An 83-year-old widower says that agents with the Pennsylvania Society for the prevention of Cruelty to Animals illegally entered her home and took her 14 cats and one dog, according to a civil rights suit filed at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
Marjorie Bamont, of Philadelphia, seeks compensatory damages if more than $200,000 and punitive damages of more than $1 million for 14 counts including illegal search and seizure, trespass and intentional infliction of emotional distress against the SPCA and three of its agents.
The removal of the pets in October 2013 made headlines, mainly from the fact that Bamont owns the East Falls, Pa., home where Grace Kelly grew up. Camera crews from local news stations accompanied the SPCA agents as they entered the home and took the cats on Oct. 31. When Bamont arrived home to see the search in progress, the officials removed her dog from the car and seized it along with the other animals.
The complaint says that when Bamont asked the agents why they were taking her pets, one told her, "Because we're the Big Bad Wolf, and we can." According to the suit, Bamont was subjected to an involuntary mental health exam and spent a few days recovering in the hospital from the emotional trauma of the search and seizure.
Bamont was convicted of multiple counts of animal cruelty and forced to give up 12 of the cats and the dog, regaining custody of two felines. She was also ordered to pay the SPCA $7,000 in restitution.
According to the civil complaint, however, the entire search was illegal because the warrant had allegedly not been signed by District Attorney Seth Williams. The suit also says that the animal cruelty charges that initiated the search warrant only applied to nine animals, not all 15.
The claim also says that the details of the probable cause affidavit contained false or fabricated information from an agent who had visited the property on a previous call.
According to the complaint, Bamont invited the agent in on the premise that they would talk about her cats. On the affidavit, the agent said he observed a cat laying on the remains of a deceased cat. The civil suit says that the alleged deceased cat was not in plain view, and the agent only saw it after moving two pet cages against Bamont's wishes.
The agent also failed to disclose in the affidavit that Bamont purchased and applied fela medication to the cats and that they had visited the veterinarian in the past year, the claim says. The affidavit said that the cats looked very thin and lethargic, but omitted that all the animals had access to several bowls of food and clean water, according to the complaint.
Bamont says the action of the Pennsylvania SPCA and its agents violated her Fourth Amendment rights and has caused deep emotional distress, loss of sleep, anxiety, humiliation and loneliness.
Retired and living on a fixed income, Bamont has asked the court to provide legal counsel for the proceedings.