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Yaroslaski v. Cowlitz County

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma

May 15, 2015

STEVE YAROSLASKI, Plaintiff,
v.
COWLITZ COUNTY, et al., Defendants.

ORDER GRANTING IN PART, RESERVING RULING IN PART, AND SETTING HEARING ON DEFENDANTS' MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

BENJAMIN H. SETTLE, District Judge.

This matter comes before the Court on Defendants Cowlitz County Humane Society, Kevin Waldo, Mavis Rust, and Mike Nicholson's motion for summary judgment (Dkt. 15) and Defendants Cowlitz County and Cory Robinson's motion for summary judgment (Dkt. 16). The Court has considered the pleadings filed in support of and in opposition to the motions and the remainder of the file and hereby grants the motions in part and reserves ruling in part for the reasons stated herein and sets a hearing for oral argument on the remaining issues.

I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On March 3, 2014, Plaintiff Steve Yaroslaski ("Yaroslaski") filed a complaint against Defendants Cowlitz County ("County"), Cowlitz County Humane Society ("Humane Society"), Kevin Waldo, Mavis Rust, Mike Nicholson ("Humane Society Officers"), and Cory Robinson ("Deputy Robinson") (collectively "Defendants"). Dkt. 1. Yaroslaski asserts numerous causes of action under federal and state law. Id.

On March 11, 2015, Defendants filed motions for summary judgment. Dkts. 15, 16. On April 1, 2015, Yaroslaski responded. Dkt. 18. On April 10, 2015, Defendants replied. Dkts. 20, 21.

II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

The Humane Society has contracted with Cowlitz County to enforce and administer the animal control laws of Washington State and the County in the unincorporated areas of the County. Dkt. 15-2, Declaration of Patrick Pearce ("Pearce Dec."), Ex. A. On March 1, 2011, the Humane Society received a complaint from an individual who expressed concerns about the well-being of at least twenty dogs at Yaroslaski's property that were caged outside in cold conditions. Id., Ex. J. Humane Society Officers Nicholson and Waldo responded to the complaint. Id.

Upon approaching the house on the property, the officers observed three chain link kennels on the left side of the house. The officers contacted Yaroslaski, informed him about the complaint, and asked to look around the property. The parties dispute whether Yaroslaski consented to a search of the property, but, for the purposes of this motion, the Court will accept Yaroslaski's contention that he asked the officers if they had a warrant to search the property. Dkt. 19, Affidavit of Derek Smith ("Smith Aff."), Ex. 5, Deposition of Steven Yaroslaski ("Yaroslaski Dep.") at 38 (deposition pagination). Yaroslaski also contends that Officer Nicholson informed Yaroslaski that he didn't need a warrant, and, based on that assertion, Yaroslaski allowed the officers to search the property. Id.

What is not in dispute is the condition of the kennels. In his deposition, Yaroslaski testified as follows:

Basically I believe I said that the kennels were a mess. We had snow on the ground, and the waterlines were frozen. I explained why they were a mess. I said that I - because of the weather, I haven't had a chance to get them cleaned out right and repaired. I explained that the roof started leaking with the snow. We had a foot of snow. And then the mud started coming down, and I explained that to them.
They informed me that the kennels are in bad shape.
And I says, "I know that."

Id. at 40. On this issue, Officer Nicholson's report provides as follows:

During our walk through of Steven's property we counted 42 dogs and puppies. 3 dogs were Stevens that he kept in his house as pets.
Livestock on the property cows, calves, chickens, and pigs had adequate shelter, food, and all ...

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