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State v. Fessenden

Summarized by: 

Date Filed: 09-25-2013
Case #: A150065
Hadlock, J. for the Court; Ortega, P.J.; and Sercombe, J.
Full Text Opinion: http://www.publications.ojd.state.or.us/docs/A150065.pdf

Criminal Procedure: A police officer, who has an objectively reasonable belief that an animal has suffered, or will imminently suffer a serious physical injury or death, is justified in conducting a search or seizure without a warrant to provide immediate aid or assistance.

Defendant appealed a conviction for second-degree animal neglect. Defendant owned a horse and kept it on his property. A Sheriff evaluated Defendant’s horse from an adjoining common driveway and used the Henneke Scoring Method, a method used to determine whether a horse is healthy, and found that the horse was dangerously unhealthy needing immediate emergency care. As a result, the officer entered the pasture and seized the horse without obtaining a search warrant. The trial court concluded that Sheriff's entry and seizure was justified. Defendant appealed, arguing that the emergency aid doctrine did not extend to animals. Under the emergency aid doctrine, a law enforcement officer can enter a property without a warrant so long as they have an objectively reasonable belief that entry is necessary to provide immediate aid to persons, or to assist persons who are imminently threatened by serious physical harm. The Court held that a societal interest in protecting animals from cruelty can justify a warrantless search or seizure aimed to provide immediate aid or assistance to animals that are imminently threatened with serious physical injury or cruel death. Affirmed.