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Federal judge dismisses St. Louis County family's dog euthanasia lawsuit

A federal judge dismissed the St. Louis County family's claim its rights were violated when their dog was euthanized "without permission."

ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. — A St. Louis County family got a setback in court after they said their dog was euthanized without their permission.

Erin Bulfin sued St. Louis County Animal Care and Control after her dog Daisy's death in 2019. Her husband had brought the dog to the county shelter. It was part of a mandatory quarantine after Daisy bit their daughter. 

Bulfin said her husband signed an intake form, not knowing a box that said "owner requests euthanasia" was already checked. 

She said she never expected the shelter to euthanize their dog. She argues her family's state and federal Fourth Amendment right of unreasonable seizures by the government was violated.

In deposition testimony, Erin Bulfin’s lawyer Mark Pedroli asked Dr. Carole Baskin, the director of communicable disease control services for the Department of Public Health, “So after they sign the box, then ACC can euthanize the dog without telling the owner, correct?”

“Yes,” Baskin replied.

Pedroli asked, “... does it guarantee at all that the owner can reclaim the dog after you sign the first box?”

“No, there are no guarantees,” she said. 

A federal judge dismissed Bulfin's claims that her family's Fourth Amendment rights were violated, saying that the county animal care and control's actions did not violate federal law.

The judge ruled that the argument "defies reason, common sense and case law." That judge didn't rule on the state court claims, leaving those to be decided in state court.

"We are pleased with the judge's ruling," Doug Moore, a St. Louis County spokesperson said, "and we will continue to do all we can to improve the animal shelter, and we have worked hard to improve it.”

Erin Bulfin and her attorney said the case highlights how the county shelter needs to make sure pet owners know what they're actually signing. They'll be refiling their lawsuit in state court.

"The federal judge disagreed that ACC's actions violated federal law but didn't rule on the state court claims, leaving those to be decided in state court," said Mark Pedroli, Erin Bulfin's lawyer, in an email. 

Other legal experts we talked with said the case shows the importance of reading the paperwork before you sign.


'They didn't seem to care': Woman says family dog euthanized without permission at St. Louis County shelter 

New court evidence, allegations about St. Louis County animal shelter

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