West Virginia State Police Sued For Facilitating a Baseless, Malicious Prosecution and Negligent, Insufficient Dog Interaction TrainingPosted on January 25, 2017
After Protecting the Family’s Tethered Dog from Being Shot by Police, Plaintiff Alleges Police and Prosecutorial Misconduct in Violation of the Constitution
Contact: Natalia Lima, NLima@ALDF.org or 201-679-7088
CHARLESTON, W.Va.—Today, the Animal Legal Defense Fund, in partnership with Professors John Campbell and Justin Marceau of the University of Denver, filed a lawsuit against the West Virginia State Police, State Trooper Seth Cook and Colonel C.R. “Jay” Smithers on behalf of three Waverly, West Virginia residents. The charges follow an altercation in May 2015, where plaintiff Tiffanie Hupp interrupted Cook as he prepared to shoot the family dog, Buddy, in the head. Buddy was tied to a nearby tree on the plaintiffs’ property and posed no threat to the officer. Because of her heroic efforts to save Buddy, Tiffanie Hupp was thrown to the ground, arrested and improperly prosecuted.
Captured on video, Cook walked onto the plaintiffs’ property, drew his loaded gun, and pointed it at Buddy’s head. At the time, Hupp was playing with her 3-year-old son Riley in the vicinity. Cook directed Hupp, “control your dog now,” so she swiftly moved between the gun wielding state trooper and Buddy in an effort to protect Buddy and her son from the trauma of seeing his beloved dog shot. Cook grabbed Hupp and threw her to the ground, then pushed her against the police car and arrested her. Cook then entered another plaintiff’s home—without warrant or probable cause—and confiscated personal property, including the recording device on which the event was captured.
Astonishingly Hupp was prosecuted for misdemeanor obstruction based on her efforts to protect a harmless dog and her son. At trial, Cook testified that his decision to shoot a dog who did not pose any threat to him was based on his training. This training has led to the deaths of at least 15 dogs in the state between 2010 and 2014, all killed by West Virginia State Police officers.
“Police shooting dogs is a preventable tragedy in most situations. Many jurisdictions are providing mandatory canine encounter trainings to law enforcement to address these types of encounters without lethal force,” says Animal Legal Defense Fund Executive Director Stephen Wells. “Police officers are going to interact with dogs in the field, so they should be given the knowledge and resources to assess the threat involved and utilize alternatives to lethal force if they interact with a dog who they believe may be aggressive.”
“It shocks the conscience that police would arrest and prosecutors would seek to incarcerate a woman who did nothing other than protect a dog from being illegally shot,” says one of Hupp’s lawyers, John Campbell. After playing the video in court, Hupp was acquitted by a jury. She and the other plaintiffs are now seeking restitution, including funds so Riley Hupp—who now suffers anxiety and emotional distress when in the presence of police officers—can be treated by a mental health professional. To date, the plaintiffs have not been able to afford treatment.
Today’s complaint alleges excessive force, unlawful arrest and unlawful search and seizure—violations of the Fourth and 14th Amendments—malicious prosecution and negligent training of a police officer—in violation of West Virginia Law—and the intentional infliction of emotional distress, battery and slander.
The Animal Legal Defense Fund is working with the national sheriff’s department to ensure mandatory canine encounter training is a priority. The organization also offers support to prosecutors’ offices and law enforcement through trainings and on individual animal cruelty cases through its Criminal Justice Program.
Video footage of the incident: