Save The Dogs Exception?

By Mark Esposito, Weekend Contributor

Zen Dharma Dog Bite Paralegal in Downtown Los Angeles Law Library Legal Research and Writing Law and Motion_fullMany courts have recognized the so-called emergency aid exception to the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition against  warrantless searches, but the emergency usually had to involve a natural person. Now the highest court in Massachusetts has extended the doctrine to emergency aid in furtherance of animals. In Jan. 2011, Lynn police were called to the home of Heather Duncan based on neighbors’ reports of two dead dogs lying near her locked fence in her backyard. Two officers from the Lynn Police Department arrived and began to investigate the scene. Climbing a nearby snowbank, the officers saw two motionless dogs and another barking weakly.  No food or water was seen and according to the officers, the dogs appeared malnourished and in immediate distress. After trying  unsuccessfully to reach the homeowner, fire officials were called who promptly cut the fence lock and escorted the police onto the property. Two of the animals were indeed dead and the third was starving.

 Ms. Duncan was charged with three counts of animal cruelty. She defended the case based on her claim that the officers had unreasonably searched without a warrant and the fruit of their search was thus unconstitutional. No warrant, no dogs, no case went the defense.

Not so fast wrote Justice Barbara Lenk for a unanimous court: ‘‘In agreement with a number of courts in other jurisdictions that have considered the issue, we conclude that, in appropriate circumstances, animals, like humans, should be afforded the protection of the emergency aid exception.’’ Animal cruelty has been prohibited in the Commonwealth of  Massachusetts since Plymouth Rock times and eradicating it along with protecting the animals was a compelling interest justifying treating dogs like anything but chattel. As we know from many discussions here, the law regards our family pets as mere skin and bones with their value being equal to whatever the marketplace decides. Not realistic, really, but as they say, “It’s the law.”

Now, perhaps Massachusetts can lead the way in proclaiming that our fellow creatures deserve at least some protection from the ravages of human behavior. But does this exception go too far in placing the rights of dogs over the constitutional rights of people? You decide:


~Mark Esposito, Weekend Contributor

31 thoughts on “Save The Dogs Exception?”

  1. If ever I came upon what, to me, would be unconscionable arrogance, it would be the human blunder of believing that humans are not animals, and also, that animals other than humans are actually inferior to humans.

    Humans fit into a some environmental niches better than some other animals do, and some other animals fit into other environmental niches better than humans do.

    And the absurd notion of evolution being driven by the survival of the fittest is a curious instance of a circular tautology.

  2. im no lawyer and versed only in specific laws but the article does say that the neighbors attempted to contact the owner to no avail at which point they then contacted the police.. would not that make the warrantless search an exigent circumstance? the fact that the owner did not respond to attempts to contact her could have meant she herself was in trouble?

    moral wise i have a issue with her being cruel enough to treat not one but 3 dogs the same she cruelly and with full knowledge of what she was doing killed them slowly and painfully.. i can only think that karma will afford her the same death sentence lets see how she likes it…….

  3. Here are some situations which the courts will address in the future:

    – Hillary is President in 2017 and the cops look through a window on a winter day from the snowbank and see Bill and Monica’s under aged daughter in bed having sex.

    – Google satellite photo shows inmates being sexually sodomized by an identifiable coach in the walled yard at State Penn University. No warrant obtained. Police go in and arrest the pervert. Case goes up on appeal as Sanduski II.

    – Cop on a snow bank on a cold winter day in Maine and looks into the home through a window and sees Al Zeimer having sex with a donkey. Al is arrested and denies any recall. Donkey says nothing. No video. The word of a cop against that of Al and the donkey. No warrant.

    -Brit on a snow bank watching a group of men signing the Declaration of Independence. Barges in. Sorry limey, no snow in July in Philly. Brit loses.
    But, then it was a Brit Court and no Constitution was involved. What result?

  4. I’m surprised that the officers didn’t shoot and kill the third dog in order to keep themselves safe from attack. Either these officers were far braver than their puppy-murdering comrades, or the third dog was so weak that it was unable to stand.

    Ms. Duncan has now learned the “plain view” doctrine regarding warrantless busts. This is basic law that most 7th grade pot heads know. The lesson to twisted animal owners is to bring your livestock inside to torture and starve.

    Did the cops check inside Duncan’s house for other animals or humans chained up?

  5. If they were lawfully on the snowbank, then things they can see from there were in plain view.

    1. Tom – even to the most hardened police officer, there was no way they could get away with calling the third dog a threat. And the neighbors were present. Witnesses are always a problem in lawsuits.

  6. Visible evidence of illegal behavior, which can be seen by casual observation from outside of the private property should be considered as sufficient cause for examination of additional illegal activity.

Comments are closed.