(CN) – Fifteen cats roaming freely in a woman’s car were properly impounded, the South Dakota Supreme Court ruled, because the “traveling coterie of cats” posed an “open and obvious safety hazard.”
Patricia Edwards nearly backed her car into a patrol car after an officer tracked her down in response to a call complaining that her car was stuffed with cats.
Edwards told the officer that she had no money but 15 cats. She said she had driven from Texas to South Dakota, and planned to visit Montana before returning to Texas.
The officer noted that there was only one litter box in the car, and it needed to be changed. He also saw that the cats were interfering with Edwards’ sightlines while she drove.
The cats were impounded and placed in the care of a veterinarian. The lower court ratified the impoundment and terminated Edwards’ rights to the cats.
The state high court affirmed the decision on appeal, ruling that Edwards’ constitutional rights were not violated.
“Because of the cats in the back window, Edwards failed to see the patrol car behind her and nearly backed into it. What if, instead of the officer’s patrol car, a less visible child on a skateboard or bicycle had passed by at the same moment?” Chief Justice David Gilbertson asked.
“Given the open and obvious safety hazard presented by Edwards’ traveling coterie of cats, the investigating officer here was clearly confronted with a situation demanding immediate attention to avoid the serious injury and protect the health, safety and welfare of citizens,” the chief justice added.