CORONA , Calif. – Attorney Jorge Lopez of Jorgensen & Salberg helped save two dogs from being wrongfully euthanized this week by arguing that the dogs were unlawfully seized under the Fourth Amendment.
M. Chmura., 36, Corona, is the owner of a yellow Labrador and a Pitbull puppy, neither of which have a violent or aggressive history. In fact, Chmura describes his dogs as “loving and loyal.”
On July 29, 2016, Chmura was surprised when his distraught neighbor knocked on his door. His neighbor, Jane Doe, had returned home and found her small terrier dead in her backyard. Doe immediately accused Chmura’s dogs of killing her terrier. Chmura assured his neighbor that his dogs were not violent, but let Doe examine his dogs anyway. The woman examined the dog’s teeth, fur, and claws, finding no evidence that Chmura’s dogs had attacked her terrier. Doe insisted, however, that she saw Chmura’s dogs against her side of the fence on her backyard surveillance camera around the time the incident happened. On Aug. 3, 2016, at approximately 5:30 p.m., Doe called the Corona Police Department (CPD) and reported that Chmura’s dogs had killed her dog. The following day, Animal Control was instructed to apprehend the dogs.
Chmura desperately plead with both his neighbor and CPD, but was told that Animal Control would take his dogs and euthanize them within one week.
On Aug. 4, 2016, Chmura informed Attorney Jorge Lopez of his terrifying and time-sensitive issue. Lopez immediately contacted Corona Animal Services and Enforcement to explain that, under the Fourth Amendment, they could not legally seize Chmura’s dogs without a valid search warrant or hearing. Lopez comments, “Animal Control illegally and aggressively intimidated Chmura and threatened to seize his dogs without any evidentiary support. Under the Fourth Amendment, his dogs are considered his property and Animal Control has no right to take them without a valid warrant or hearing.” He further explained, “Considering there was absolutely no evidence that Chmura’s dogs killed his neighbor’s terrier, there was no way Animal Control could legally confiscate or euthanize his dogs.” Shortly after the conversation with Lopez, Animal Control dropped the case.
Like many others, Chmura was not aware that his dogs are protected by the Fourth Amendment. Just as the police cannot enter your home and seize your property without a warrant, Animal Control cannot enter your home and seize your pets. Moreover, a valid investigation should be conducted including a hearing before any dog or pet is deemed violent enough to be euthanized.
Chmura expresses how thankful he is for the hard work and dedication of Jorgensen & Salberg. “My dogs are like my kids,” he commented, “a lot of law firms would not have taken my case seriously … But it honestly meant life or death for my dogs. Mr. Lopez took it extremely seriously.” Chmura still fears what could have happened if he didn’t exercise his legal rights: “I could have lost best friends.”