What do you do if someone shows up and identifies themselves as law enforcement and starts asking questions about your operation or asks to see your operation? It depends.
First, my disclaimers. I am not an attorney, and the following is not to be considered legal advice. If you have questions or are in a situation, contact your attorney for advice regarding your situation. Contact me if you do not have an attorney and would like to be connected to a service that includes 24/7 Emergency Access to a lawyer.
If they are inspectors from PA Dog Law, be cooperative and courteous. You cannot and may not keep an inspector from inspecting your kennel. If they inspect your kennel and find unfavorable conditions and give you a certain amount of time to remedy the condition, do it immediately. Or to get medical attention to a dog, then have that dog transported to a vet office immediately! Do not delay! Just because they
gave you 72 hours does not mean that they have not reported or will not report you to the SPCA. And officers may be heading your direction right now. It is always your best interest to have the puppy admitted yourself rather than surrender the puppy to someone else for care. If you are in Lancaster County PA, take the puppy to Black Horse Animal Hospital immediately if possible.
If they are from the SPCA or other law enforcement, always be professional and courteous. The following are suggestions only and do not guarantee a favorable outcome. Because of the many variations, even attorneys do not talk in absolutes if they are discussing a potential future incident.
• If they do not have a warrant, and you do not have an attorney on retainer, do not answer any questions, and do not let them in. If they continue asking questions, kindly ask them to leave and do not answer any questions or even engage in any type of conversation. Do not resist if they bully their way into a building. This is not the time and place to have an argument.
• If they do not have a warrant, and you do have an attorney on retainer, do not answer any questions, and do not let them in. If they continue asking questions, kindly ask them to leave and let them know you’re about to call your attorney. Also do not engage in any conversation.
• If they do have a warrant, and you do not have an attorney on retainer, tell them that you’ll not answer any questions until you have retained an attorney. Do not let them in to any building until you have been shown a warrant and been explained the contents of the warrant. If they claim to have a warrant but refuse to show it, do not let them in. Do not resist if they bully their way into a building. This is not the time and place to have an argument.
• If they do have a warrant, and you do have an attorney on retainer, tell them you’ll not answer any questions and contact your attorney as soon as possible and find out what your options are. The attorney may want to talk to the person in charge of the investigation, and then advise you on what you are required to do or not do.
Sometimes they will claim to have a warrant but it’s in the car and they don’t want to get it. Again, be courteous, but insist on seeing the warrant. There have been times when it was later discovered they didn’t have a warrant even though they claimed they did.
Here’s a true story. A farm dog ran across the road and was struck by a vehicle, and it was reported. Someone showed up to investigate but the farmer didn’t let them into the barn as the investigator admitted to not having a warrant. She said, “Look, we can do this the easy way or the hard way. The easy way is you let us in and if we feel the dog needs care, we’ll take custody of it and take care of the bills, and nothing will come of it. But if you make us, do it the hard way and we have to go to the district court for a warrant, things won’t go so well for you.” So, he let them in, and they took the dog. Can you guess what happened? Yes, he did get charged with animal cruelty.
If you hear that, my suggestion is, “Then we’ll do it the hard way.” Because here’s the reality. They may not have enough evidence for a judge to give them a warrant. Here’s another truth. Each time I’ve heard that, and the family decided to do it the ‘easy’ way, the family still ended up with serious charges.
In conclusion, it is always better to have an attorney on retainer ready to call if needed. If you don’t have or don’t want an attorney on retainer, decide now to never answer any questions until you do have an attorney. And I mean no questions, not even about the weather. Because they will slip in other questions. Anything you say will be used to determine if you are or were either intentional, knowing, or reckless in your perceived actions or inactions. And that will determine how serious your charges will be.
The above thoughts are based on the 5th and 6th Amendments to the Constitution. The 5th talks about no person being required to be a witness against himself – the right to remain silent. The 6th says you shall enjoy the right to have the assistance of counsel (attorney/lawyer).
Animal cruelty accusations need to be taken very seriously. Getting the animal under veterinary care immediately will almost always help the situation. Just finding a dead animal on the premises, such as dead guinea pigs, calves or a dead puppy can trigger criminal charges being filed and it has happened.
Having said all this, I’ll need to make sure to say this here at the end. Even if you do get an attorney involved from the very beginning, before you answer any questions, this is no guarantee that you’ll not end up with some charges. But they will not be as serious as they could have been. The longer you wait to get an attorney involved, the harder she/he will have to work to unravel what you said or did.