Carson City’s Board of Supervisors authorized a $41,500 settlement Thursday to avert a possible lawsuit over city Animal Services putting down a shih tzu in July.
Randy Munn, chief deputy district attorney, said “indisputable facts” in the case included an Animal Services code change in May that allowed for 10-day boarding under protective custody at an owner’s expense of animals under city control, rather than the 72-hour waiting period before such an animal became city property under the previous ordinance.
“Tough case,” said Mayor Robert Crowell. The board voted 4-0 to authorize the money if Jeraldine Archuleta, Rollie’s owner, waives her right to pursue future legal action. Munn in his remarks also said the amount was lower than attorney’s fees that would accrue over time.
Munn also cited civil rights law about taking of property, which pets are considered. Similar views also were spelled out in written explanation for the recommendation to the board.
“Without speculating on any alleged damages claimed by Ms. Archuleta, a federal section 1983 Civil Rights due process claim provides for an award of attorney’s fees and costs to a prevailing plaintiff,” according to that written explanation. The case, it said, likely would take substantial discovery or a trial.
“Thus,” the explanation continued, “the risk of attorney’s fees and costs to litigate this matter would be substantially more than this pre-litigation settlement amount which fairly compensates both claimant and her attorney.”
Archuleta’s lawyer, Cal Dunlap, released a statement praising the city’s action. In it, he said Archuleta and her family would make a contribution to an animal-welfare group and that “we have accomplished our goals, in this case.”
Animal Services, also known as the animal shelter and operated under the city’s Health and Human Services Department, received the dog July 25. Archuleta soon tried repeatedly to recover it, but she said she was unable to provide required fees for the unlicensed pet, and the dog was put down July 30.
The board’s authorization allows the district attorney to proceed with the settlement and obtain Archuleta’s signature on appropriate waiver documents.
Supervisor John McKenna was absent from the Board of Supervisors meeting.