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November 7, 2008

Anonymous Tip Results in Visit From…The Dog Warden

A dog warden showed up at the Jones (name changed to protect privacy) family home in Northern Ohio after receiving a tip from neighbor. She demanded entry into the family’s home, because she wanted to “see if their dog was healthy.”

Mrs. Jones, a homeschooling mother of 10, responded respectfully to this surprise intrusion by politely informing the dog warden that she had a Fourth Amendment right under the Constitution protecting her from warrantless searches and seizures. Mrs. Jones politely explained that her dog was healthy and that unless the dog warden had a search warrant, she would not allow her to come into the house or see the dog.

The dog warden became annoyed and threatened to call the police if Mrs. Jones did not allow her to see the dog. Mrs. Jones politely stood her ground, calmly stating that she would explain her right to the police officer if necessary. The dog warden spitefully called the police. When an officer arrived and asked the mother why she was giving the warden a hard time, Mrs. Jones simply explained she was unwilling to give up her Fourth Amendment right. As she explained this to the police officer, the dog warden rudely interrupted, “What is the Fourth Amendment?” Incredibly, as Mrs. Jones continued, the police officer stated that “The Fourth Amendment has nothing to do with searches and seizures.”

When one of the children opened the door, the mother quickly closed it to protect her children from this unnecessarily ugly intrusion. “You almost shut the door on his fingers,” stated the dog warden, and turning to the officer she stated, “She homeschools, too.” The officer began to criticize the mother for homeschooling, stating that she was being a poor example to her children, questioning the accuracy of her teaching, and asserting that the children had to swallow whatever she told them. Mrs. Jones was thankful for her membership in HSLDA, which has helped to educate her about her rights to be free from unreasonable searches in her home.

Unfortunately, this incident is representative of the attitude that some government officials have regarding the Fourth Amendment. Such unprofessional conduct should not be expected from public servants, especially police officers. It is incredible that a police officer would be ignorant of the constitutional right of citizens under the Fourth Amendment. The Constitution is the “law of the land”, and police officers should be expected to know its key provisions.

Perhaps if the dog warden had politely requested to see the family’s pet rather than demand entry to the home, Mrs. Jones would have responded differently. But in the face of such discourteous and ignorant behavior, and in light of their hostility towards homeschooling, we think Mrs. Jones was well within her rights to refuse to cooperate with these government workers under these circumstances.