Mimesis Law
3 June 2020

The Arrestee’s Pet Dilemma

December 7, 2016 (Fault Lines) — Most of us don’t go through our day expecting to be arrested. But if you are engaged in some sort of activity that could land you in jail, even if the chances are remote, you might want to think about your pets.

Last week, while attending a court appearance for an ongoing drug case in Washington County Oregon, Craig Buckner decided not only to bring along his four-year-old Macaw imaginatively named “Bird,” but he left him in a tree while he went inside the courthouse. While waiting for his case to be called, Buckner fell asleep. Apparently that was grounds for some suspicion and Buckner was ordered to undergo a urine test which turned up positive, violating his release conditions. He was remanded to custody immediately.

The combination of heading to a cell instead of going home and the fact that Bird was in a tree outside with 40 degree temperatures approaching resulted in Buckner becoming very distraught. A deputy went outside to try to lure the bird down to no avail, so they brought Buckner downstairs and “Bird” immediately dropped to his shoulder. Back inside, the deputies amused themselves by taking some mug shots with Bird on Buckner’s shoulder.

That instance had a fairly good resolution for owner and pet. A man going to jail and a bird losing his owner might not seem like a very good resolution, but it could have been much worse. Buckner shouldn’t have treated his court appearance like a walk in the park with his pet. If his choice of clothing is any indication, he doesn’t seem to take the process very seriously, but the least he could have done was protect his pet by leaving him home with a plan and instructions should his appearance in court produce unexpected results.

Normally, pet owners should have some plan in place for their pets regardless of whether they are involved in jail-inducing activities. Either have family members at the ready or a list of contacts for your housemates and a set of instructions outlining medications, diet and other care topics.

When one person is the primary caregiver to pets, the loss of that person can result in extreme mental trauma or worse to their dogs, cats, birds or other creatures. So if you love your pets, it might not be such a good idea to engage in certain activities like driving drunk with your dogs in the car. Depending on your attitude and the cop, you could go to jail and the dog could wind-up in the local pound racking up fees that might result in the euthanizing of your pet if you can’t pay them or don’t get him soon enough.

Since many police departments don’t have a specific dog policy when a dog or other pet is with someone when they are arrested, it’s usually up to the arresting officer to figure it out. The best result (besides not driving drunk with your pet) is through cooperation between cop and arrestee that a family member or friend can come pick up the pet.

Fault Lines is among those who have documented the very poor regard many American police officers have for pets, dogs especially, so hoping that the cop is an animal lover is a long-shot. Most cities don’t have a setup like Seattle, where some effort is made to reunite people with their pets post release.

Your mistake could easily cost your pet its life. It’s not hard to imagine a police officer threatening to arrest you and send your dog to the pound if you don’t comply with a demand to search your car or delete the video you just took of him. Many people will do anything to protect their pets.

It’s not just criminal behavior on your part that could spell doom for your pet. There are many cities that are run very much like evil profit-generating empires, where anything goes in the quest to snag money to maintain jobs for the very people charged with serving the community. If your dog gets loose, or an animal control officer spots them without a registration tag, they could be seized and then put to death of you can’t come up with the fine money to have them released.

In Riverside, California, inspectors went door to door in low-income Hispanic neighborhoods handing out citations amounting to several hundred dollars in some cases, without even seeing the dogs, for infractions like failing to have the dogs sterilized, vaccinated or registered. Activists complained they were picking on the poor but Alan Drusys, chief veterinarian for Riverside County, claimed he takes:

great exception to the accusation that we are picking on poor people. It’s not our fault that we don’t go to the gated communities — we go there all the time, they refuse entry.

Many people are unaware that taking a pet to the veterinarian could result in a letter to the county effectively informing on you either in compliance with local law or the notion that the pet registration scheme is effective in keeping homeless animal populations at bay.

Once the county knows you have a dog, many will come after you aggressively. Even going so far as to arrest you and leave your pet alone, perhaps to die of starvation. Often it amounts to little more than a shake down.

Courts are increasingly recognizing that pets are more than just a piece of property. But as of yet, none have ruled in favor of anyone who lost their dogs to a municipal pet extortion scheme. Your best bet? Have a plan, be responsible, and protect yourself and your dogs.

4 Comments on this post.

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  • Mark W. Bennett
    7 December 2016 at 6:41 am - Reply

    On a related note about pets and offenders I had an interesting sentencing last week that would be of interest to dog lovers and creative lawyers. The long-time spouse of the offender, a childless couple, testified that their 12 year old dog, Yogi, was suffering great anxiety, from the husband being in custody prior to the sentencing and she was extremely emotional about this, sobbing for several minutes. It was offered as evidence (including a photo of the couple with Yogi) as potential mitigation for a very, very long guideline sentence. I did vary downward to the mandatory minimum of 60 months, but not because of Yogi. While I did not doubt the stress on Yogi, I did not find it a permissible reason for a downward variance despite my personal love of dogs.

    • Keith
      7 December 2016 at 12:04 pm - Reply

      Judge Bennett, assuming you *did* find it permissible, wouldn’t the average life span of dogs made any sentence a virtual death penalty to Yogi?

  • thomas Johnson
    8 December 2016 at 9:31 pm - Reply

    I have sympathy for Yogi. But Yogi still has someone to take care of Him/Her. It’s when the animal goes to a shelter or is put to death because of an owners criminal act or negligence that breaks my heart.

    There are plenty of things that can make orphans out of your pets, like accidents, unexpected debilitation or even death. But negligence and selfishness are inexcusable.

    If you take on the responsibility of a pet you need to do everything in your power to maintain that level of care and comfort they enjoy from being with a good owner. I have a plan in place with my pups so if something happens to me they will go to someone they know who cares about them. Losing me will hurt and confuse them but at least they will be cared for and loved.

    • Anon
      9 December 2016 at 8:25 am - Reply