A federal judge has denied the Animal Welfare League of Trumbull County’s attempt to have dismissed a lawsuit that was filed by a former Brookfield woman whose animals the league seized.
League Humane Agent Harold Firster received a warrant from Trumbull County Central District Court Judge Thomas Campbell to seize the animals in November 2017. Lucie Thompson lived in the 7100 block of Warren Sharon Road in Brookfield at the time, and the league responded to complaints from passers-by, some of whom also launched a social media outrage campaign.
The league seized two horses, chickens, ducks, a pig and a dog. Most of the animals were taken to Happy Trails Farm Animal Sanctuary, Ravenna, while the league accepted the dog.
The league charged Thompson with animal cruelty, and she was found guilty at trial in May 2018 by Campbell. She received a sentence of 1 year of probation, but Campbell also ordered permanent removal of the animals.
Thompson appealed her conviction, but it was upheld Nov. 25, 2019, by the 11th District Court of Appeals, Warren.
The initial civil suit was filed Nov. 18, 2019, in U.S. District Court, Youngstown, but was amended Jan. 26. The suit claims the defendants violated Thompson’s 14th Amendment right to due process by seizing the dog without a hearing as required under state law. It also alleges the seizure of the dog violated a state law concerning companion animals, and that the league’s investigation was not “meaningful” or “adequate.”
The suit seeks damages and the return of the dog.
The league and Firster filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings, arguing that Thompson’s due process claims had been litigated in the previous legal actions and that her allegations concerning the league’s handling of the investigation were vague assertions.
Senior U.S. District Court Judge Christopher Boyko on Nov. 18 said the 11th District Court of Appeals never decided her due process claim – instead ruling it was immaterial as to whether she was guilty of animal cruelty – leaving Thompson “free to pursue it in this court.”
As to her allegations concerning the league’s handling of her case, it is preferred that she would offer more specific facts, but the facts she has presented make it plausible that she will be able to prove her case, Boyko said.