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Babin v. Parish of Jefferson

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

January 11, 2017

CATHERYN BABIN
v.
THE PARISH OF JEFFERSON, ET AL.

         SECTION "F"

          ORDER AND REASONS

          MARTIN L. C. FELDMAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the Court are two motions: (1) Jefferson Parish's motion for summary judgment; and (2) the Plaintiff's motion for partial summary judgment. For the reasons that follow, the motions are DENIED without prejudice.

         Background

         This lawsuit for declaratory and injunctive relief and money damages presents a constitutional challenge to a municipal code provision proscribing animal cruelty. Because no evidence is submitted in support of the motions for summary judgment, these facts are drawn from the allegations of the complaint.

         On April 11, 2015, shortly after noon, the temperature was in the low 70s with overcast skies. Catheryn Babin was driving with her two-year-old Catahoula/Labrador mix, Peyton Legion, in her Mini-Cooper convertible. Ms. Babin stopped at Big Lots on Veterans Boulevard in Jefferson Parish to buy dog food. Leaving the windows rolled down and the convertible top pulled back just enough to expose the front seats, Ms. Babin exited her car, leaving Peyton Legion to wait in the car.

         Meanwhile, at 12:12 p.m., while Ms. Babin was shopping in Big Lots, a woman named Ashley McMurry called the Jefferson Parish 911 operator to complain that a dog was left unattended for 10 minutes. Ms. McMurry told the operator that the dog was panting and looked “uncomfortable, ” although she also told the operator that the windows were down, it was “not that hot, ” and that the dog did not appear to be in distress. A Jefferson Parish Sheriff's deputy was dispatched to the scene.

         When Ms. Babin exited Big Lots, Ms. McMurry confronted her, complaining that the dog was left alone in the car. Ms. Babin showed her that the door was unlocked; as soon as she opened the car door, Peyton Legion came to Ms. Babin and he was then on-leash in the parking lot. Ms. McMurry continued to complain and berate Ms. Babin.

         At about 12:25 p.m., Deputy Micah P. Blange arrived on the scene. He spoke with Ms. McMurry and another individual. Soon thereafter, another Jefferson Parish Sheriff's deputy, Michael Voltolina, Jr., arrived at Big Lots. Voltolina examined Ms. Babin's car and explained to her that deputies were required to come to the scene to investigate, but that he did not see cause for issuing a summons. After Voltolina left Ms. Babin, Blange drove over to speak to her. Blange asked her three questions about her identity and then asked why she had not left her dog at home. Ms. Babin explained that she and Peyton Legion were on their way home from visiting a senior center; Peyton Legion is a trained service animal who spent the morning working with Alzheimer's patients at the center.

         Blange told Ms. Babin that he was issuing her a criminal misdemeanor summons. Ms. Babin asked why, to which Blange responded that it was two against one. Blange released Ms. Babin after issuing a summons for violation of Jefferson Parish Code Section 7-126(d), which provides:

         Sec. 7-126. - Cruelty in general.

(a) No person shall ill-treat, neglect, abandon, or cruelly treat an animal. No person shall unnecessarily or cruelly beat, mutilate, kill, torture, inflict injury, or abuse, or cause or procure to be cruelly beaten, mutilated, killed, tortured, injured, or abused, any animal or commit any act which under any other law constitutes cruel treatment, or fail to provide obviously necessary veterinary care.
(b) No animal shall be tethered as a means of stationary confinement; such stationary confinement by tethering shall be considered as cruel treatment.
(c) No animal shall be denied access to proper food, water, shelter, sanitary and safe environment, or proper veterinary care as is provided in section ...

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