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Federal court says Oklahoma woman can sue over horses

Woman's lawsuit claims authorities unlawfully searched property, seized horses
BY ROBERT BOCZKIEWICZ Published: June 26, 2012
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— Federal appeals court judges ruled a woman who owned 44 horses seized in Oklahoma County can sue the municipalities of Spencer and Forest Park for seizing the horses.

The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday reinstated Ann Campbell's lawsuit that claims authorities unlawfully searched her property and unlawfully seized the horses in 2007 on land she owned.

The Denver-based court ruled 3-0 that U.S. District Judge Joe Heaton in Oklahoma City should not have dismissed those claims, which arose from an animal-welfare investigation.

Authorities arrested Campbell, but criminal charges were never pursued. She contends neighbors' complaints about the condition of the horses were baseless.

Campbell contends Spencer and Forest Park police used a bogus allegation of animal cruelty to enlist an investigation by sheriff's deputies.

A deputy concluded the horses appeared malnourished and emaciated. Campbell alleges another deputy trespassed without a search warrant.

Campbell contends deputies then presented incomplete and misleading information to falsely obtain a search warrant.

A county district court judge found there was probable cause the horses were abused. The judge ordered her to give up ownership of them unless she posted a $68,305 bond to pay for their temporary maintenance.

The appellate judges upheld Heaton's dismissal of two other claims in the lawsuit: that Campbell was deprived of her horses without due process or just compensation, and that the amount of the bond was unreasonable.