UPDATE: HSUS Pays Up in Unlawful Pet Seizure
A couple of months ago, we told you about the Sennes saga. The story of an elderly couple from Mississippi who just wanted their pets back after HSUS unconstitutionally removed them.
The saga started when HSUS and the local sheriff’s department arrived at the Sennes’ estate. The group decided to pay the Sennes a visit after the elderly couple were accused of mistreating the animals the couple had cared for on their property. The Sennes, who claim a local animal shelter used them as a doggy drop-off, surrendered the animals on their property—except for five elderly dogs that lived in their house.
HSUS and the sheriff’s department agreed to leave the dogs with the elderly couple, with an HSUS representative writing “All animals removed from the above listed property with the exception of Miss Poo, Loco, Sister Angel, Precious, and Abby.” The note clearly stated the five animals should’ve been left in the care of the Sennes.
But the sheriff’s department and HSUS didn’t follow through with the promise and removed the five dogs from the residence.
Litigation ensued. After a courtroom battle, the actions of HSUS and the sheriff’s department were found to be unconstitutional. The trial judge, Dal Williamson, found HSUS and the sheriff’s office had violated the couple’s 14th Amendment rights. Judge Williamson also ordered that HSUS compensate the Sennes with either the missing animals or a financial equivalent.
Unhappy with the ruling, HSUS and the sheriff’s department appealed to the Mississippi Supreme Court–and lost.
In addition, the local prosecutor declined to prosecute the animal cruelty charges against the Sennes. The charges were based on a search warrant that was deemed unconstitutional by Judge Williamson.
So what about HSUS?
The organization and the Sennes came to a settlement, with HSUS and the sheriff’s office agreeing to pay a total of $5,000, reveal the location of the animals, and publicly admit the animals “were not voluntarily relinquished.”
The five pups were transferred around the state of Mississippi, then to an airport in Manassas, Virginia. In Manassas, the animals were retrieved by Angels of Assisi, an organization that operates in Roanoke, Virginia. The organization then adopted all five animals out to new caretakers by early September 2018. Given the older age of the dogs, the Sennes didn’t want to uproot them from their new homes.
$5,000 is a paltry sum of money for what appears to be serious misconduct, but it was the maximum amount possible. According to the Sennes’ lawyer, “They were paid maximum value for these animals, you can’t get compensation for emotional damages.” The sheriff who led the raid lost the primary in his reelection campaign and will not be in office come January 2020.