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Smith files suits against County

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By Jonna Spelbring Priester

Terri Smith — the Henry County woman accused in December 2011 of more than 200 counts of animal cruelty — has filed two lawsuits against the county and Animal Control Officer Dan Flinkfelt.

Smith is suing the county for the wrongful death of her husband, Kenneth, as well as what the suit claims was the county’s failure to sell Smith’s animals at fair market value, intentional infliction of emotional distress, harassment and unwarranted humiliation.

On Dec. 12, 2011, Flinkfelt conducted a raid at Smith’s home, seizing more than 200 animals, including at least 100 dogs, plus cats, horses, hermit crabs, guinea pigs, a blind owl and a hybrid wolf.

Neither Smith, nor her husband Kenneth, were home at the time of the raid. Four days after the raid, Terri Smith was arrested by U.S. Marshals in Bullitt County after the raid and Kenneth Smith surrendered himself to the Marshals in La Grange.

Both were charged with 218 counts of 2nd degree animal cruelty in Henry County District Court.

One week after the raid, Smith killed himself in a vehicle at the couple’s home.

Terri Smith went on to enter a plea agreement to the 218 charges, pleading guilty to one count while the remaining 217 counts were merged, and agreed to pay restitution to the county.

Earlier this year, Smith filed an appeal on three different grounds: that her property had been seized, that the county didn’t sell the animals for their fair market value, and that she should have received credit toward her restitution from money donated to Henry County Animal Control in the wake of the raid.

According to Henry County Attorney Virginia Harrod, Smith received a $5,000 credit, based on the adoption fees — $65 per animal — for each of the animals that were successfully adopted out.

Circuit Court Judge Karen Conrad rejected the appeal on all three grounds.

In the first suit, filed on Dec. 11 in Henry County District Court, Smith claims that in February 2009, Flinkfelt inspected her dog building and kennels, seeing about 80 dogs, and “said that Plaintiff’s premise was one of the nicest setups he had seen.”

Later, in January 2010, the suit claims that Smith renewed her kennel license for 80 dogs, and was told that the license tags had not arrived, and that “(Flinkfelt) would contact the Plaintiff when her tags came in, which he never did.”

Then, in October 2011, the suit claims that Smith asked Flinkfelt for help “because she was being overwhelmed due (to) personal illness and the increasing number of animals coming to her for rescue,” but that Flinkfelt declined to help “saying that he could not provide any assistance until spring 2012 when a new shelter had been built.”

At the time of the raid, the suit claims, Flinkfelt arrived, “on a complaint of a thin dog.” During the conversation, according to the suit, Smith told Flinkfelt that he would also find that the cages needed to be cleaned, claiming they had last been cleaned three days before the raid.

The suit goes on to claim that Flinkfelt wrongfully took Smith’s animals, and that he did not have adequate help from volunteers to clean the premises, adequate shelter for the care of the animals, adequate personnel to care for the animals, or adequate preparation for “the inventorying and documentation of the animals.”

After removing the animals, Henry County Animal Control immediately began distributing them to foster homes where they would be cared for as the criminal case unfolded.

In the suit, Smith acknowledges the plea agreement, and that as part of the agreement, she and Flinkfelt were to meet to “gather information so that the animals could be sold for their market value,” but the suit claims that after the plea agreement took place, Flinkfelt “started giving away and disposing (of) the Plaintiff’s animals without any intent to obtain fair value for each animal.”

Smith claims she suffered “permanent financial loss of her property being taken without value.”

The first cause of action in the suit, claims the county’s negligence in overseeing the animal control office resulted in “the deprivation of Plaintiff’s property without due process of law.”

The second cause claims that Flinkfelt “failed to care for, sell and dispose of the animals for their maximum value,” by failing to provide reasonable care to the animals, allowing third parties to take the animals from animal control, failing to keep an adequate inventory system, failing to make reasonable examinations to determine the animals’ fair value, filing to check with Smith for each animal’s value, and failing to get “maximum” value on each animal placed or sold.

In the second cause, Smith claims “severe mental anguish.”

In the third cause, Smith claims the county failed to properly train Flinkfelt and animal control personnel “to prevent unlawful arrests,” and “wanton disregard for the rights such as the Plaintiff.”

The fourth cause claims Flinkfelt’s actions “constitute intentional infliction of emotional distress and the torte of outrage and were a substantial factor in causing the damages suffered by the Plaintiff.”

In the fifth cause, Smith claims that all of the previous causes combined to result in “unnecessary inflammatory statements and incorrect statements being issued to the press and in public resulting in the Plaintiff suffering from unwarranted embarrassment and humiliation.”

In the wrongful death case, filed on Dec. 19, Smith claims that her husband arrived to his workplace, and “was harassed by people accusing him of cruelty and running a puppy mill,” and that on Dec. 20, after a “week of media reports and harassment by protestors,” Kenneth Smith killed himself.

She also claims that as a result of the raid and the subsequent coverage, she suffered “severe and grievous mental and emotional suffering, anguish, nervousness, anxiety, and depression.”

She claims the same for her husband, saying the suffering “caused and contributed to the untimely death of Plaintiff’s husband.”

Harrod said the county will be represented by Carol Petitt from the Louisville law firm of Schiller, Osbourn, Barnes and Maloney.

The county has 20 days to file a response to the lawsuits, after which time it could be placed on the circuit court docket.

 

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