Friday, April 18, 2014

SJC Extends Warrantless Search to Rescue Endangered Animals

In Commonwealth v. Duncan on April 11, 2014, The SJC ruled on a question of first impression from Lynn District Court, which asked whether police can enter private property without a search warrant, extending the emergency aid exception of the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and Article 14 of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights to render emergency assistance to animals.

The opinion states: "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."  Probable cause does not have to be established in emergency aid situations, "because the purpose of police entry is not to investigate criminal activity." The Court cited the existence of statutes and public policies regulating "human interaction with animals" and a "focus on the prevention of both intentional and neglectful animal cruelty" as support for its ruling.