Sentell v. New Orleans & Carrollton R. Co.,
166 U.S. 698 (1897)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Sentell v. New Orleans & Carrollton R. Co., 166 U.S. 698 (1897)

Sentell v. New Orleans & Carrollton Railroad Company

No. 282

Submitted March 25, 1897

Decided April 26, 1897

166 U.S. 698


A state statute providing that no dog shall be entitled to the protection of the law unless placed upon the assessment rolls, and that in a civil action for killing a dog, the owner cannot recover beyond the value fixed by himself in the last assessment preceding the killing, is within the police power of the state.

This was an action originally instituted by Sentell in the Civil District Court for the Parish of Orleans to recover the value of a Newfoundland bitch, known as "Countess Lona," alleged to have been negligently killed by the railroad company.

The company answered, denying the allegation of negligence, and set up as a separate defense that plaintiff had not complied either with the requirements of the state law, or of the city ordinances, with respect to the keeping of dogs, and was therefore not entitled to recover. The law of the state was as follows:

"SECTION 1. Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Louisiana that sec. (1201) twelve hundred and one of the Revised Statutes of Louisiana be amended and reenacted so as to read as follows:"

" From and after the passage of this act, dogs owned by citizens of this state are hereby declared to be personal property of such citizens, and shall be placed on the same guarantees of law as other personal property, provided, such dogs are given in by the owner thereof to the assessor."

"SEC. 2. Be it further enacted . . . that no dog shall be entitled to the protection of the law unless the same shall have been placed upon the assessment rolls. "

Page 166 U. S. 699

"SEC. 3. Be it further enacted . . . that in civil actions for the killing of or for injuries done to dogs, the owner cannot recover beyond the amount of the value of such dog or dogs, as fixed by himself in the last assessment preceding the killing or injuries complained of."

"SEC. 4. Be it further enacted . . . that all laws in conflict with this act be repealed."

"Approved July 5, 1882."

By the city ordinance, adopted July 1, 1890, No. 4613,

"no dog shall be permitted to run or be at large upon any street, alley, highway, common or public square within the limits of the City of New Orleans, provided that this section shall not apply to any dog to which a tag, obtained from the treasurer, is attached."

By section 8, the treasurer was directed to furnish metal dog tags to all persons applying for the same at the rate of two dollars each, available only for the year in which they were issued.

Plaintiff denied the constitutionality of the state act, and the court charged the jury that the fact that the dog was not tagged as required by the city ordinances could not affect the right of the plaintiff to recover; that the above act of the legislature was unconstitutional as destructive of the right of property, and that, a dog being property, a law which requires that property should not be protected unless listed for taxation was in conflict with the Constitution of the United States, providing that no person shall be deprived of his life, liberty, or property without due process of law. The jury returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiff for $250, upon which judgment was entered.

The case was carried to the court of appeals, which reversed the judgment of the trial court and entered judgment in favor of the defendant, holding that plaintiff should have shown a compliance with the law of the state and the ordinances of the city as a condition precedent to recover. Whereupon plaintiff sued out a writ of error from this Court.

Page 166 U. S. 700

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