to aggression, and the ASPCA's
Anti-Cruelty Behavior Team attempted to address his tendency
to bite handlers through behavior modification, then
medication for anxiety. Behaviorist Euthanasia Request 1-2,
ECF No. 27-5. When these approaches did not work,
Brownie's kennel was modified to limit his exposure to
handlers for their safety. Id. at 2. Brownie has
injured multiple ASPCA employees by biting their arms and
legs. Id. ASPCA officials have determined that
Brownie will continue to pose a threat, and that his health
and wellness will deteriorate due to the necessity to keep
him confined. Id.
a similar history of aggression toward other dogs and humans,
and the ASPCA Field Investigations and Response Manager found
that Taz was hyper-stressed, could not safely interact with
humans, could not be taken safely to the exercise area or
outside, could not be pet or stroked, and otherwise showed
signs of “kennel stress.” Ex. D 2-3, ECF No.
27-6. Taz has been confined to his cage with no exercise or
human interaction since July 1, 2016, when he bit the arm of
one of the handlers, resulting in a serious puncture wound.
Behaviorist Euthanasia Request 1.
dogs have bitten their human handlers to the point of injury,
resulting in the ASPCA's decision to modify their cages
to minimize human interaction. Id. An ASPCA official
described the condition both dogs are being kept in as
Id. After several months in ASPCA's care, the
United States reports that both Brownie and Taz have become
aggressive and agitated, pose a danger to their handlers, and
have little prospect of rehabilitation. Mot. 8-11.
of the safety concerns for human handlers and the
determination that it would be inhumane to keep the dogs
alive in their physical and psychological states, the United
States moves for an order of disposition seeking permission
to euthanize Brownie and Taz pursuant to the Animal Welfare
Act. Mot. 8. The United States argues that the Act permits
euthanasia when “an animal cannot be safely cared for
and the animal's quality of life is so poor that
maintaining the animal any longer would be inhumane.”
Mot. 7-8. Lastly, the Government argues McDuffy and McCoy
have not complied with Rule G(5)(a) of the Supplemental Rules
of Civil Procedure applicable to forfeiture claims and
therefore do not have standing to contest a forfeiture or
order of disposition. Mot. 6-7.
Animal Welfare Act makes it illegal “to knowingly sell,
buy, possess, train, transport, deliver, or receive any
animal for purposes of having the animal participate in an
animal fighting venture.” 7 U.S.C. § 2156(b).
“[A]ny animal which there is probable cause to believe
was involved in any violation of this section” may be
seized by the United States and “shall be liable to be
proceeded against and forfeited to the United States.”
Id. § 2156(f). The Act provides that
“[n]ecessary care including veterinary treatment shall
be provided while the animals are . . .held in
Court finds that the dogs are living in wretched conditions
without any hope for a brighter future. Accordingly, it would
be inhumane to allow the dogs to continue suffering. Based on
the clear psychological distress and physical discomfort
experienced by these two dogs, the Court finds that
euthanasia falls within the “necessary care” that
a veterinarian-such as one of the many who have examined and
attempted to treat these two dogs-may provide.
neither of the claims made on each of the two
dogs-McDuffy's on Brownie nor McCoy's on Taz-comply
with Supplemental Admiralty and Maritime Rule G, which
delineates the procedure governing forfeiture actions in rem.
Supplemental Admiralty and Maritime Claims Rule G(5). A party
asserting an interest in seized property must file a verified
claim, identifying the property and the claimant's
interest, and serve it on the United States. Id. at
G(5)(a)(i). A claimant who fails to meet the aforementioned
requirements lacks standing to contest the forfeiture.
United States v. Commodity Account No. 549 54930 at Saul
Stone & Co., 219 F.3d 595, 598 (7th Cir. 2000).
Claimaints must ...