Sennes continue legal battle over seized pets

Dozens of animals were seized from the Sennes' 161-acre property on Lyons Ranch in Jones County...
Dozens of animals were seized from the Sennes' 161-acre property on Lyons Ranch in Jones County in July 2018.(WDAM)
Updated: Jun. 10, 2019 at 5:16 PM CDT
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JONES COUNTY, Miss. (WDAM) - David and Mary Ellen Senne continued their legal battle with Jones County Sheriff Alex Hodge and The Humane Society of the United States with the filing of several new motions in the Circuit Court on June 3.

The Sennes had their property raided on July 11, 2018, by the Jones County Sheriff’s Department and the Humane Society of the United States. Dozens of animals were seized from their 161-acre property on Lyons Ranch. The Sennes were each charged with aggravated animal cruelty.

The couple filed an amended order denying motions for summary judgement in the Circuit Court for the First Judicial District of Jones County, claiming that Hodge and HSUS violated their rights under the U.S. and state constitutions when five of their personal pets were seized in the raid.

Hodge and the Humane Society have said they are not in possession of the animals.

On June 3, the Sennes filed a reply brief and three motions in Circuit Court, arguing that Hodge and HSUS have constructive possession, if not actual possession, of the animals and have failed to produce the animals for the legal proceedings, despite agreeing to do so in a pre-deployment cooperative agreement.

The Sennes maintain that the initial seizure of the personal pets was not legal and the notice given after the seizure, which stated that the Sennes must post bond for $4,750 or forfeit the animals to the court, was unconstitutional.

The court had previously said it had serious concerns about the constitutionality of that portion of the seizure notice and said plaintiffs shall notify Attorney General Jim Hood to intervene and argue constitutionality. Hood was given notice of the latest filings, according to court documents.

J. Ronald Parish, attorney for the Sennes, said in the filings that the couple just wants their five pet dogs to be returned.

“Suing for monetary damages is not the preferred remedy for such persons [Sennes]. They prefer their animals returned (pet dogs illegally ripped from their home). The monetary value of these dogs may be negligible compared to the emotional devastation suffered by these elderly citizens,” the brief said.

The Sennes filed a motion for the defendants to be held in contempt for not producing the animals for the legal proceeding. They also motioned for Hodge and the HSUS to be compelled to produce the animals to be held in the jurisdiction of the courts, arguing that the Sennes should have at least temporary custody of the pets pending the outcome of the litigation.

“I hope I am wrong in suspecting that Defendants have had the Senne’s pets killed. Alive or dead, the defendants know the truth," Parish said in the motion. "It’s time for the Defendants to come clean. If we are arguing about animals that have been killed, Plaintiffs and the Court are entitled to know. If the animals are alive they need to be returned to the territorial jurisdiction of the Court. By law, and their own agreement, they are obligated to do so.”

The Sennes also filed a motion for a summary judgement be granted in their favor.

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