Exigent circumstances exist when an animal may be in danger of losing its life.
Arriving at the scene
Examples of exigent circumstances:
- Animal is severely emaciated - near death
- Animal's collar is imbedded in its neck
- Animal has numerous sores on its body, or obvious inflicted injuries, such as gunshot wounds, arrows, etc.
- Animal appears to be overcome with heat exhaustion
- Animal is whimpering and vomiting, or appears too undernourished and weak to stand up
- In a farm-related case involving large animals such as horses or cows, the animals may be too weak to stand
- Animal is crying out in pain behind a locked door
- A building is on fire or flooding and an animal is inside
Police have successfully employed the exigent circumstances rule in the past to remove an animal from such circumstances/conditions. (See also page 10 of Chapter 1, Be Prepared Ahead of Time, "Key Concepts").
- Animal is easily accessible
- If exigent circumstances exist, and you can remove the animal, consider doing so rather than waiting to obtain a search warrant.
- Call the animal control officer or local humane agency to take the animal to a veterinarian. NOTE: When animals are seized without a warrant, a humane officer is required by law (see Title 13, Section 354 (b) 3) to immediately take the animal to a licensed veterinarian to assess its health.
- When an animal is taken to the veterinarian's office, take photographs of it there. Get a statement from the veterinarian, documenting the animal's condition.
- Animal is not easily accessible: in locked car/or behind locked door
If you believe exigent circumstances exist, and the animal is not easily accessible, consider doing the following:
- If you have exigent circumstances involving an animal suffering from heat exhaustion, such as a dog in a hot car, find a witness if possible, and do whatever is necessary (such as breaking the window) to remove the animal from the circumstances immediately. (See Title 13, Section 386 (b)).
NOTE: You are responsible for securing the vehicle afterward.
- If you can see the animal through the window of a locked building or apartment, or if you can't see it, but hear it crying in distress behind a closed, locked door, consider doing the following:
- Break the lock or the door and remove the animal. If possible, have a neighbor witness the circumstances and sign a statement attesting to the circumstances. If a witness is not available, document your actions very carefully. Take photos if possible.
- Take the animal to a veterinarian for treatment, if necessary. NOTE: When animals are seized without a warrant, a humane officer is required by law (see Title 13, Section 354 (b) 3) to immediately take the animal to a licensed veterinarian to assess its health.
- Entering Property - Some Considerations
Remember you are responsible for the security of the property that you entered; you must re-secure it after you remove the animal.
With regard to a person's house, there would have to be an extremely compelling reason for you to break into a person's house without a search warrant; for example, the house was on fire or flooding, and an animal was trapped inside.
Confronting owner/owner reactions
- Talk to the owner to determine how this situation came about. Based on the conversation, you might arrest him, issue him a citation, and/or obtain a written statement from him granting the local humane society permission to take over control of the animals.
- If the animal has been abandoned, try to find the owner after ensuring that the animal is moved to a safe place. When the owner is found, charge him with the violations of the appropriate sections of Title 13.