Judge Bars Police from Enforcing New Law
Oklahoma City, OK - The group of Carmelite nuns suffered a legal setback last week in their bid to shut down a pit bull kennel near their private school. County District Judge Barbara Swinton's ruling prevents police from enforcing a new law that broadens local authority to stop a dog kennel from operating near a school.
Last week, Gov. Brad Henry signed legislation that makes it illegal for a new dog kennel to be located within 2,500 feet of a school or day care facility in municipalities with populations greater than 300,000, which includes Oklahoma City. Kenneth Gonzales' kennel is within 2,500 feet of Villa Teresa, according to the school's attorney, former Republican Rep. Kevin Calvey of Del City.
The bill would not prohibit existing licensed facilities from operating. But officials said Gonzales' kennel is unlicensed, and the law would prohibit him from having more than four dogs in the facility -- the most that Oklahoma City municipal codes allow without a kennel license. Susan Randall, an attorney for the city of Oklahoma City, spoke about the kennel:
"[The kennel] is not in compliance. It has never been legal. They are a pending application."
Gonzales filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the law and asking the judge to block its enforcement and strike it down. Given than Gonzales is operating an unlicensed, noncompliant and frankly illegal kennel it's unclear how he expects to contest the constitutionality of any law. Leave it to a pit bull owner to come up with idea like his.
During the hearing, Gonzales' attorney, Mickey Homsey expressed concern that law enforcement agencies might use the law to attempt to seize Gonzales' dogs or that the kennel might fall victim to some form of "vigilante justice" by adjoining property owners. Gonzales has not only managed to rile up the nuns and the school children's parents, he's agitated his other neighbors as well.
Now Gonzales and his attorney are making themselves out to be victims. Homesy told the judge that due to the new law signed by the governor, folks "other than the nuns" might use the new statute to justify destroying the dogs or setting them loose. "That could happen and there's no way to stop it," Homsey said. Except that a simple alarm system for the facility would stop it.
The next stop for the nuns and adjacent property owners is Cleveland County where they will seek a civil injunction to stop the kennel from operating. At a later date, Swinton will decide the constitutionality issue that the unlicensed, noncompliant and illegal kennel operator hopes to contest.