Dog Breeders Facing Ban Lose Suit Against County

     TAMPA, Fla. (CN) – A Florida couple who have been banned from owning animals after police rescued 138 “abused and feces-coated” purebred dogs from their property cannot sue the county, a federal judge ruled.
     Back in April 2010, a Hillsborough County judge permanently enjoined Martin W. Otto Sr. and Alma Lee Otto from owning animals in the district. The court noted that the Ottos had just been caught for the second time with dozens of abused dogs.
     In the first case, the Ottos surrendered purebred 71 dogs after Hillsborough County Animal Control found them living in cramped aluminum cages that were left out in the blazing sun, according to the judge’s order. There were several dogs in each cage, coated with feces and urine, stacked one on top of another.
     Hillsborough euthanized three of the sickest dogs, including a 14-year-old Yorkshire terrier that had no teeth and a dead fetus stuck in its birth canal.
     Two years after that 2007 incident, Hillsborough police seized another 67 dogs. This time the Ottos’ son, Timothy Otto, claimed full ownership of the dogs, which had been housed in cages that were stacked in a dark and poorly ventilated barn.
     Again the dogs were coated with feces and urine, and suffering from various medical conditions including heartworm.
     The Ottos later sued the county pro se, claiming that Hillsborough was blocking them from earning a living in their chosen profession – dog breeding. They demanded $25 million in damages, plus a reversal of the $7,000 fine that accompanied the 2010 ban against them and their son.
     U.S. District Judge Virginia Hernandez Covington dismissed what she called a “scattershot” second amended complaint with prejudice on Thursday in Tampa.
     “Although the Ottos have been given multiple opportunities to file a cogent complaint, they have failed to do so,” Covington wrote.
     “The Ottos have not complied with the court’s directive” to describe what their claims are and the ground upon which those claims rest, she added.
     Covington called the amended complaint “rambling, incoherent and deficient.”
     “The Ottos purport to assert several federal counts that are not cognizable under the facts presented and are not germane to this action,” the ruling states. “For instance, the court dismisses with prejudice, Count 3, for ‘cruel and unusual punishment’ brought pursuant to the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution. That cause of action is simply unsupported by the facts of this case as the Ottos are not complaining about any aspect of detention or incarceration.”
     Though the Ottos also accused the county of violating federal anti-racketeering law, Covington said they did “not touch upon or even allude to any of the elements required to assert a successful RICO claim.”
     Looking that the due-process and unreasonable-search claims, Covington said “the Ottos failed to allege that a policy, practice, procedure or custom existed within the County that was the moving force behind the alleged constitutional.”
     “The court determines that the Ottos should not be permitted to further amend the complaint in an effort to allege that a custom or policy of the county was the moving force behind the Ottos’ alleged constitutional injuries,” Covington wrote. “The factual allegations contained in the Ottos’ operative complaint and the exhibits attached thereto simply do not support such an allegation. This court is not inclined to buttress insufficient claims in favor of the Ottos merely because they are proceeding pro se.”

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