HSUS takes Senne lawsuit to Mississippi Supreme Court

Updated: Aug. 7, 2019 at 8:03 AM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WDAM) - The Humane Society of the United States is asking the Mississippi Supreme Court to review a ruling made by Jones County Circuit Court Judge Dal Williamson regarding the seizure of household pets during an investigation into animal cruelty allegations.

The case dates back to July 11, 2018, when the Jones County Sheriff’s Office and HSUS seized 55 dogs, 34 cats and 17 dead animals from property belonging to David and Mary Ellen Senne on Lyon Ranch Road. The Sennes insist five of the pets taken during the raid were their personal, household pets and should not have been taken.

Both David and Mary Ellen are charged with aggravated cruelty to a dog or cat in the investigation.

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In late July, Williamson ruled the seizure of the Sennes’ pets unconstitutional, saying the couple’s right to due process was violated. Williamson also said the dogs were seized by “constitutionally defective means.”

Williamson denied motions to reconsider from Jones County Sheriff Alex Hodge and HSUS and ordered the case to trial. Court documents say if the Sennes win the trial, Hodge and HSUS must return the animals to them or pay the “value of the property, if the property ‘cannot be found.”

HSUS contends Williams erred in ruling the animals would have to be returned to the Sennes because neither the organization nor the Jones County Sheriff’s Office had legal possession of the pets when the Sennes filed their lawsuit.

On the day of the Lyon Ranch Road raid, the Sennes claim they were led to believe they would be allowed to keep their five pets if they agreed to surrender the rest of the animals on the property. Court documents filed by HSUS dispute this claim, saying the pets were seized in accordance with a court order separate from the voluntary surrender form signed by the Sennes regarding the other animals.

HSUS argues the Sennes failed to request a hearing seeking to have the animals returned in a timely manner and failed to post the $4,750 bond required to have the animals returned within the three-day time limit.

According to court documents, possession of the animals was transferred to a third party rescue organization in Washington D.C. after the deadline to request a hearing had passed.

HSUS is asking the state high court to reverse Williamson’s decision to deny the organization’s motion for summary judgement and issue judgement in favor of HSUS, thus bringing the case to a close and avoiding any further legal wrangling.

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