If you remember last fall in this blog, I highlighed various livestock animal cruelty laws in New York. Like this Long Island horse breeder, many livestock producers in New York are wondering if they will be next. It is important for livestock producers in New York to understand that duly incorporated animal societies (principally the New York Society Preventing Animal Cruelty (“SPCA”)) are able to obtain warrants from a magistrate judge upon showing reasonable cause that farm animals have failed to recieve care and handling (e.g., necessary food, water, shelter and veterinary care). As “peace officers” these people can legally search and seize livestock on your property.
Livestock producers are recommended to do the following if somebody identifying themself as an animal control officer shows up asking to look around your property:
1. Ask to look at the warrant;
2. Take time to read the warrant;
3. Pay special attention to the scope of the warrant (i.e., is the warrant for allegely abused dogs in your backyard or chickens in your barn);
4. Ask for identification;
5. Take notes during the investigation (e.g., time, date, duration, where the peace officer visited, whether there was a video camera, condition of livestock, identification of livestock seized, whether there was property damage); and
6. Call your local sheriff if the peace officer does not have a warrant and refuses to leave (or is investigating outside the scope of the warrant).
Finally, contact an attorney you know and trust. Every livestock producer should know an attorney that they can call when put in this situation. Criminal farm animal cruelty charges can be very serious and should not be taken lightly.