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Court: Fido is an “effect” under the Fourth

Dog photoCan a police officer violate the Fourth Amendment by shooting your dog? On Monday the Tenth Circuit joined a growing number of appellate courts that have answered the question in the affirmative.

In Mayfields v. Bethards, two deputies left their patrol car, entered the Mayfield’s property without a warrant, approached the porch and shot their Malmute Husky named Majka. According to the deputies, a neighbor had complained about a different dog mauling his livestock about one year prior, and the deputies claimed a state law right to shoot any dog if harming or attempting to harm livestock.

The Court wasn’t buying it.

First, the Court dispensed with the notion that a family pet is not protected under the Fourth Amendment. The Supreme Court has long classified pets as personal property, and the phrase “effects” in the Fourth Amendment’s clause, “persons, houses, papers, and effects,” has long been interpreted to protect property.

Next, the Court firmly rejected the idea that state law permitted the deputies to hunt down and shoot a family dog more than a year after a “mauling” allegation. There was no threat to livestock when these deputies shot Majka, and apparently there never was, because the mauling report indicated the dog in question had already been shot a year prior.

The case highlights the scope of protections afforded under the Fourth Amendment, which is not limited to protecting individuals, but also includes their property, like pets.

If you have questions about the Fourth Amendment or use of force issues, contact the attorneys at Bryan & Terrill Law, 918-935-2777.

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