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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 wonder if the USSR had electronic voting machines that changed the ballot after it was cast? Oh well, at least we have a free media serving as vicious watchdog and exposing all of the rot in the system! (Insert rimshot)

  2. Jose, you are assuming those in power do not wish to be totalitarian. My experience has convinced me otherwise. Constitutionalists are nearly as rare as hens teeth among the powerbrokers "managing" us for The Glorious State. Oh, and your point is dead on, el correcta mundo. Keep the Founders’ (1791 & 1851) vision alive, my friend, even if most all others, and especially the ruling junta, chase only power and money (i.e. mammon)

  3. Hypocrisy in high places, absolute immunity handed out like Halloween treats (it is the stuff of which tyranny is made) and the belief that government agents are above the constitutions and cannot be held responsible for mere citizen is killing, perhaps has killed, The Republic. And yet those same power drunk statists just reel on down the hallway toward bureaucratic fascism.

  4. Well, I agree with you that the people need to wake up and see what our judges and politicians have done to our rights and freedoms. This DNA loophole in the statute of limitations is clearly unconstitutional. Why should dna evidence be treated different than video tape evidence for example. So if you commit a crime and they catch you on tape or if you confess or leave prints behind: they only have five years to bring their case. However, if dna identifies someone they can still bring a case even fifty-years later. where is the common sense and reason. Members of congress are corrupt fools. They should all be kicked out of office and replaced by people who respect the constitution.

  5. If the AG could pick and choose which state statutes he defended from Constitutional challenge, wouldn't that make him more powerful than the Guv and General Assembly? In other words, the AG should have no choice in defending laws. He should defend all of them. If its a bad law, blame the General Assembly who presumably passed it with a majority (not the government lawyer). Also, why has there been no write up on the actual legislators who passed the law defining marriage? For all the fuss Democrats have made, it would be interesting to know if some Democrats voted in favor of it (or if some Republican's voted against it). Have a nice day.

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