In a historic move that puts the well-being of nonhumans on par with that of people, the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled today that police can legally enter private property without a prior authorization to help an injured or endangered animal.
Prior to this ruling, an exception to the warrant requirement was only afforded to police rendering emergency assistance to people.
"In agreement with a number of courts in other jurisdictions that have considered the issue, we conclude that, in appropriate circumstances, animals, like humans, should be afforded the protection of the emergency aid exception,'' wrote Justice Barbara Lenk.
"In light of the 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 exception."
The Supreme Court's decision stems from a 2011 animal cruelty case in which police, responding to reports of dead dogs chained in a the backyard of a residence, entered the private property without a warrant to save one animal that was still clinging to life.