West Virginia State Police sued over dog incident

Waverly woman arrested for protecting pet

CHARLESTON — A national group advocating for the humane treatment of animals has filed a lawsuit on behalf of a Waverly woman arrested and ultimately acquitted of obstructing an officer after stepping between her dog and a West Virginia State trooper with a drawn gun.

The Animal Legal Defense Fund announced the suit in a release Wednesday. The full case documents had not been posted on the United States District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia’s website as of Wednesday afternoon, but the site lists Tiffanie Hupp as the plaintiff and Trooper Seth Cook as the defendant.

According to the release, Hupp is one of three plaintiffs and the other defendants in the case are the West Virginia State Police and Col. C.R. “Jay” Smithers, who was State Police superintendent at the time.

The complaint alleges excessive force, unlawful arrest and unlawful search and seizure, as well as malicious prosecution, negligent training of a police officer and the intentional infliction of emotional distress, battery and slander.

State Police 1st Lt. Michael Baylous declined to comment on the filing.

“It’s our practice not to issue statements” on pending litigation, he said.

Previously published reports indicate Hupp called police after a fight between a family member and neighbor. When troopers arrived at 2395 Carpenter Run Road, Hupp was asked to go inside and get the identification of the problem party.

As a trooper, identified in the release as Cook, approached the porch to retrieve the ID, “a white dog aggressively came toward the trooper,” the criminal complaint said. “He drew the .45-caliber West Virginia State Police-issued sidearm from the holster and presented it as the dog was rapidly approaching and snarling.”

Hupp then stepped between the trooper and the dog, which was captured on video that has been circulated on YouTube. Published reports say the trooper ordered Hupp to step aside but she refused to comply, so he grabbed her arm and moved her aside.

At that point, the complaint says Hupp grabbed at the trooper and began cursing at him, so he shoved her away to provide enough distance to safely holster his firearm.

The release from the Animal Legal Defense Fund says the dog, Buddy, was tied to a nearby tree and posed no threat to the trooper. When the trooper directed Hupp to “control” the dog, she moved between the officer and the dog “in an effort to protect Buddy and her son from the trauma of seeing his beloved dog shot,” the release says.

“Cook grabbed Hupp and threw her to the ground, then pushed her against the police car and arrested her,” it continues.

“It shocks the conscience that police would arrest and prosecutors would seek to incarcerate a woman who did nothing other than protect a dog from being illegally shot,” one of Hupp’s lawyers, John Campbell, says in the release.

Hupp and the other plaintiffs are seeking restitution, including funds so her son can be treated by a mental health professional, which they have not been able to afford, the release says. The child suffers from anxiety and emotional distress when in the presence of police officers, the release says.

“Police shooting dogs is a preventable tragedy in most situations,” Animal Legal Defense Fund executive director Stephen Wells said in the release. “Many jurisdictions are providing mandatory canine encounter trainings to law enforcement to address these types of encounters without lethal force.”

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