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Massachusetts Court Ruling Expands Protections for Animals in Danger

Friday, April 11, 2014 - 3:15pm
Grey curly haired dog

The ASPCA applauds today’s Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court decision in the case of Commonwealth v. Heather M. Duncan. The Court ruled that law enforcement can enter property without a warrant if they have a reasonable basis for believing that an animal’s life is in danger, mirroring the “emergency aid” exception for warrants that already applies to the protection of human life.

The case was a result of an event that occurred on January 8, 2011. After receiving a call from a neighbor, police entered the front yard of the defendant, Ms. Duncan, without a warrant and removed three dogs that had been left outside in severely inclement weather. Two of the dogs were deceased, and one was extremely emaciated with no food or water. When the defendant was later charged with three counts of animal cruelty, she challenged the police’s entry into her yard and any evidence gathered from the yard, arguing that law enforcement was required to get a warrant before entering the property.

The ASPCA filed an amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) brief urging the Court to allow police to enter homes without a warrant when they believe an animal is injured or in imminent danger. “This important ruling appropriately empowers police to provide emergency aid to animals in peril and will encourage courts in states that have not yet decided this important issue to expand their animal protection laws,” explains Jennifer Chin, Vice President of the ASPCA’s Legal Advocacy department. “This is a major victory for animals in Massachusetts, and we’re pleased to be able to play a role in this.”

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Emma

She chained three helpless dogs to a tree in gruesome weather, starved and froze two of them to death, the third was found on the verge of death, and she is ranting that her rights were violated because police-rescuers came onto her property w/o a warrant? Am I reading this right? Are you serious? Here's what I would like to do to the despicable defendant in this case, Ms. Duncan ..... I dare not put my disgust and scorn into words. I think you get the picture.

Mary-Frances

I totally support your comments about this worthless trash called Duncan. I would love to let her receive the same treatment and without any mercy.

Fernando dela Garza

What is the law on federal agents who run over puppy's while on duty with gov't vehicles without any care for the puppy's life or even render aid?

Doris Carman

Fernando- Report it to person in charge and take it to social media and any paper that will print it w/ pictures.That is dispicable.

Haleene Williams

Accidents happen, but to go on and not render aid (unless stopping a human life issue) is cruelty to animals. This is only one side, and not clear as to how and why it happened so.... They should be charged for the same assault anyone else would be.
What if this had been a child (wreckless driving, Fleeing the scean, Failure to give aid) And if this was a case where they could have render help, but didn't, they should loose their job for a period of time depending on how serious the infraction was (as with anyone else). What their job is, is immaterial, it's what the situation was on both sides. Allot of scenarios could make it justified, like was he on a serious situation call, was the dog off of it's property or just plane not controlled, where their people that could help the dog besides him if he was on a serios call. You seem to know who it was, why did they say this happened anyway?

Haleene Williams

Accidents happen, but to go on and not render aid (unless stopping a human life issue) is cruelty to animals. This is only one side, and not clear as to how and why it happened so.... They should be charged for the same assault anyone else would be.
What if this had been a child (reckless driving, Fleeing the scene, Failure to give aid) And if this was a case where they could have render help, but didn't, they should loose their job for a period of time depending on how serious the infraction was (as with anyone else). What their job is, is immaterial, it's what the situation was on both sides. Allot of scenarios could make it justified, like was he on a serious situation call, was the dog off of it's property or just plane not controlled, where their people that could help the dog besides him if he was on a serious call. You seem to know who it was, why did they say this happened anyway?

Gwen

The police let these animals out in the cold when they were there? What kind of police fools would do this to any animals. I blame a lot on them for not getting them into a no kill shelter for protection til things were solved or have them adopted. What is wrong with the person that owned these pets. We in the Midwest had a very rough weather conditions and I would never leave my pets out only to do there job. She is a sick individual and should never have pets again period.

Stephanie

I think you need to reread the article again. The police did not let the animals out into the cold. Their despicable owner had left them chained up out in the cold with no food, no water, and by the time the police were called two dogs were already dead, the other on the brink. The questions that we should be asking is, "Why didn't the neighbor call sooner? Did they not notice the dogs were perpetually outdoors? Were they too afraid of reprocussions? Did they wait and only call when they could only see one dog instead of rwo or three?"
The police have no fault whatsoever in what happened to those poor dogs. They were called in after the fact. This is a prime example of what happens when otherwise caring citizens are too afraid to step up and speak out until it's too late. 100% of the blame is on the owner for what happened.

Gwen

The police let these animals out in the cold when they were there? What kind of police fools would do this to any animals. I blame a lot on them for not getting them into a no kill shelter for protection til things were solved or have them adopted. What is wrong with the person that owned these pets. We in the Midwest had a very rough weather conditions and I would never leave my pets out only to do there job. She is a sick individual and should never have pets again period.

Ruth

Why didn't the neighbor call the police sooner? We as people see and don't do anything until is too late. I'm sure the dogs were desperately crying or barking unless also the police took their sweet time to save these dogs. It is ridiculous how evil we are, I would like to see how long Ms. Duncan can stand outside with that weather and without eating. Ms. Duncan god sees everything.

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