Robert Cordell Franklin has kept his hunting dogs in kennels in the backyard of his Austin house for more than 30 years, just like his father used to.
Neither he nor his father ever had any complaints, Franklin said. At least, not until a new police station opened up across the street.
In a civil suit filed in March, Franklin, who lives near the 15th District station on Madison and Waller, alleges that when he refused to sell police officers his two beagle puppies, they found another way to get a hold of them: they confiscated his 16 dogs without a warrant and arrested him on trumped-up charges of animal abuse, which were later dismissed.
“That was one of the worst days of my life,” said Franklin about his December 2005 arrest. “When I came out of my garage there were about 15 or 20 police officers in my yard. They said they had reports of me fighting my dogs and abusing them.”
According to the lawsuit, police officers had entered his yard three months earlier, when Franklin and his friend were preparing for a hunting trip, and asked if they could buy his beagle puppies.
Franklin said no, but the officers kept returning, he said.
“It was ridiculous because they would be over between 11 p.m. and 3 a.m. waving their flashlights in the kennels, saying, ‘Oh these are beautiful dogs – you want to sell them?'”
Franklin was arrested on charges of animal abuse and cruelty to animals. The complaint cited him for having dogs living among feces and urine, shivering in the cold and with access only to filthy water, charges Franklin went to court to refute.
But the police never showed.
“They didn’t want to take my questions,” said Patrick Smyth, Franklin’s attorney. “They wouldn’t respond to discovery. We went to court repeatedly and nobody would come forward to testify on behalf of the city. So the judge dismissed the case.
“We had probably 10 or more witnesses who would have gone up and testified about how [Franklin] takes care of his dogs, how their kids used to play with his dogs,” Smyth said. “We had a 90-year-old who would have given the history of how his father used to raise dogs at the same house.”
The suit, filed in Cook County Circuit Court, alleges the city kept the dogs at the Animal Care and Control facility during the trial and returned the dogs to Franklin in April, 2006, when the case was dismissed – all of them except for a beagle puppy.
Franklin said that in actuality, both beagle puppies were not returned to him, but that he only names one in the suit because police and animal facility records do not mention the other puppy and that he can not prove it was confiscated.
He said he believes police did that intentionally and that Chicago police officer Sgt. D. Brownstein, who was present at his arrest, still has the puppies.
“But who do we call when the police are the thieves?” he asked.
“When they came to arrest [Franklin], one of the policemen said to him, ‘look, you sell one to me and we’ll just take all these citations out and go home,'” Smyth claims, adding that police did not have a warrant for the arrest.
Smyth said that the police have told him their internal affairs division is investigating the charges.
Franklin said that spending three months in a city-run animal care facility left his dogs in bad shape.
“They were in a terrible condition,” he said. “They were underfed, and talk about covered with feces? I had to shampoo my dogs twice.”
Two of the dogs that were confiscated from Franklin’s house belonged to his friend Keith Rhodes, who filed a similar suit on April 16.
Franklin is suing the City of Chicago and the Chicago Police Department for damages in excess of $50,000 for legal fees and compensation for his damaged reputation, according to the suit.
The Medill News contacted police for a response but did not get an immediate reply.