ROSEBURG, Ore. — The Oregon Supreme Court ruled that a sheriff's deputy acted legally four years ago when he entered private property without a warrant to rescue a starving horse in Douglas County.
The ruling issued last week affirmed decisions made by circuit and appeals courts.
Teresa Ann Dicke, 53, and Linda Diane Fessenden, 52, shared ownership of the horse named Grace. They argued that Deputy Lee Bartholomew violated the Oregon Constitution and Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution when he seized their property without a warrant and that he couldn't prove the horse was in imminent danger.
The appeals court ruled that Bartholomew had grounds under the emergency aid exception, which allows an officer to enter property without a warrant to prevent harm to someone. Bartholomew said he thought it would take between four to eight hours to obtain a warrant, and the horse might have fallen or died within that time.
Fessenden and Dicke appealed to the state Supreme Court, contending Grace was property and that the exception shouldn't apply to property.
The Supreme Court agreed the horse was property, but decided the exception applies in "circumstances that require swift action to prevent harm to persons or property."
In a written statement to the News-Review of Roseburg (http://is.gd/EhCnWb ), Fessenden's attorney said the ruling disappointed her client.
The attorney, Elizabeth Daily, wrote that Fessenden is concerned that the opinion does not establish a narrow and workable rule that balances the societal interest in animal welfare with a person's constitutional right to privacy.
The newspaper reported that Dicke was sentenced to eight months in jail after a Douglas County jury found her guilty of first-degree animal neglect and first-degree animal abuse. Fessenden was found guilty of second-degree animal neglect and sentenced to 90 days in jail.
The emaciated horse gained attention through a Facebook page established following her 2010 rescue. Grace had more than 6,000 fans when she died in July 2011 from the lingering effects of starvation. She was 28.