COA: Animal seizure allowed without warrant

Jennifer Nelson
January 1, 2008
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Police and animal control officers were justified in removing malnourished animals from a property without a warrant, ruled the Indiana Court of Appeals today. The court also overturned a Bartholomew County man's convictions of neglect on four dead horses because of lack of evidence they died of neglect.

In Terry Baxter v. State of Indiana, No. 03A04-0710-CR-596, Terry Baxter appealed his convictions of four counts of Class D felony failure to properly dispose of a dead animal, and 12 counts of Class B misdemeanor neglect of an animal.

Baxter argued the statutes criminalizing the improper disposal of a dead animal were unconstitutional, the trial court abused its discretion in allowing animal control to participate in this case with respect to nine living horses seized from his property, that the seizure of those horses violated his rights under the Indiana Constitution, and the court lacked sufficient evidence to support all of his neglect convictions.

After police were notified about the four dead horses on Baxter's grandmother's property by a worker who went there to pick up a propane tank, they went to Baxter's home and saw nine more horses that appeared to be malnourished. They called the Indiana Hooved Animal Humane Society, which removed the horses and placed them in foster care. The horses were in plain sight and removed without a warrant. A veterinarian who examined them found eight of the nine horses were malnourished.

The Court of Appeals ruled the Indiana Code regarding animal disposal was constitutional, clear, and easily understood. The appellate court affirmed Baxter's four convictions of failure to properly dispose of a dead animal, finding he didn't follow Indiana statute for disposal by leaving the decomposing bodies of four horses on his grandmother's property, which is near his property.

It was wholly appropriate for animal control to intervene on this case, wrote Judge Michael Barnes, for the limited purpose of opposing Baxter's request to sell the neglected animals. The trial court followed Indiana Code regarding the termination of Baxter's rights to the animals, awarding custody of the seized animals to a humane society, and ordering Baxter to pay for the cost of caring for the animals during their pre-trial impoundment, wrote the judge.

The seizure of the nine malnourished animals and four dead horses without a warrant didn't violate Baxter's rights under the Indiana Constitution. Citing Trimble v. State, 842 N.E.2d 798 (Ind. 2006), the appellate court found police officers were justified in going to Baxter's home after they received a tip and removing the horses from Baxter's care. The living horses were in plain sight on the property, and in regards to the dead horses, the police didn't go to the grandmother's property until Baxter's son told police they were there, wrote Judge Barnes.

The appellate court affirmed Baxter's convictions on eight counts of neglect of the living horses, but reversed the four convictions of neglect of the dead horses because they were based on mere speculation. Because the animals were already decomposing when they were found, veterinarians were unable to say the horses died as a result of neglect, wrote the judge.

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  1. I think the cops are doing a great job locking up criminals. The Murder rates in the inner cities are skyrocketing and you think that too any people are being incarcerated. Maybe we need to lock up more of them. We have the ACLU, BLM, NAACP, Civil right Division of the DOJ, the innocent Project etc. We have court system with an appeal process that can go on for years, with attorneys supplied by the government. I'm confused as to how that translates into the idea that the defendants are not being represented properly. Maybe the attorneys need to do more Pro-Bono work

  2. We do not have 10% of our population (which would mean about 32 million) incarcerated. It's closer to 2%.

  3. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  4. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  5. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.