Warrant Not Needed to Draw Blood From Suspect's Dog

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By Lance J. Rogers

June 21 — Police didn't need a search warrant to draw blood from a dog they had seized while investigating an animal cruelty case, the Oregon Supreme Court ruled June 16 ( State v. Newcomb, 2016 BL 192171, Or., No. SC S062387, 6/16/16 ).

Although animals qualify as “property,” their owners don't have an expectation of privacy in the chemical composition of a pet's blood comparable to the expectation of privacy that a person has in an inanimate container that is used to store information, the court said in an opinion by Justice Virginia L. Linder.

Dogs Aren't Containers

The state limits possession and ownership of sentient animals in ways that don't apply to inert personal property, the court said.

For example, animal owners are subject to restrictions involving minimum care that may include the duty to provide veterinary treatment, the court said.

“A dog owner simply has no cognizable right, in the name of her privacy, to countermand that obligation,” the court said.

A warrant is often required to open opaque containers that store data or other objects, the court said. But a dog doesn't have any contents that are protected because the only thing inside the dog is “more dog,” it said.

Amanda Newcomb was convicted of animal neglect after an officer took her emaciated dog to a veterinarian who conducted tests which suggested that the dog didn't have a disease, but was instead suffering from malnourishment.

The Oregon Attorney General's Office, Salem, Or., represented the state. The Office of Public Defense Services, Salem, represented the defendant.

To contact the reporter on this story: Lance J. Rogers in Washington at lrogers@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: C. Reilly Larson at rlarson@bna.com

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