United Pet Supply, Inc. v. City of Chattanooga, No. 13-5181 (6th Cir. 2014)Annotate this Case
McKamey, a private non-profit corporation that contracted with Chattanooga to provide animal-welfare services, received complaints about conditions at United pet store. McKamey employees Walsh and Nicholson discovered animals without water, and with no working air conditioning. Aided by Hurn, they removed animals and business records from the store and proceeded to revoke its pet-dealer permit. United filed a 42 U.S.C. 1983 suit against the city; McKamey; and the employees, in their individual and official capacities, alleging that removal of its animals and revocation of its permit without a prior hearing violated procedural due process and that the warrantless seizures violated the Fourth Amendment. The Sixth Circuit held that Hurn, acting as a private animal-welfare officer, may not assert qualified immunity as a defense in the personal capacity suit. Walsh and Nicholson, however, acted as both private animal-welfare officers and specially-commissioned city police officers; they are entitled to summary judgment of qualified immunity on the procedural due-process claims based on the seizure of the animals and of the permit. Regarding the Fourth Amendment claims: Walsh and Nicholson are entitled to summary judgment of qualified immunity on claims based on the seizure of the animals. Nicholson is entitled to summary judgment on the claim based on seizure of the business records. Walsh is denied summary judgment on the claim based on the seizure of business records. Qualified immunity is not an available defense to an official-capacity suit.