Court Won’t Bristle at Warrantless|Searches of Taxidermy Shops

     CHICAGO (CN) – Illinois agents can search taxidermy businesses without a warrant because the government has a substantial interest in regulating that industry, the 7th Circuit ruled.
     Illinois Wildlife Code requires taxidermists to keep detailed written records of all animals they receive, cataloging the species, date received and personal information of the individual who delivered the animal. The code also lets the state Natural Resources Department conduct warrantless searches to ensure record-keeping compliance.
     Angry at having his taxidermy shop searched once a year for the past 25 years, James Redfern formed the United Taxidermists Association and filed suit.
     He claimed the government has a compelling interest in the inspection of taxidermists’ written records, but lacks such interest with respect to inspecting the corresponding tags attached to the animals.
     A federal judge dismissed the suit, and the 7th Circuit affirmed, saying the association’s analysis was too narrow.
     “The relevant inquiry here is whether a substantial government interest informs the taxidermy industry as a whole,” according to the unsigned opinion. “Although there is not much circuit court precedent addressing that requirement, we conclude that the state’s process is adequate and appropriate.”
     Tagging procedures are also a necessary component in the government’s regulation scheme, the three-judge appellate panel found.
     “Removing the tagging requirement from the breadth of inspections also would frustrate the purpose of the code: regulating the capture and possession of wildlife,” the Aug. 25 decision states.
     “Allowing inspectors to search the tags enables them to verify the accuracy of a taxidermist’s written records and ensure compliance with the code.”
     The United Taxidermists Association represents 30 taxidermy business owners out of 650 solicited by Redfern.

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