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Oregon Court Backs Warrantless Rescue Of Sick Horse

An Oregon police officer was justified in seizing someone's horse without getting a warrant first. The Oregon Supreme Court ruled Thursday that warrantless searches are allowed when the life of an animal is on the line.

The Douglas County Sheriff's deputy who responded to a neighbor's tip said it was the worst case of animal neglect he'd ever seen. The officer said the horse was so emaciated that it could easily have died in the time it would have taken to get a warrant. So he quickly arranged for the animal to be hauled off to receive veterinary care.

Darla Clark, who runs a horse sanctuary near Roseburg, recalled when the animal arrived. 

"Her body just looked like death,” she said. “She had no muscle tone at all. It was skin over bone."

Clark helped nurse the horse back to health and it lived another year. But the animal's owners appealed their conviction on animal neglect charges. They said the seizure violated their constitutional protection against warrantless searches.

But the Oregon Supreme Court decided that just like when a person in danger, police officers can act without a warrant to save an animal.