MILWAUKEE (CN) - In a fruitless search of a home for an alligator and wolves, Milwaukee police shot to death two Tibetan mastiffs, the most valuable dog in the world, which recently set a record of more than $1 million for a single puppy, the dogs' owner claims in court.
Jane Flint sued Milwaukee, Milwaukee County, six police officers and a sheriff's deputy, in Federal Court.
She claims Milwaukee police shot to death two of her four friendly dogs while searching her house for dangerous animals - and all they found were turtles.
Flint says it happened like this: In May 2010 she was living in a home owned by her boss, nonparty Terry Cullen.
According to the 19-page lawsuit, Cullen bred and rehabilitated reptiles, including crocodiles, snakes and alligators, for zoos and humane societies.
On May 7, 2010, police Det. Phil Simmert and another officer took a complaint from an informant who claimed that while considering an internship with Cullen, "he treated her in a sexually inappropriate manner, and that he was illegally handling and keeping various reptiles, including alligators, in various locations," Flint says in the lawsuit.
The informant also claimed that Cullen took her to Flint's home, according to the complaint.
"The informant then informed Detective Simmert that when she and Mr. Cullen entered Ms. Flint's residence, she was introduced to four dogs which were claimed to be Tibetan wolves. The informant told Detective Simmert that the 'wolves' were 'somehow tamed and trained.'
"The potential presence of four wolves in a Milwaukee residence was of interest to law enforcement, but somehow between May 7 and May 10, 2010, it was established that the animals originally described as Tibetan wolves by the informant were, in fact, Tibetan mastiffs. After they were learned to be Tibetan mastiffs, they were no longer of investigatory concern," the lawsuit states.
Flint claims that on May 10, 2010, Det. Simmert contacted her and she told him that she was responsible for the care of the Tibetan mastiffs only, and was not in charge of any animals while Cullen was away.
Simmert applied for and received a search warrant for Flint's residence. The warrant stated that Simmert was investigating the possibility of a threatened or endangered species and that Flint's residence had four purported Tibetan wolves, according to the complaint.
Flint claims Simmert contacted a conservation warden from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to assist him in the search, because he believed that there would be a Chinese alligator in Flint's residence.
Two days later, on May 12, Flint says, one of Cullen's employees called and told her that Simmert was executing a search warrant for her property.
"Ms. Flint immediately called Detective Simmert and told him she would leave work, and get home as soon as she could," the complaint states. "Ms. Flint asked Detective Simmert to please wait so that she could have the opportunity to either confine her dogs or have a friend come and pick the dogs up so that the dogs would not be present during the search."
Ignoring Flint's plea, Simmert executed the search warrant before she could retrieve her dogs.
"Ms. Flint's dogs were barking, but they did not approach the officers, they did not growl or show teeth, and they were wagging their tails," Flint claims.
The conservation warden, nonparty Blankenheim, entered the house after it was cleared by Milwaukee police and saw some turtles in a glass cage, and heard a police officer yelling at Flint's dogs to lie down.
"After several minutes in the house, Warden Blankenheim heard the MPD tactical officer yelling for the dogs to get back. Warden Blankenheim heard several shots from an assault rifle and heard MPD officers saying two dogs were down," the complaint states.
Flint says that when her dogs were shot, they dogs were in a retreating position.
When Flint finally arrived, she was told that the defendants had already shot two of her dogs. She was arrested for an "on-the-scene determination" that she had violated two state animal laws.
Flint claims she was held and shuffled around jail as the defendants tried to concoct trumped-up felony charges to keep her there.
"Milwaukee Police Department records indicate that Ms. Flint was arrested on-view on May 14, 2010, at 5:13 p.m. and booked at 5:25 p.m. for felony charges of Viol/Endang/Threat S 29.604 [629 9MU] and Intentionally Mistreat 951.02 [620 1MA] However, Ms. Flint had already been arrested and held for more than 48 hours at this point," the complaint states.
Flint was released from jail on May 15, 2010.
Charges against her were dismissed; she was allowed to retrieve her two remaining living dogs for a fee and was issued two citations for possessing two midland painting turtles and seven common snapping turtles without a license.
She seeks punitive damages for constitutional violations.
She is represented by Jeff Olson, of Madison.
A Chinese businessman last week paid $1.9 million for a single Tibetan mastiff puppy. It's believed to be the highest price ever paid for a dog. The enormous dog with a long coat can grow to 3 feet at the shoulders and weigh more than 160 lbs.