When the State Takes our Companions

Posted by Carter Dillard, ALDF's Director of Litigation on November 15, 2010

This week ALDF filed an amicus curiae brief in Washington state’s Supreme Court, arguing that the court should hear the appeal of Arnold Sather, whose dog was found to be dangerous and impounded by the City of Spokane. The case revolves around the question of what due process a city owes the guardian of a companion animal when the state accuses that animal of being a threat to society.

If our constitutions exist to protect us from the state, and to ensure that the state does not imprison us without trial, or take our homes without some compensation, what does the state owe us before it takes, impounds and kills our closest companions? One of the many reminders that our society has a cavemanishly regressive view of non-human animals is that in many places, like Spokane, governments offer citizens very little protection – much less than if it were placing its citizen in jail for a short while, or seizing even a small portion of its citizens property.

Of course that makes no sense. We value our companions because we love them, and many of us would rather spend a night in jail, or allow the public to use part of our property, than lose them. There are unfeeling members of our society that can’t empathize with animals, that only value an animal for the work it can do or the food it can provide. It’s that sort of thinking that has robbed Mr. Sather and his companion of the protections they deserve. But just as the development of constitutions themselves represents progress, from a time before them when, for example, women or minorities had no rights, constitutions have evolved to respect our love of non-human animals. In the months to come ALDF hopes to argue that point, and specifically that they offer Mr. Sather and his companion the protections they deserve and much more than they received.    


6 thoughts on “When the State Takes our Companions

  1. Jennifer Anderson says:

    I agree. There is a special case in Ireland for a dog named Lennox. He was wrongly taken by the Belfast City Council and deemed a “dangerous” pit-type dog, but he isn’t. The family has been relentlessly trying to get him back but the council is stubborn and won’t admit their mistake. Now his story is viral. Just another example of the over reach of government into our personal lives.

  2. Ann L says:

    I am sorry to say that the government has reached such a huge amount of control over our personal lives that nothing is safe from “the government” any longer. Government stopped being “for the people” decades ago. Government is completely out of the people’s control and abuses are rampant. Failure to prosecute animal abuse and neglect and unrightful seizure are two of the worst personal abuses and we have not yet found a sucessful way to fight back.

  3. Tucker says:

    JEEEEZ, WHEN WILL THIS END?!?!?!?!?
    PEOPLE ARE TO DAMB QUICK TO HURT, KILL AND SNATCH ANIMALS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    IT SICKENS ME,AND THE PEOPLE WHO DO THIS, (I DON’T CARE WHO THE HELL YOU ARE) NEED TO BE CHARGED FOR KILLING AND HURTING ANIMALS OF COURSE, THE ONES WHO NSACH AND TAKE ANIMALS AND DON’T ALLOW THEM BACK TO THERE LOVED ONES NEED TO BE AS WELL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    OWN UP TO YOUR DAMB,STUPIDITY WRONG DOINGS AND LET THE ANIMALS BE WHERE THEY SHOULD BE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    STOP BEING SOOO QUICK TO HUT,KILL OR TAKE ANIMALS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  4. Anne says:

    there are cases across the globe of authorities dictating to people what Dogs they can house? I stand with the dog owners:

    if a dog is too dangerous; just pull the dogs teeth and put the dog on a soft food diet

    and return the dog to owners; keeps dog alive!

  5. M. Benson says:

    You haven’t seen any wrongful forfeiture until you see this slide show and narrative. What can be done about politically-motivated cruelty prosecutions to retaliate against a citizen(s). This prosecution was in Stevens County, Washington just north of Spokane which resulted in the indiscriminate taking by Judge Lynda Eaton of the inferior District Court of over 45 head of livestock and dogs on the owner’s farm property without compensation, and incarcerating the owner for a draconian 550 days on misdemeanor charges (no prior criminal record). What could compensate a dog owner anyway for the loss of his/hercompanion dogs (that were emotional service animals)? The prosecution was a mean & vengeful constructive eviction, loss of name & reputation, farm acreage, 2 homes on the property, 2 sources of employment income, all commercial livestock & domestic pleasure animals, already rescued dogs (under a WA Bus.license), and companion animals which were already seized and held for 84 days & had been returned under a Contract with Stevens County, Washington prosecutors, and then which were seized again 14 months later (no new charges). The animals are clearly not abused nor neglected, and the other livestock were completly unrelated to the prosecution? Photos were all taken on Oct. 3, 2008, the day of the Raid by a neutral photographer. The case is now on Appeal for Discretionary Review to the Court of Appeals, Div. III in Spokane after the Superior Court reversed and let her out of jail! Civil rights claim??? See, https://docs.google.com/leaf?id=0B42K_17Vq9lzZWNmNzUxMzktZGQzOC00N2IxLWE3YWUtYTllNDQ5NDJkNDJl&hl=en

  6. Monica Kelly Wright says:

    Thank you ALDF! The local governments have been arbitrarily seizing, impounding and killing dogs all over this nation with impunity for too long now! I read of case after case where large breed dogs are shot on sight, dogs get out of a fenced yard and are impounded and killed before the owner even finds them, and dogs who have been tagged as vicious simply because of their breed. It’s time somebody fought back!