Owner of Seized Dogs Files Civil Rights Lawsuit in Federal Court

A lawsuit filed by Mississippi pet owner Deborah K. Alverson alleges that on March 26, 2013, her two dogs were sunbathing in her yard.  The dogs were China, an 8 year old pug with some vision and hearing problems, and Black Betty, a 4 year old puggle with severe hip dysplasia.  Both dogs were receiving regular vet care.  A Harrison Co ACO, operating under the sheriff’s office, questioned Ms. Alverson’s neighbor about the dogs and was told they were not being neglected.  The ACO seized the dogs without a court order and brought them to the Humane Society of South Mississippi.  He charged Ms. Alverson with animal cruelty.  She immediately tried to get her dogs back, without success:

Alverson was not allowed to retrieve them and tried to request an emergency hearing in Justice Court, but allegedly was unable to have a hearing because the officer failed to turn in the paperwork on the seizure.

Alverson complained to sheriff’s officials but was told the officer’s actions were proper. Alverson believes the charges were filed against her in retaliation.

The lawsuit goes on to allege that China died in the care of the Humane Society of South Mississippi, that Ms. Alverson was not informed of the death in a timely manner and that she was refused permission to take China’s body home with her.  The charges against Ms. Alverson were dismissed for lack of evidence several months later.

Ms. Alverson filed a civil rights suit in December against the Harrison County Board of Supervisors, Sheriff Melvin Brisolara and the ACO, who reportedly has since left the sheriff’s office.

Alverson alleges she was not afforded due process and was the victim of malicious prosecution under color of law.

Some details of the case are unclear and I do not know if the owner ever got the surviving dog back.  The article in the Sun Herald rightly points out:

A lawsuit represents only one side of a complaint.

In this case, it represents Ms. Alverson’s version of events.  I searched the internet in an effort to find the other side of the story but failed to find any mention of the original case online.  I also contacted the Harrison Co board clerk to ask if the board had yet responded to the lawsuit.  As of this posting, I haven’t received a reply.  If the lawsuit proceeds in the courts, I imagine the Sun Herald will report on it.  Let’s keep our eyes open.

(Thanks Clarice for the link.)

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13 Comments

  1. db

     /  January 14, 2014

    What an awful thing – and how badly this was handled. Glad this woman is not sitting still and is filing a lawsuit. And to lose one of her dogs, too, while in the “care” of the “humane” society. To not allow her to have her dog’s body back is rather suspicious to me, too. What are they hiding?

    Reply
    • Without hearing the county’s side of the story, I’m only speculating on what may have happened here. But it does strike me that this case appears to have elements in common with other stories we’ve covered on the blog where AC goes into a situation with guns a-blazin’ and the story ends with dropped charges and dead pets. I am always glad to see pet owners stand up for their rights in the courts and I’ll definitely be interested to see what happens with this case.

      Reply
  2. mikken

     /  January 14, 2014

    The neighbor told him they were not neglected. So what the hell was his reasoning for taking them in the first place?

    Reply
    • The owner’s lawsuit claims this was a retaliatory act. For what, I don’t know. And of course we don’t know the county’s stated reason at the time since, assuming the lawsuit info is accurate, they never filed the paperwork and the charges were dismissed. It’s odd that there is apparently no paper trail on this case. If the county had reasonable evidence supporting cruelty, they should have documented it since that is part of their job.

      Reply
  3. My heart breaks for this woman and her furry family members.

    Reply
  4. Chris

     /  January 14, 2014

    “… tried to request an emergency hearing in Justice Court, but allegedly was unable to have a hearing because the officer failed to turn in the paperwork on the seizure.”

    That was the oddest part of the story. Probably done through a phone call but if it was filed I would like to see that.

    Reply
  5. Adrianne Mock

     /  January 14, 2014

    unfortunately we are seeing FAR too much of this sort of thin in recent years,and it is escalating. Too many times dogs (or cats, or horses or… whatever) that are older, or under veterinary care for some condition, are deemed to be ‘abused’ or ‘mistreated’ by some agency, often on the “anonymous” statement of someone else. Elderly horses and cats in particular are darned hard to keep a ‘good’ weight on, even when they are healthy… they can look terrible. People make snap judgements…

    Several years ago (some of you may remember this… ) an elderly (12 yo I think) german shepherd was stolen out of his owners yard. He was tethered to a tree in the yard, lying in the sun… relaxing. He had access to shade, water etc. The tether was to keep him from wandering as he was nearly blind… the “rescuer” decided he was abused and ‘dying’ so she stole him, and the owner never saw him again… poor old dog. Taken from his family and ended up? Who knows…

    The owner usually has no recourse, their pets end up sick, sold to other owners or ‘rescues’ under the guise of ‘adoption’ or ‘rescue’ or.. as in this case, dead. More oversight? LESS power for individual ACOs who take things WAY too far… ? No idea. Sad for this poor woman and her pets…

    Reply
    • JenniferT

       /  January 15, 2014

      The dog’s name was Jake, and he was stolen from the yard by Tammy Grimes, of “Dogs Deserve Better, who has since changed her name to Tamira Ci Thayne after being found guilty of stealing the dog. She is also being investigated for cruelty in the home she bought that belonged to convicted dog fighter Michael Vick. The case of Jake was in central PA. I attended part of the trial. Jake died in the hands of strangers, missing his family of 17 years.

      Reply
  6. doug williams

     /  January 14, 2014

    I think the charges were the ‘retaliation” another threft under color of law by overzealous ACO’s who think they are above the law when it comes to animals.. how sad that her dog died alone.. and did the dog suffer? was it killed? where is the body? was it placed/ stolen.. who knows.. I hope she wins!

    Reply
  7. HAVE HER CALL ME. I MIGHT BE ABLE TO HELP HER. 352-293-5866

    Reply
  8. SORRY for the pain! May GOD bring full measure against these people and KARMA rain upon them and may the spirits of all living creatures torture them without rest till the end of time both awake, asleep, and in death may they suffer accordingly. Sounds like MAson County, IL. Same stuff- rich farmers using their money and influence to drive out people so they can buy the land at cheap rates destroying lives and property without any remorse.

    Write and send certified letters to all major state and federal institutions of your problems suffered and ask for an acknowledgement from the offices. Put up signs, banners, billboards, web sites post and put into the light of day what is going on! The bad people do not want others to know and they want everyone to feel alone and as if you are the only one. IT brings people to talking – and it lets business and religious leaders know what is going on. IT drives away new people they would try and make money off of from coming into the county and it makes people question the word of so called respected people!

    This country is headed straight to hell – thanks to the filthy rich controlling government! No longer a country of, by, and for the people.

    Cops are just like in third world countries and the only people that don’t know it is the average American. Just look at injustice everywhere web site!

    Reply
  9. Definitely sounds like other cases we’ve read about where ACOs or the cops have gone in to get retribution for something they view as a ‘slight’ against them by the dog owner. As someone who’s been harassed by our ACOs here, and had my dog owning next door neighbors harassed several times a week while walking their dog because of their vendetta against me when I was involved in trying to save a dog the ACOs were attempting to have killed, I know EXACTLY how petty and vindictive they can be. I’d put nothing past them.

    Reply

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