A couple whose Doberman pinscher, Lily, was seized by Orting police as part of a criminal investigation have sued the city, contending officers inflicted emotional distress by refusing to release the dog for two months.
Alice Pettit and Theodore Pettit seek unspecified damages in their lawsuit, filed last week in Pierce County Superior Court.
They asked for $50,000 in a claim for damages filed with the city in June $5,000 for attorneys fees and $45,000 for general damages. The city declined to pay, which led to the lawsuit.
Police Chief Bill Drake last week referred calls on the case to Association of Washington Cities, which handles risk management for the city. Association spokesman Derek Bryan declined to comment, citing an agency policy that prohibits him from talking about pending litigation.
Police seized Lily in June 2009 after investigating the Pettits son Thomas Pettit for suspected animal cruelty.
According to court documents, officers found the dog bleeding from the mouth and obviously frightened when they went to Thomas Pettits home to investigate a disturbance. Pettit admitted hitting the dog with handle bars from a motorcycle. Pettit, now 46, later pleaded guilty to first-degree animal cruelty and was sentenced to 60 days in jail.
Thomas Pettit was watching Lily for his parents while they were on a trip to Montana, their lawsuit states. When they returned home and learned shed been hurt, they went to Sumner Veterinary Clinic, where the dog was being housed and treated, to claim her.
Clinic workers refused to turn Lily over or tell the Pettits about her condition, they contend.
Sumner Veterinary Hospital employees advised plaintiffs that the denial of possession, access and information was based upon orders from the Orting Police Department, the lawsuit states.
In court documents filed in another matter, the hospitals lawyers said there were questions about who owned Lily at the time and that their clients were waiting for the courts to resolve the matter before turning the dog over to anyone.
The Pettits sued the veterinary clinic earlier this year for withholding Lily, but the case was dismissed without trial, court records show.
Alice Pettit said she called police when she got no satisfaction at the clinic, but was told by someone who identified himself as the chief that shed be subjected to an investigation and the loss of her remaining animals if she pushed to get Lily back, the lawsuit states.
The Pettits daughter Bethany Pettit wrote in an affidavit submitted as part of Thomas Pettits criminal case that it was her understanding that one of the officers who investigated the incident had become fond of Lily and wanted to keep her.
Alice Pettit eventually hired a lawyer and went to court to get Lily returned to her. She ultimately convinced a judge that she owned the dog and got a court order that required the release of Lily to her. The order forbids her son from having any contact with the dog.
Her lawyer, Preston L. Foskey, later filed a claim on her behalf against the city.
The wrongful acts of the Police Department in directing the animal hospital to withhold access to Lily and the threats about governmental action if she proceeded with efforts to reclaim her property amount to conversion of Mrs. Pettits canine companion, forced her to incur attorney fees and costs to recover her property and caused her severe emotional distress, Foskey wrote in the claim.