Break That Lock, Save That Dog
The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has ruled that police can go into private property without a warrant to save endangered animals. The case hinged on what’s known as the “emergency aid exception” to state law requiring warrants for searches. The court said that “animals, like humans, should be afforded the protection of the emergency aid exception.”
The ruling, however, makes it clear that there must be evidence that animals are suffering or in danger, and is not to be construed as permission to enter private property using the presence of animals as a pretext.
The decision came in a case in which police found the bodies of two dogs, and another dog still alive but starving, in a yard in Lynn on a freezing cold day. After they tried to contact the property owner, the fire department broke a padlock on a gate to enter the fenced yard and remove the dogs.
Leslie Harris, executive director of the Dakin Humane Society in Springfield and Leverett, sees the ruling as a victory in the fight against cruelty to animals. “My knee-jerk reaction is, Oh, it’s about time,” she told the Advocate. “There are fears about property, fears about privacy. With that caution in mind, I think that from the point of view of animal advocates, it’s excellent news. I think this is one step closer to the courts seeing that animals do have agency, they can suffer.
“One of the most common ways that we think about this is, for instance, a dog is locked in a hot car. Can a police officer break into a car to rescue a dog who probably doesn’t have long to live once it’s in distress? And we run into those situations where somebody has died or been hospitalized and the property manager knows there’s an animal in there.”
Harris said Dakin was hearing opinions pro and con about the decision. “We put this on the Web,” she said, “and we got comments from people who said, This has gone too far. We got other comments that said, It’s about darn time.”•
KnowDrones: Spring Days of Action is a national campaign to raise consciousness about drones and their expanding roles. In the Valley, two events this week are a part of that campaign.
On April 29, Amherst Media, producer of Amherst Cable Television, hosts an in-depth filmed interview and public question and answer session. On hand will be Nick Mottern, organizer of the KnowDrones national campaign; Paul Voss, associate professor of engineering at Smith College; Paki Wieland, a well-known international peace activist from Northampton; and Beth Adams of Pioneer Valley Citizens Concerned About Drones, who will serve as moderator. The session takes place from 3 to 5 pm. at Amherst Media (at 246 College Street, Amherst, 413-259-3300, amherstmedia.org).
From 7 to 9 p.m. April 29, the “Know Drones Public Forum” will be held at Amherst-Pelham Regional Middle School (170 Chestnut St., Amherst). Nick Mottern will give the keynote speech, “Drones and the Death of Democracy.” Among the other presenters are engineering professor Paul Voss, speaking on “drone technology, the history of our public airspace, and current concerns about the FAA rulemaking process for unmanned aircraft,” and Jeff Napolitano of the American Friends Service Committee, speaking on the emerging drone market in the U.S. The presentations will be followed by a question and answer period. The forum is sponsored by the Amherst Human Rights Commission and a coalition of local peace organizations. For more information, call (413) 522-7505 or see KnowDrones.com or Facebook: KnowDrones USA.
UMass Wants to Test Your Tick
If you live in Deerfield, Buckland, Charlemont, Conway, Gill, Hawley, Heath, Leyden, Monroe or Shelburne and are bitten by a tick, you may be able to get the tick tested free at UMass under a new program financed by the state. A $111,300 Community Innovation Challenge Grant will pay for residents of those towns and 22 communities in eastern Massachusetts to bypass the usual $50 fee and get the tick analyzed.
The test can detect 11 parasites—not only the Borrelia burgdorferi that carries Lyme disease, but other dangerous pathogens carried by deer, dog and Lone Star ticks. The funding will pay for 50 people from each of the 32 towns to be tested in the spring and 50 in the fall. Information gleaned from the tests will be posted by zip code on the UMass Laboratory of Medical Zoology database (http://ag.umass.edu/services/tick-borne-disease-diagnostics; click on link at bottom) so people can see which ticks and parasites have been detected in their communities.
State public health officials want to make testing accessible because the rate of incidence of Lyme disease in Massachusetts nearly tripled between 2004 and 2008. In 2012, the total number of confirmed cases in the state was 3,342, with 45 in Franklin County, 74 in Hampshire County and 104 in Hampden County.
To turn in a tick for testing, remove it carefully with tweezers to avoid crushing it and put it in a sealable plastic bag. At www.TickReport.com, download a submittal form and put the completed form in an envelope along with the bag holding the tick. Mail it to the address shown on the website. Residents of towns not participating in the project can submit ticks if they pay the fee (insurance does not cover the test). • —SK
North Hadley: An Ecological Gem Whose Time Has Come?
As the Friends of Lake Warner and the Mill River present their plan of action to restore the Lake Warner Dam in North Hadley and preserve Lake Warner (“The Fight for Lake Warner,” April 17, 2014), the Massachusetts Trustees of Reservations are at work on the creation of a new reservation on Mt. Warner, which rises above the eastern side of the lake.
The Trustees purchased 159 acres on the mountain in 2009, and in 2011 requested a study of its geology, archaeology, wildlife and other features from UMass students led by forest science professor David Kittredge. The study reported that the mountain and its environs were home to deer, bear, beaver, fox, coyote, even moose, and were part of a wildlife corridor reaching from Mt. Warner into Amherst.
The Trustees of Reservations own 100 sites throughout the state; among their holdings in Western Massachusetts are Bear Swamp in Ashfield, William Cullen Bryant House in Cummington and Chesterfield Gorge in Chesterfield. For their Mt. Warner property, the Trustees have planned a loop trail with side trails, which they expect will attract recreational users because the area is well known as a hiking place already.
“We love the landscape in the heartland of the Pioneer Valley, and we are excited about engaging the public and the Hadley community in the opening of the reservation this fall,” Joanna Ballantine, regional director for the Trustees, told the Advocate.
North Hadley combines ecological with deep historical interest because of its age as a settlement; marking the drama of nearly 350 years of history is the site of the dam on the Mill River that creates Lake Warner. From around 1670 until 1925, mills stood at that site; in 1675, a band of people bringing grain from Deerfield to be milled there were killed by Native American warriors in the Battle of Bloody Brook.
Saturday, April 26 has been designated “Lake Warner Day” by the Friends of Lake Warner and the Mill River, who will offer the public free canoe rides and a chance to learn about the Friends’ plan to save the dam and the lake. For more information, see www.friendsoflakewarner.org.• —SK
“It’s a political quagmire. It’s a mess. ... I think the public is off this casino [question]. If it goes to a ballot question, I question if it’s going to win. ... Nothing good can come out of this. It’s too much nonsense, too much conversation, too many questions about who’s involved and how it’s going to happen. People get tired of that after a while and say, ‘Let’s go onto the next issue.’ I really believe that if it goes on the ballot, it’ll lose.”
Former Boston Mayor Tom Menino on the proposed ballot question to repeal Massachusetts’ casino legislation, in an interview last week with Jon Keller on CBSBoston