Pennsylvania Record

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Veteran sues Pittsburgh police officers, animal shelters over seizure of 37 cats

Federal Court

By Charmaine Little | Aug 9, 2019

Police

PITTSBURGH - Ronald James Madero, a 76-year-old veteran who said a handful of officers violated his rights when they seized nearly 40 cats near his property, took his issues to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania on June 14.

Madero said he was suing for “Constitutional rights that were violated by overbearing police and police agents who threatened and lied to a senior citizen, resulting in an unlawful search of his property, the unlawful seizure of his personal property, and the subsequent destruction and other disposition of his property, all without his consent.”

He filed the lawsuit against officer Christine Luffey of the Pittsburgh Police Department, Mary Kay Gentert and Tarra Provident of Homeless Cat Management Team, the City of Pittsburgh Bureau of Animal Care and Control (ACC) and other people connected to the Humane Animal Rescue (HAR) of Pittsburgh: Jamie Wilson, Sarah Anderson, Donna Hughes, Jessica Serbin, Hala Neumah, Devon Klingensmith and Sarah Shively.

He said the defendants threatened him and lied to him in order to conduct an illegal search by entering his property without a warrant. He also said they used information from the search to get a warrant and broke the law when they seized 37 cats near his home, including five cats from Animal Friends that Madero paid for. He said the cats suffered injuries during the seizure and that the HAR moved the cats knowing that they would be hurt or worse. He also said the defendants did not give proper veterinary care to the cats.

Madero said in his lawsuit there are dozens of stray cats in his neighborhood and he’s done what he can to help them, from working with volunteers to giving veterinary care and spending hundreds on cat food.

The issue started in May 2017 when one of Madero’s neighbors called ACC and complained about cats being abandoned in the area. ACC supervisor David Madden reached out to Luffey about the complaint.

Madden later let Luffey know that he heard from Madero, the suit said. Madden told Luffey that Madero had three cats indoors and up to 10 cats outdoors and said Madero’s “heart is in the right place,” according to the lawsuit. 

Madero said that while Luffey didn’t have probable cause, she went to the property to see what was happening. Three weeks later, Luffey and Gentert went to the property and told Madero they wanted to come inside. He asked them if he was able to call a lawyer.

"In response, Officer Luffey lied to Mr. Madero and told him that they did not need his permission to go inside because she had a search warrant and could bust his door down,” Madero said in the lawsuit. Madero said he was intimidated but did not consent to the search voluntarily.

Madero said that once the cats were in Gentert’s care, the cats suffered inhumane treatment. 

“Cats were left in traps, terrified and uncovered where they thrashed and beat their faces and bodies on the metal, causing bloody injuries,” Madero said in the suit. He also said they were taken to a “kill shelter,” a facility that allegedly “surrenders” animals that aren’t up to HAR’s “medical guidelines of adoptability.”

An arrest warrant was later issued for Madero after Luffey filed a criminal complaint based on what was found in the search of his home. Madero was accused of five counts of misdemeanor cruelty to animals and 37 summary counts of cruelty to animals. Madero later turned himself in to police but said he was mistreated in custody.

He sued via section 1983 for an illegal search, seizure of cats, alleged slaughter of cats/failure to provide care, disposal of cats, fraudulent inducement/misrepresentation, negligent inducement/misrepresentation, illegal search, conversion, trespass to Chattel, conspiracy and tortuous conduct.

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U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania

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