JONES COUNTY, Miss. (WDAM) - The Mississippi Supreme Court has denied petitions of appeal from Jones County Sheriff Alex Hodge and The Humane Society of the United States after Circuit Judge Dal Williamson ruled the 2018 seizure of five personal pets from David and Mary Ellen Senne was unconstitutional.
The Sennes were the target of a Jones County Sheriff’s Office and HSUS animal cruelty raid on July 11, 2018, where 55 dogs, 34 cats and 17 dead animals were seized from their 161-acre property on Lyons Ranch Road. The Sennes were each charged with aggravated animal cruelty.
Five household dogs were also taken in the raid, which the Sennes argued was unconstitutional. The Sennes also claimed they were led to believe they would be able to keep their five household pets if they agreed to surrender the other animals.
The Jones County Sheriff claimed the Sennes failed to request a hearing and post bond for the animals, estimated by the sheriff’s office to be $4,750, according to court documents. Under §97-41-2 of Mississippi code, failure to post bond within three days of requesting a hearing results in the forfeiture of the animals to the court.
Williamson ruled the bond requirement in §97-41-2, which can deprive a pet owner of property without finding guilt, was unconstitutional. The court declared the forfeiture order by the Jones County Justice Court to be void.
Hodge and HSUS filed motions to reconsider Williamson’s ruling, which he denied and ordered the case to trial. If the trial court finds in favor of the Sennes, Hodge and HSUS must return the animals or pay the “value of the property, if the property cannot be found.”
Both HSUS and Hodge have said they are not in possession of the animals. According to court documents, possession of the animals was transferred to a third party rescue in Washington D.C. after the Sennes failed to request a hearing.
The HSUS and Hodge filed separate petitions to appeal Williamson’s ruling before the state Supreme Court. The Supreme Court denied the appeal of HSUS on Sept. 18. and Hodge’s the following day.