ARL Celebrates Today’s SJC Ruling

Decision provides critical tool for preventing animal cruelty

We’re celebrating the decision of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC)—the first animal-related decision in 40 years!—to extend the emergency aid exception to the warrant requirement to animals.

The emergency aid exception allows police to enter a home without a warrant when they have objectively reasonable belief that there may be someone inside who is injured or in impending danger of physical harm.

The office of Essex County District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett argued the case before the SJC for applying the emergency aid exception to animals.

The ARL joined several local officials and national organizations including the Attorney General, the Animal Control Officers Association of Massachusetts, and the Animal Legal Defense Fund in filing a friend of the court brief in support of extending the emergency aid exception as well.

11-6 See something say somethingToday, the SJC issued an opinion agreeing the exception applies “with equal force” to animals:

“In light of public policy in favor of minimizing animal suffering in a wide variety of contexts, permitting warrantless searches to protect nonhuman animal life fits coherently within the existing emergency aid requirement, intended to facilitate official response to an ‘immediate need for assistance for the protection of life or property.’”

The timing of the ruling during Prevention of Cruelty to Animals month is particularly meaningful to our ongoing efforts to rescue animals from suffering, cruelty, abandonment, and neglect. Four out of five cases of animal cruelty remain undiscovered; reporting concerns to your local authorities is critical to prevention.

Learn more about the ARL’s See Something, Say Something campaign.

Congratulations to the office of Essex County District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett for successfully arguing the case!