In May of 2018, three federal judges from the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in Los Angeles ruled that a homeless man named Martino Recchia is going to be able to file a lawsuit against the Los Angeles Department of Animal Services. The lawsuit is able to go forward based on the man’s rights under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which is meant to stop unreasonable search and seizure.
The Problem With the Pigeons
It was in November of 2011 when officers took the animals that were in Recchia’s care at the time. He had 18 pigeons, along with a seagull and a crow. He was homeless at the time, and he was keeping the birds in makeshift cages, some made from cardboard, on the street. The authorities searched his belongings without having a warrant after he was questioned.
The authorities found that many of the animals that were being kept were not healthy, and they took the birds to a veterinarian, where they were euthanized. The animals were in different states of health, with some being seriously ill according to the authorities. They decided to seize all of the animals, not just those that were unhealthy. They claimed that the animals were in unsanitary conditions, although they did have access to food and water.
The condition of the animals is not entirely clear, as there are several sides with varying stories. There are claims that one of the pigeons had a large tumor, while another had an eye that was shriveled. One kept walking in circles and shaking. There were others that had lost feathers. They also claim that many were deformed, had diseases, or were somehow distressed. In addition, reports state that the birds did not have any room to fly, the cages were coated in feces, and that it was an unsanitary environment for the birds, and potentially for the humans around them.
When they seized the animals, they gave Recchia 10 days to request a hearing to have the animals returned to him. However, the veterinarian for the city did not wait until those 10 days were up before euthanizing all of the pigeons. The vet claims to be worried that they might be carrying pathogens, although they were never tested.
While there is little doubt that the birds were probably in dire shape, and that many were likely very unhealthy and improperly cared for, they still have to consider the rights that were violated. If it turns out that they did violate his constitutional rights, it could mean that he wins the case.
Keep in mind that in a previous lawsuit, the lower district court sided with the city. Now, the new case will be able to proceed because of the violation of his constitutional rights. This approaches the case from an entirely different angle, and we will have to wait to see exactly what happens.