Aug 7, 2014 9:30 PM by Dave Fields

Owners of deceased dogs file lawsuit against the town of Basile

The owners of two dogs, which died about a week after being impounded by the town of Basile, have filed a lawsuit against the town.

Attorney Sam Aucoin filed the suit in Acadia Parish Thursday, petitioning the court for damages caused to Cynthia and Royce Johnson, residents of Basile, whose dogs were impounded by the town on June 13. The impoundment occurred after a neighbor called police, alleging that the Johnson's dogs, Vick and Fancy, were chasing his sheep.

The Johnsons' lawsuit asserts that, "based on the excellent and healthy condition of their dogs at the time they were picked up by the deputy and animal control officer, and the condition of the dogs' bodies when they were returned, the Johnsons believe the Town of Basile is vicariously liable for the inhumane and negligent mistreatment of their dogs by the Town of Basile's employees based on their failure to provide basic care (such as water and food) while the dogs were in the custody of the Town of Basile."

Humane Society of Louisiana Director Jeff Dorson conducted an investigation in cooperation with Acadia Parish Animal Control. The investigation revealed allegations that the Johnsons' two dogs, a Shar-pei named Vick and a boxer named Fancy, were placed in a metal humane dog trap, measuring approximately 4 feet by 2 1/2 feet wide, in the back of a city vehicle and taken to the local shelter. The investigation revealed that, with 12 dogs already impounded in the 5 run shelter, the workers decided to leave the dogs in the transport cage.

The suit alleges that a week later, on June 20, the carcasses of both dogs were delivered in a black plastic bag back to the Johnsons without any explanation.

Acadia Parish Animal Control Director Tim Benoit issued a citation to a Basile Town employee who was allegedly responsible for taking care of the impounded dogs. That employee, according to Benoit, was reassigned to another department within the town of Basile. Dorson suggested that the matter should have been a criminal matter, but said he urged the Johnsons to file a civil suit because the Basile pound employee had been issued only a civil citation.

"The Johnsons' two dogs were left in the 'catch trap' which measured approximately 2.5' x 2.5' x 4' in the pound area," the suit reads.

The suit also contends that the veterinarian's report and officials' statements to the media corroborate the Johnson's claims for "all damages associated with the loss of their two dogs, including companionship, pain and suffering by the dogs and the Johnsons, as well as any fines or payments that might be owed to them for their loss."

The court filing paints a morbid account of the day when the Johnsons were notified that their pets had passed.

"On or around June 20, 2014, Ms. Johnson was advised that one of her dogs had died at the 'dog pound,' and the other was near death. The live dog was brought to a nearby veterinarian's office, but died within a few hours, despite attempts by the veterinarian to save the dog. On June 20, 2014, both dogs, now dead, were returned to the Johnsons' home in what appeared to be plastic garbage bags, covered with maggots, without any explanation for the deaths or why Ms. Johnson had been unable to retrieve her dogs despite her repeated attempts to pay any fines she and her husband might have owed," the suit continues.

Today's filing includes a request to reserve the right to amend the suit if additional facts about the dogs' impoundment are discovered during the course of the litigation.


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