Questions in an Oregon misdemeanor animal cruelty case lead all the way to the Supreme Court, where justices decided in June that the pet owner was rightfully convicted in the 2010 incident. It is the third animal cruelty case in two years to be decided by the state's high court.
The basis for appeal to the Supreme Court was a blood draw taken by a veterinarian without a warrant and used as evidence in the original case.
The case at issue began in late 2010, when an informant told the Oregon Humane Society that Amanda L. Newcomb was beating her dog, failing to properly feed him and keeping it in a kennel for much of the day. An animal-cruelty investigator went to Newcomb's apartment, saw the dog had "no fat on his body" and "was kind of eating at random things in the yard, and trying to vomit," according to The Oregonian newspaper. Newcomb told the investigator she was out of dog food but planned to buy some.
The investigator confiscated the dog and took him to a veterinarian for an exam and tests. The vet drew blood to rule out any disease and over the course of several days of regular feedings, the dog put on weight. It was concluded the only thing wrong with the dog was the starvation.
Newcomb was convicted of second-degree animal neglect, a misdemeanor. However, her attorney argued that by drawing blood from her dog, authorities violated her constitutional right to be protected from an unreasonable search of property. Under Oregon law, animals are considered property. At the 2011 trial, the judge denied her motion to suppress the blood evidence after the prosecutor successfully argued that the dog's veterinary treatment was akin to a suspected child-abuse victim being taken into protective custody for examination and care.
In addition, the prosecutor successfully made the unusual argument that a dog is not a container -- such as a suitcase -- that requires a warrant. Rather, the dog "doesn't contain anything" and what's inside a dog is just "more dog."
The Supreme Court agreed, according to The Oregonian, that the chemical composition of the dog's blood was not information that Newcomb "placed in (the dog) for safekeeping or to conceal from view." The high court noted that dogs are not "mere" property and don't require a warrant to search internally.
The ruling reversed a 2014 Oregon Court of Appeals decision to throw out the conviction. The decision to uphold Newcomb's conviction is the third in two years to boost animal-protection efforts.
The Supreme Court decided in 2012, that Arnold Weldon Nix, who was convicted in 2010 of starving 20 horses and goats on his property, could be sentenced to one count of second-degree animal neglect for each of the animals that was starved. Investigators found “dozens of emaciated animals, mostly horses and goats, and several animal carcasses in various states of decay" on his property, according to The Oregonian.
In 2014, the high court affirmed the decision made by the circuit and appeals court that a sheriff's deputy acted legally in 2010 when he entered private property without a warrant to rescue a starving horse. The horse, which was co-owned by Teresa Ann Dicke and Linda Diane Fessenden, died from lingering effects of the starvation.
No matter the crime, every defendant has a right to representation by a qualified attorney. If you have been arrested and face criminal charges, call the Seattle law office of Steve Karimi at (206) 621-8777 or contact him online.
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