JACKSON COUNTY , Mich. (WLNS) — Two out of three Michigan Court of Appeals judges have voted to throw out evidence of a woman mistreating at least 25 animals in her barn.
Brigitte DeRousse filed the appeal after an animal control officer obtained a warrant to search her Columbia Twp. home, but not additional buildings on her property.
DeRousse was initially charged with cruelty/abandonment to four to ten animals, but the charges were later re-amended on Sept. 22, 2020, charging DeRousse with cruelty/abandonment of 25 or more animals.
The woman argued that the warrant permitted officers to search a “single-family dwelling” and not other buildings on the property, saying that the searches were illegal.
An evidentiary hearing resulted in the trial court granting DeRousse’s motion, suppressing evidence found in the two barns.
Two of the judges completely agreed to suppress evidence, but the third judge’s opinion dissented on some aspects of the case.
The third judge cited specific language in the warrant, inferring that the language used in the warrant alludes to the property as a whole, as well as the residence. The judge concludes that while they agree with part of the majority opinion, that part of the warrant could be interpreted as searching the whole of the property.
On Nov. 7, 2019, Shawn Lutz, an animal control officer responded to a call regarding a loose cow. The officer subsequently helped get the cow back onto the property and into its pen.
While on the property, the officer saw a large number of dead animals, including carcasses and even skeletons, as well as several dogs that were starving.
Additionally, the officer heard other dogs barking from a barn. The officer did not see the dogs.
After speaking with a neighbor, the officer learned that there were many complaints of “animals at large” on the property.
During a discussion between the officer and DeRousse, she said the cow was a problem and went on to acknowledge the dead animals.
DeRousse said that she was unsure of how the animals had died.
The very next day, the officer returned to the property with a search warrant.
During the search, the officer seized approximately 35 animals.
From one barn, 23 dogs were found and seized. The officer testified that the dogs did not have access to food and that there were feces and urine—up to one inch thick in places— covering the floors.
One of the dogs was eating fecal matter.
None of the dogs had access to drinking water, but three of the dogs found shared a five-gallon bucket with “marginal green water” at the bottom, which the dogs could not reach due to the depth of the bucket.
Other dogs had water containers with a small amount of water that was contaminated by urine and feces.
Following medical examinations, all of the dogs were revealed to have internal and external parasites.
One dog had a tumor on its stomach.
At the second barn, the officer seized a raccoon and two cows.
The cows did not have access to food or water. The bovine enclosure was barely large enough to allow the cows to turn, and the floor was covered with urine and feces.
Lutz also seized several animals located in two pens outside the barn. In both pens, the water provided for the cows was frozen and infested with algae.
Hay was available in one pen, but it was covered in netting. The hay outside the second pen was also covered in netting and the cows had eaten what they could reach from their enclosure.
In order to access the hay, the cows in the south pen had to navigate around two cow carcasses.
One cow on the property was so skinny and weak that it could not stand. Searches also revealed carcasses of dead chickens, a lamb and a large snapping turtle, which was in a burlap bag near a butcher knife.