Beardsley, Jensen and Von Wald
When a person drives through town with fifteen cats in the car, what should be done, if anything – with the cats?
Last week, the South Dakota Supreme Court ruled in a 3-2 decision that a law enforcement officer acted appropriately when he impounded the fifteen cats without a warrant or court order because of “exigent” circumstances. The majority pointed to the unsanitary aspects of the situation and the safety risk, stating “Given the open and obvious safety hazard presented by Edwards’s traveling coterie of cats, the investigating officer here was clearly confronted with a situation demanding immediate attention to avoid serious injury and to protect the health, welfare, and safety of citizens.”
The dissent found no “exigent circumstances,” thus no basis to impound the cats without a warrant or court order. The dissent said there was no evidence of “an emergency situation where impoundment without a warrant or court order was necessary to protect the well-being of an animal.” A veterinarian had examined the cats one month earlier and found them in “good health” with no evidence of neglect. The cats’ owner provided them with food, water, protection, sanitation, and affection. The cats had been spayed or neutered and received their immunizations.
This decision may get more attention than you think, time will tell. Some will think it’s important, others may think it was a waste of the court system’s time. It was very important to owner of the fifteen cats; her rights to her cats were terminated.
What’s next – how many cats or dogs - are okay? What about animals riding in the back of a pick-up?
If you want to know more of the details, you can read the Court’s 24-page decision in State of South Dakota v. Fifteen Impounded Cats, 2010 SD 50.
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