Oregon Court Ruling Says Pets Are Victims, Not Property

Posted by Stacey Venzel

The Oregon Supreme Court upheld a ruling that no search warrant was necessary to "look inside" a starving dog.

In 2008, 28-year-old Amanda L. Newcomb was taken to court for a dog abuse and neglect case in Portland, Oregon. Upon seeing skin and bones Juno in the woman's backyard, the investigator called to the scene immediately removed the dog from the woman's care.

Newcomb told the investigator she was out of food but would get some later that night. Meanwhile, seeing the dog "eating at random things in the yard and trying to vomit," the investigator determined the canine needed medical attention.

He took the dog to a veterinarian at the local Humane Society where the animal's blood was drawn to rule out diseases and food was administered over the next several days without the owner's consent. Records show that Juno quickly gained weight while under veterinary care.

Newcomb, however, argued that her rights had been violated because no warrant was obtained to search her property, meaning Juno. Her argument compared looking inside the body of an animal to perusing the contents of a closed suitcase.


The owner was found guilty of second-degree neglect. In June 2016, the Oregon Supreme Court upheld this conviction, agreeing that Juno was not property. Instead, his situation was comparable to a child abuse case. The dog was seen as a victim.

This ruling has positive implications for animal rights cases, coinciding with President Obama signing a bill to mediate laboratory testing on animals. It has further implications for animal offenders, suggesting that culprits can be tried for multiple counts of neglect within a group of abused animals--one per victim.

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Oregon Court Ruling Says Pets Are Victims, Not Property