PLEASANT GROVE -- A woman who lost hundreds of her favorite animals when police officers raided her private animal sanctuary is fighting back with a lawsuit.
Pleasant Grove resident Sue Fox says her civil rights were violated and she suffered extreme emotional and physical distress last month when her chickens, ducks, cats, rabbits and assorted pets were removed from her 2-acre property.In addition, a blind, seriously obese pot-bellied pig found living under a table in a hole in the back yard was shot.
The animals were caught and transported from the property. Some were given to people who had seen news reports on the situation.
Officials estimate the number of animals at the property -- many in makeshift pens and old trailers -- to be as high as 1,800. Fox and her daughters say there were less than 500.
In court documents filed in 4th District Court, Fox accuses the officers of treating her family and her animals cruelly. The documents allege officers entered her home and confiscated animals in the house when the court order, issued by Pleasant Grove Justice Court Judge Brent Bullock, did not include the house for search purposes.
The documents further allege Fox and her family members were not allowed to choose which animals she would keep and, as a result, her daughter's favorite cat was among those removed.
Fox states in the suit that she has the right to keep unwanted and abused animals on her land because "whatever animals they have wanted" have been on the property since 1948.
The Fox family has owned the property since the early 1960s.
City officials maintain that Fox is endangering the public health by keeping more animals than she can properly care for and washing their feces and urine into the public storm water system when she flood irrigates.
According to current city ordinance, Fox may have two cats and two dogs, said city attorney Tina Petersen, but Fox is being permitted to keep 51, based on the ordinance in effect in 1963.
Bullock upheld the city's claims when the city brought the matter to trial in November 1999 after complaints about Fox and her animals were lodged by the city in July. Fox was found to be in violation of city animal ordinances.
Fox, represented by attorney Jacqueline de Gaston, in her suit named Pleasant Grove city, animal control officer Jim Taufer and a neighbor who Fox says is harassing her in order to buy her land.
A temporary restraining order preventing the city from removing any more animals was issued Feb. 16 by 4th District Court Judge Fred Howard.
Pleasant Grove officials had stopped rounding up the animals before that date.
De Gaston said she hopes Fox can settle her claims for monetary damages without going through a lengthy court battle.
"I'm one to believe in mediation," she said Tuesday.
Fox is asking for damages and attorney's fees. De Gaston said a specific amount has not been determined because she is still gathering a history on what happened at the Fox farm.
"I wanted to give my clients some short-term relief. That's the restraining order. And I want to help them work this out amicably. I want to be able to help them keep an appropriate amount of animals," de Gaston said. "My clients were terrified by what happened."