Legal Question in Constitutional Law in Maryland

Fourth amendment law

I am an animal control officer in maryland. I was called to a house by local police. They had done a wellness check at the location and found no one at home. They did however, observe a small dog and several cats loose inside the home. The house had excessive clutter and a fowl odor inside. The police described the animals as being in good condition, but were concerned that the animals did not have food or water. By the time i arrived on the scene, only 1 police officer remained. He was in his patrol car. We went to the back of the house and through the glass patio door i could see a large bowl of clean water and a large bowl of dry pet food. The house was extremely cluttered and you could smell a foul odor that i recognized as old animal urine. My immediate supervisor demanded that i remove the animals from the house, even though we had no warrant. I refused to remove the animals because they were not in any immediate danger. I posted the front door of the house with corrective measures and feel a warrant could be obtained at a later time if neccesary. It is my opinion that removing the animals at this time would have violated the owners fourth amendment rights. My supervisor strongly disagrees. What could i have legally done?

Asked on 8/25/07, 10:26 pm

1 Answer from Attorneys

Terry Harris Law Offices of Terry J. Harris
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Re: Fourth amendment law

Whether the fourth amendment was violated or not depends on all the facts and circumstances and whether removing the animals was in good faith and reasonably justified under the applicable law. (I don't know the law of your jurisdiction, so I don't know the authority under which the animals could be removed. Typically it is something like imminent danger to health or safety of the animals or others.) Because your supervisor and the local police disagreed with your assessment, the facts and circumstances may have been led to two different conclusions either of which reasonable.

In any event, you would need to carefully document your role, and the facts and circumstances involved, and under whose orders the animal was removed. You probably need to check internal practices and procedures as to how to navigate such a dispute between you and your supervisor.

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Answered on 8/26/07, 2:48 pm

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