Monday, April 13, 2009

Dead Cows

I got a call this morning from a woman concerned about some dead cattle. She lives out in the country, and at her fence line, several cattle on her neighbor’s property are dead. She said that she called the Sherriff’s office and an animal control guy came out and took pictures. She called them today to find out what they were going to do about it and animal control told her they couldn’t do anything because the cattle are on private property.

Now I know there is more to this story than she knows, because I have worked with those guys and they wouldn’t just take pictures and be done with it. That being said, there is something funny about living in the West. It has to do with jurisdiction. Out here in the West, people guard their freedom and independence with a vengeance. Government authority is pretty limited – especially in the unincorporated areas. If you live in an unincorporated area, jurisdiction falls to the County. But the County has much, much less authority than City government. So when the animal control folks say they can’t do anything about the dead cattle, it may be true. If they have contacted the owner and the owner refuses to let them on the property, they will need to get a search warrant. Which means they have to establish probable cause. That is likely the reason for the photographs – to get a sense of how the animals died. Did they starve to death? Then they could argue for animal cruelty and get a warrant that way. Was it a natural cause? They will need to convince a judge to write the warrant though, which is another tricky step.

Meanwhile, this woman is terrified it is anthrax.

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