A homeless man in Los Angeles has the constitutional right to sue the city after animal control officers euthanized 18 of his pet pigeons, federal judges ruled Tuesday.

A three-judge panel from the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals said Martino Recchia can file a lawsuit against the Los Angeles Department of Animal Services under his Fourth Amendment rights, which bar unreasonable search and seizure. Animal control and law enforcement officers seized Recchia’s 18 pigeons, one crow and one seagull in November 2011 without a warrant after he was questioned by police and allowed them to search his streetside cardboard cages and boxes, according to court documents the Sacramento Bee obtained.

After discovering several of the animals were unhealthy, police were ultimately asked to seize them for a veterinarian euthanization.

A lower district court ruled in the city’s favor during Recchia’s previous lawsuit, but the three federal judges in California are still questioning whether or not his Fourth Amendment rights were violated. Los Angeles Police first confronted Recchia on the street on November 3, 2011, according to court records, where they discovered the 20 pet birds in his possession. The animals were covered in blankets and towels and all had access to food and water. Authorities said the birds were covered in feces, unable to fly freely and the newspaper lining of their makeshift cages were soaked.


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