MONTPELIER -- The Vermont Supreme Court ruled yesterday that the state's animal cruelty laws allowed the Addison County Humane Society to seize a horse from an East Middlebury family without a warrant.
The ruling stems from an August 2000 case in which the humane society siezed a horse based on observations that the animal was emaciated.
The horse, Paka, was treated by the humane society and returned to the Hegarty family 12 days later. The Hegartys sued the humane society in Addison County Superior Court, which ruled against the family.
That decision was appealed by the Hegartys, who argued that the humane society had taken their horse unlawfully and that the seizure violated their constitutional right to due process.
The judges agreed with the trial court's ruling that the humane society had a "good faith belief" that the horse was in imminent danger based on the observations of a humane society officer and a veterinarian. That belief, the judges said, gave the humane society the authority to seize Paka without a warrant.