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Munoz v. Umatilla County

United States District Court, D. Oregon, Pendleton Division

March 5, 2015

SUSAN MUNOZ, LAURETTA KEENE, and DOROTHY ZINTER, Plaintiffs,
v.
UMATILLA COUNTY, a municipal entity, JOHN TRUMBO, TERRY ROWAN, DARREN PARSONS, MARK GRUENWALD, in their individual capacities, Defendants.

OPINION AND ORDER

PATRICIA SULLIVAN, Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiffs Susan Munoz, Lauretta Keene, and Dorothy Zinter filed this action against defendants John Trumbo, Terry Rowan, Darren Parsons, Mark Gruenwald, [1] and Umatilla County ("County"), alleging numerous claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and state law. Defendants move for summary judgment pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. R. 56. All parties have consented to a Magistrate Judge in accordance with Fed.R.Civ.P. 73 and 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). For the reasons set forth below, defendants' motion is granted as to plaintiffs' federal claims. The remaining state law claims are dismissed without prejudice.

BACKGROUND[2]

Ms. Zinter, the mother of both Ms. Munoz and Ms. Keene, owns a parcel of land, located at 2045 West Orchard, in Hermiston, Oregon. Sherman Decl. Ex. 1, at 2-3. In the 1990s or 2000s, Ms. Zinter gifted one acre of her property, known as 2035 West Orchard, to Ms. Keene, however, Ms. Keene resided in Ms. Zinter's basement at all relevant times. Id. at 3-4; Sherman Decl. Ex. 2, at 2-3. Ms. Munoz and her husband, Sabas Martinez, also lived on Ms. Zinter's property, although they resided in a separate mobile home. Sherman Decl. Ex. 1, at 3-4; Sherman Decl. Ex. 3, at 3.

On April 22, 2009, Ms. Keene was convicted of four counts of animal neglect in the first degree and four counts of animal neglect in the second degree under to Or. Rev. Stat. § 167.330 and Or. Rev. Stat. § 167.325, respectively.[3] Sherman Decl. Exs. 4-5. As a result of these convictions, Ms. Keene was sentenced to bench probation for three years and precluded from possessing or owning any farm or domestic animal for five years pursuant to Or. Rev. Stat. § 167.332.[4] Id.

On August 9, 2009, Luanne and Eugene Gardner reported to the County that there were "10 to 15 dogs [on Ms. Zinter's property and] one got hit by a car" but did not receive any veterinary treatment. Sherman Decl. Ex. 6. On August 10, 2009, the County received another animal-related complaint; an anonymous caller stated that "[Ms.] Keene has several dogs [she] does not take care of, " two of which "have been hit by a car in the past 2 weeks." Sherman Decl. Ex. 7. On August 16, 2009, at approximately 5:05 p.m., Adam Cline called the County to report there were "15 dogs, mostly border collies" on plaintiffs' properties. Sherman Decl. Ex. 8, at 3. Mr. Cline remarked further that one of these dogs "has been hit by a truck, and has had this problem for at least 4 days." Id.; Gruenwald Decl. ¶ 6. According to Mr. Cline, "[t]he owners have been home but have not done anything about it." Id.

At approximately 6:10 p.m., Deputy Gruenwald responded to Mr. Cline's report. Gruenwald Decl. ¶ 6. Deputy Gruenwald "knew that [Ms.] Zinter and [Ms.] Keene lived at the property" because he had been there previously "in response to complaints about animals." Id. at ¶¶ 5, 7; Gruenwald Decl. Ex. A, at 1. He therefore asked dispatch to check the conditions of Ms. Keene's probation. Gruenwald Decl. ¶ 7. When Deputy Gruenwald arrived on scene, he "did not see any No Trespassing' signs on the property, " although two such signs were posted. Id.; Munoz Decl. ¶ 7. From the driveway, Deputy Gruenwald observed "approximately 15 to 20 dogs, the majority of which were on [Ms. Keene's adjacent property], " as well as a horse inside a small corral. Gruenwald Decl. ¶ 8; Gruenwald Decl. Ex. A, at 1-2. He could not see any food in any of the dogs' dishes and the horse's water was dirty. Gruenwald Decl. ¶ 8; Gruenwald Decl. Ex. A, at 2; see also Cline Decl. ¶ 7 ("[w]hen I met Deputy Gruenwald, I observed that many of the dogs on the properties looked malnourished"). Deputy Gruenwald then saw a black and white "malnourished and very thin [border collie-type dog] dragging its hind legs as it moved." Gruenwald Decl. ¶ 9; Gruenwald Decl. Ex. A, at 2. He contacted the on-call supervisor, Undersheriff Rowan, who counseled him to "dispose of the dog on scene if possible" and, if not possible, contact the Humane Society of Eastern Oregon ("Pet Rescue") "to come and euthanize the dog." Id. Deputy Gruenwald and Undersheriff Rowan also discussed the possibility of seizing the remaining animals with the help of Pet Rescue due to the numerous animal-related complaints the County had received in association with plaintiffs' land. Gruenwald Decl. ¶ 10; Gruenwald Decl. Ex. A, at 2. Deputy Gruenwald managed to catch the injured dog and, with the help of Mr. Cline, placed it inside a pet carrier that he found on scene. Gruenwald Decl. ¶ 11; Gruenwald Decl. Ex. A, at 2.

At approximately 6:35 p.m., Ms. Keene arrived home from work. Id. Deputy Gruenwald asked Ms. Keene if the dogs had any food. Id. She replied that they did not, although she was planning on buying some. Id. At approximately 6:41 p.m., Deputy Gruenwald advised Ms. Keene of her Miranda rights. Gruenwald Decl. ¶ 12; Gruenwald Decl. Ex. A, at 2; Sherman Decl. Ex. 2, at 6. Ms. Keene indicated that she understood her rights and agreed to speak with Deputy Gruenwald about the animals on her property. Gruenwald Decl. ¶ 12; Gruenwald Decl. Ex. A, at 2. Accordingly, Deputy Gruenwald asked Ms. Keene how many of the dogs were hers and she responded: "I have my five dogs... some of these dogs are my sister's, " including the injured one. Gruenwald Decl. ¶ 13; Gruenwald Decl. Ex. A, at 3; Sherman Decl. Ex. 2, at 4-5. Ms. Keene explained that she knew the border collie had been injured for "about a week" because it had difficulty using its hind legs to walk. Id.; see also Sherman Decl. Ex. 3, at 5-6 (Ms. Munoz testifying that the injured dog had been injured and "dr[a]g[ging] her back hind legs for a couple of days"). She recalled that Ms. Munoz was considering taking the injured dog into the veterinarian the following week "if she doesn't show more movement." Sherman Decl. Ex. 2, at 4; Gruenwald Decl. Ex. A, at 3; Sherman Decl. Ex. 3, at 5; see also Cline Decl. ¶ 5 (Mr. Cline recounting that he spoke with Ms. Zinter on August 12, 2009, about the injured dog and she informed him "that her daughter planned to take the dog to a veterinarian").

Mr. Martinez subsequently appeared at his residence. Gruenwald Decl. ¶ 14; Gruenwald Decl. Ex. A, at 3. Deputy Gruenwald asked Mr. Martinez if the injured border collie belonged to his wife, Ms. Munoz, and pointed to the pet carrier. Id. Mr. Martinez admitted to owning four dogs, some of which were in his trailer, but he expressly stated that neither he nor his wife owned the injured border collie. Id.; see also Sherman Decl. Ex. 3, at 4 (Ms. Munoz testifying that in August 2009 she "had five or six" dogs). Deputy Gruenwald tried calling Ms. Munoz twice but got no answer. Gruenwald Decl. ¶ 15; Gruenwald Decl. Ex. A, at 3; Sherman Decl. Ex. 2, at 5.

Deputy Gruenwald also contacted Ms. Zinter, who arrived on scene per his request. Gruenwald Decl. ¶ 15; Gruenwald Decl. Ex. A, at 3. He asked Ms. Zinter who owned the land that the dogs and the horse were on; she remarked it was Ms. Keene's property. Id. Deputy Gruenwald next asked Ms. Zinter who owned the animals on that property and she reported they belonged to Ms. Keene, including the injured dog. Gruenwald Decl. ¶¶ 15-16; Gruenwald Decl. Ex. A, at 3; Sherman Decl. Ex. 1, at 6.

Deputy Gruenwald contacted Sheriff Trumbo and apprised him of the situation. Gruenwald Decl. ¶ 17; Gruenwald Decl. Ex. A, at 3. Sheriff Trumbo instructed Deputy Gruenwald "to leave the animals at the scene [so that the County could look into] possibly getting a court order, " although he agreed that "the injured dog should be disposed of on scene." Id. At approximately 7:25 p.m., Deputy Gruenwald sought assistance from Deputy Parsons. Id.; Parsons Decl. ¶ 5. At or around the same time, Pet Rescue arrived on-site and donated a bag of dog food. Gruenwald Decl. ¶ 18; Gruenwald Decl. Ex. A, at 3. Leaving the injured border collie with Pet Rescue "was not an option [because they] did not take injured dogs." Gruenwald Decl. ¶ 18. Deputy Gruenwald asked Ms. Keene to feed the dogs "because at least one [was] vicious." Id.; Gruenwald Decl. Ex. A, at 3. Ms. Keene fed most of the canines from three communal dishes and left the remaining food in the opened bag on the ground. Gruenwald Decl. Ex. A, at 3. Deputy Gruenwald inquired whether she was going to feed the other dogs that were tethered at various points on her property. Id. at 3-4. Ms. Keene stated that she had forgotten about those animals, but they probably had food. Id. at 4. After checking with Deputy Gruenwald and realizing that they were also without food, Ms. Keene fed the tied-up dogs. Id.

At approximately 7:32 p.m., Deputy Gruenwald placed Ms. Keene under arrest for animal neglect and violation of her probation. Id.; Gruenwald Decl. ¶ 19; Sherman Decl. Ex. 2, at 6. When Deputy Parsons arrived on scene, Deputy Gruenwald showed him the pet carrier and advised that the dog had a broken back, from which he had been suffering for about one week. Parsons Decl. ¶ 6. Deputy Gruenwald informed Deputy Parsons that Undersheriff Rowan had authorized an on-site euthanization of the injured dog. Id. at ¶¶ 6-7; Gruenwald Decl. ¶ 17; see also Cline Decl. ¶ 8 (Mr. Cline stating that "based on my many years of owning breeding and working with border collies, the injured dog was suffering badly and needed to be euthanized"). He asked Deputy Parsons to dispatch the injured dog because Ms. Keene was in custody and needed to be transported to jail. Parsons Decl. ¶ 7. Deputy Parsons borrowed a shovel from Ms. Zinter, explaining that the injured border collie had a broken back, and dug a hole on Ms. Keene's property. Id. at ¶ 8; Gruenwald Decl. Ex. A, at 4; Sherman Decl. Ex. 1, at 9. He moved the crate alongside the hole and opened it to terminate the injured dog's life. Parsons Decl. ¶ 8. The dog crawled out and attempted to flee, at which point Deputy Parson noticed that it was visibly injured; the border collie's hind legs did not work and were matted and dirty from being dragged along the ground. Id.; Sherman Decl. Ex. 1, at 9; see also Sherman Decl. Ex. 3, at 6 (Ms. Munoz testifying that the injured border collie traveled approximately 20 yards before being recovered). Deputy Parsons recaptured the dog, shot it twice, and buried it. Id.; Gruenwald Decl. Ex. A, at 4; Sherman Decl. Ex. 1, at 10. Neither Ms. Zinter nor Mr. Martinez told the deputies to leave at any point. Sherman Decl. Ex. 1, at 5, 8. They also did not try to stop Deputy Parsons from euthanizing the injured border collie or attempt to get Pet Rescue to intervene on its behalf. Sherman Decl. Ex. 1, at 9-10.

Later on August 16, 2009, Deputy Gruenwald completed and filed an incident report. See Gruenwald Decl. Ex. A. On August 17, 2009, Deputy Parsons completed and filed a supplemental incident report. See Parsons Decl. Ex. A. Once approved, these reports were sent to the District Attorney's ("DA") office. Sherman Decl. Ex. 9, at 2. Thereafter, Ms. Munoz dug up the injured dog's corpse and, on August 28, 2009, brought it "to Washington State University to be examined." Munoz Decl. ¶ 9; see also Sherman Decl. Ex. 3, at 8 (Ms. Munoz testifying that she "took [the border collie's body] out of the ground... a couple of days" after it died). She requested only one test - a radiograph - which revealed "no evidence of displacement or fracture of the vertebrae." Munoz Decl. ¶ 9; Munoz Decl. Ex. A.

On October 26, 2010, after independently reviewing the incident reports authored by Deputies Gruenwald and Parsons, the DA's office determined there was probable cause to believe that Ms. Keene unlawfully and with criminal negligence possessed multiple domestic animals for which she failed to provide minimum care. Sherman Decl. Ex. 2, at 6; Patterson Decl. ¶¶ 4-8. As a result, the DA charged Ms. Keene with one count of animal neglect in the first degree, in violation of Or. Rev. Stat. § 167.330, and ten counts of prohibited possession of a domestic animal, in violation of Or. Rev. Stat. § 167.332. Patterson Decl. ¶¶ 6-7; Pachico Decl. ¶ 4. ...


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