How to Investigate Animal Cruelty in NY State – A Manual of Procedures

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Mudge v. State – Probable cause for arrest

Case established that law enforcement official could reasonably infer neglect from an animal’s circumstances and thus have probable cause to arrest the defendant.

Mudge v. State

Court of Claims of New York
Jan. 13, 1944
  1. Habeas corpus 117(1)

    An attack by habeas corpus proceeding on information executed and sworn to by state trooper who arrested claimant against state for neglect and cruelty to animals was at best a “collateral attack,” and did not determine that acts of state troopers in arresting claimant and filing information were unlawful. Penal Law, § 185. See Words and Phrases, Permanent Edition, for all other definitions of “Collateral Attack.”

  2. False imprisonment 13

    If information filed by state trooper for neglect and cruelty to animals was sufficient to call for decision of magistrate as to whether warrant should issue, warrant issued thereunder was not void, and arrest made under the warrant was not unlawful, even though magistrate may have erred grossly in issuing warrant. Penal Law, § 185.

  3. False imprisonment 12

    Where warrants on which claimant was arrested were not jurisdictionally defective, claimant had no cause of action against state for false imprisonment even if state caused claimant’s arrest under such warrants.

  4. False imprisonment 13

    State troopers who, on inspecting claimant’s barn with claimant’s consent, found main door so frost swollen that it could not be closed and stock uncovered and shivering, without bedding or feed, drinking water solidly frozen, and stock standing in manure one to two feet in depth, had “probable cause” for arrest of claimant for neglect of and cruelty to animals. Penal Law, § 185. See Words and Phrases, Permanent Edition, for all other definitions of “Probable Cause.”

  5. False imprisonment 13

    “Probable cause,” as protection against action for false imprisonment, is the knowledge of facts, actual or apparent, strong enough to justify reasonable man in belief that he has lawful grounds for prosecuting defendant, and want of probable cause does not mean want of any cause, but want of any reasonable cause.

  6. States 184

    A judicial determination that there was probable cause was proof that arresting officer had reasonable ground for suspecting that person arrested was the offender and that arrest was made in good faith and without evil design.

  7. Arrest 63(3)

    Where state troopers, on inspecting barn of claimant against state, found main door so frost swollen that it could not be closed, stock uncovered and shivering, without bedding or feed, and standing in manure from one to two feet, with drinking water solidly frozen, it was troopers’ duty to arrest claimant for neglect of and cruelty to animals. Penal Law, § 185.

  8. False imprisonment 12

    The state was not liable to claimant for damages for acts of state troopers acting under warrant of justice of peace to commit claimant for mental observation after arraignment for neglect of and cruelty to animals, and under subsequent order of county judge returning claimant to justice for further proceedings, since troopers acted under orders over subject matters of which issuing officers had jurisdiction, and which orders on their face did not show lack of jurisdiction of claimant’s person. Penal Law, § 185.

  9. False imprisonment 12

    The state was not liable for false arrest and imprisonment as to acts of state troopers from time of, and subsequent to, issuance of warrant for claimant’s arrest by justice of the peace, since thereafter troopers acted solely under due process of law.


Claim by Delbert Mudge against the State of New York to recover damages for false imprisonment after alleged unlawful arrest by state troopers.

Claim dismissed on the merits.

David B. Alford, of Middleburg (William H. Lynes, of Delanson, of counsel), for claimant. 45 N.Y.S.2d57

Nathaniel L. Goldstein, Atty. Gen. (Arthur W. Mattson, Edward R. Murphy, and Sidney B. Gordon, Asst. Attys. Gen., of counsel), for the State.


Alleging unlawful arrest by State Troopers, with subsequent commitment by a Justice of the Peace, for mental observation, claimant seeks damages of $10,100 for “false imprisonment.”

For defense hereto, the State has offered affirmative proof to establish “probable cause for the arrest,” together with complete freedom from responsibility in connection with claimant’s confinement for mental observation.

At the time of arrest, claimant owned and operated a three hundred acre farm at Duanesburg, Schenectady County, where he kept two horses, two cows, one bull and two yearlings.

Believing that such stock was being neglected, Sergeant Eggleston and Trooper Foster, of the State Police, accompanied by the Schenectady County Humane Society Superintendent, visited claimant’s farm at 1:30 P.M. on January 23, 1943. Advising claimant of the purpose of their call, such officials requested and promptly received claimant’s permission to visit the barn where such stock was stabled, to which they were voluntarily accompanied by claimant.

Inspection of such barn revealed the following conditions: the main door was so frost swollen that it could not be closed within four to five inches of its frame; the stock was uncovered and shivering, and had neither bedding nor feed; the drinking water was solidly frozen; and, the unkempt stock was found to be standing in manure varying in depth from one to two feet.

On a prior visit to claimant’s barn, made two days earlier with a town constable, Trooper Foster found seven unopened bales of hay in the subbasement of the barn, one of which bales he opened and partially fed to the stock. On January 23 Trooper Foster found the remaining six and onehalf bales of hay identically as he had last seen them, except that the upturned end of the opened bale, was then thick with mice dung.

The troopers, after having fed and watered the stock, and completed arrangements with claimant’s wife for their further care, advised claimant that he was under arrest “for cruelty to animals,” whereupon they brought him before Justice of the Peace MacDougall of the Town of Duanesburg.

Before Justice of the Peace MacDougall, Troop Sergeant Eggleston formally executed and swore to an information, while Trooper Foster executed and swore to a “Deposition of Witness Before Warrant,” on the reverse side of which was indorsed “Information.” Each of such documents set forth details of claimant’s alleged acts of cruelty, the latter in greater detail than the former.

Justice MacDougall then issued a warrant and handed it to Trooper Foster for execution, by whom claimant was at once formally placed under arrest. In such warrant claimant was charged with a violation of the provisions of Sec. 185, Penal Law, which, in part, provides, “A person who *** deprives any animal of necessary sustenance, food or drink, or neglects or refuses to furnish it *** or in any way furthers any act of cruelty to any animal, or any act tending to produce such cruelty, is guilty of a misdemeanor *** .”

During the preparation of documents upon which such warrant was issued claimant, in the presence and hearing of Justice MacDougall, was asked by Schenectady County Humane Society Superintendent William H. McGinn, why he had neglected his stock, to which claimant replied, “that morning it was too cold to go out in the barn.”

Following claimant’s arrest he was promptly arraigned before Justice MacDougall, but instead of offering a plea, he inquired of State Troop Sergeant Eggleston, in the hearing of Justice MacDougall, “Isn’t there some way we can fix this up?”

The occasion of claimant’s inquiry, it is reasonable to assume, arose from the fact that Justice MacDougall, on two prior occasions, had merely imposed fines when claimant was arraigned before him on similar charges, first, on January 12, 1942, when the fine so imposed was $20, and on January 21, 1943, two days prior to that of the instant arrest, when such fine was in the amount of $50.

Both of such fines so imposed were promptly paid by claimant out of cash then carried on his person, concerning payment of which Justice MacDougall testified, “He just simply paid *** it didn’t seem to bother him at all.”

Justice MacDougall, then, solely of his own volition, by written order of commitment, directed that claimant be “held for mental observation,” at the Schenectady County Home, which order was handed to and promptly executed by Trooper Foster.

Justice MacDougall testified that neither State Trooper had suggested such commitment. He further testified that his chief reason “was to protect Mr. Mudge and the cattle, *** it all added up, I could not see any use of his being arrested and pleading guilty and still neglecting his livestock and I’d like to find out what the trouble was before I did any more with it.”

Justice MacDougall assigned the following further reasons for his having committed claimant for mental observation: “I knew Mr. Mudge ‘all my life’; *** he has done things that *** were quite a little out of the ordinary; I know one time *** in October he said he wanted to start his harvest, while the usual procedure is to start harvest in the latter part of June, not after October;” and ” *** Mr. Mudge had a son who was pronounced criminally insane and committed to Mattewan and *** another son a mental defective *** .”

On January 27, 1943, two competent physicians subjected claimant to a mental examination and immediately thereafter filed a report based thereupon, with the Schenectady County Court, which report disclosed that claimant was found to be “selfsufficient, lawless, overestimates himself, *** (is) shiftless *** a social, not a mental problem *** and is fully responsible for his acts.”

Honorable James W. Liddle, Schenectady County Judge, immediately upon receipt of such report directed, by written order, that claimant be returned to Justice MacDougall for “further proceedings,” which order was handed to and promptly executed by Trooper Foster.

At claimant’s request for opportunity to call his attorney, he was brought to the Troop Outpost at Duanesburg, where, Justice MacDougall, upon being advised of claimant’s presence there, immediately called in person at such Outpost, and after having advised claimant, as the latter testified, that “the charge still stood against me,” read the information to claimant and advised him of his rights, as he had earlier done upon the original arraignment, after which Justice MacDougall waited a considerable time at such Outpost to enable claimant’s counsel to appear.

While at the Outpost, Mr. MacDougall was served with a writ of habeas corpus “to inquire into the cause of claimant’s detention,” which writ had been issued by, and made returnable before, Honorable J. Walter Bliss, Supreme Court Justice, whereupon Mr. MacDougall released claimant upon his own recognizance. A copy of such writ had likewise been served upon the District Attorney of Schenectady County who thereupon advised Mr. MacDougall “to give it no attention.”

Supreme Court Justice Bliss, upon the return of said writ on January 28, 1943, sustained same and discharged claimant from further custody, and granted claimant $25 costs and disbursements “against the Town of Duanesburg,” which sum, it was directed, was to be paid to claimant’s attorney.”

Mr. MacDougall appeared before Supreme Court Justice Bliss, but no appearance was had at such hearing on the part of the District Attorney of Schenectady County.

The order issued by Supreme Court Justice Bliss, effectuating the foregoing, in part recited: “and the District Attorney of Schenectady County having phoned me ***that he was not going to appear in the matter and that he did not oppose the sustaining of the writ of habeas corpus ***and the relator having moved for an order sustaining the writ on the ground that the information failed to allege facts sufficient to constitute a crime and there being no opposition thereto and due deliberation having been had ***.”

Since claimant’s discharge from custody, as aforesaid, the charge upon which he was arrested on January 23, 1943, has been neither further pressed nor withdrawn, in consequence of which, such matter has not been determined upon the merits.

Claimant presents claim herein on the basis that his discharge from custody by order of Supreme Court Justice Bliss establishes that his arrest was not only initially void, but that all subsequent steps taken were unlawful.


[1] The attack upon the “Information” through the medium of a habeas corpus proceeding was at best a collateral one, and not determinative of the State Troopers’ having committed any unlawful acts.

[2] If such information was sufficient to call for a decision by the magistrate as to whether such warrant should issue such warrant is not void and arrest made thereunder not unlawful, even though the Justice of the Peace in issuance of the warrant, may have erred grossly. Vittorio v. St. Regis Paper Co., 239 N.Y. 148, at page 152, 145 N.E. 913.

[3] “Since the warrants upon which the plaintiff was arrested were not jurisdictionally defective, the plaintiff has failed to establish any cause of action against defendant for false imprisonment, even if the defendant caused the plaintiff’s arrest under such warrants.” Vittorio v. St. Regis Paper Co., supra, 239 N.Y. page 154, 145 N.E. page 915.

[4,5] The State Troopers had probable cause for claimant’s arrest herein. “Probable cause is the knowledge of facts, actual or apparent, strong enough to justify a reasonable man in the belief that he has lawful grounds for prosecuting the defendant in the manner complained of. The want of probable cause does not mean the want of any cause, but the want of any reasonable cause ***. Probable cause ***is an absolute protection against an action for malicious prosecution, even when express malice is proved.” Burt v. Smith, 181 N.Y.1, at page 5, 73 N.E. 495, 496, 2 Ann.Cas. 576.

[6] A further judicial determination of the question of probable cause is proof that a crime was committed and that the arresting officer had reasonable ground for suspecting that the person so arrested was the offender and that the arrest was made in good faith and without evil design. Schultz v. Greenwood Cemetery, 190 N.Y. 276, at page 278, 83 N.E. 41. Decision in Tierney v. State (Claim No. 25823), April 26, 1943, 266 App.Div. 434, 42 N.Y.S.2d 877, at page 880, turned upon the question of “probable cause.”

[7] The State Troopers, in view of the existing conditions, were under obligation to arrest claimant. Schultz v. Greenwood Cemetery, supra, 190 N.Y. at page 281, 83 N.E.41.

[8] Claimant, maintaining, but offering no proof in substantiation thereof, that neither Justice of the Peace MacDougall nor Schenectady County Judge Liddle had jurisdiction to issue the orders which were respectively issued by them, seeks to hold the State liable for the acts of the State Police in the execution of such orders, together with all consequences flowing therefrom.We feel no necessity here of passing upon such questions so raised, except to point out that in our opinion the State is free of liability for execution of such orders by reason of the fact that the State Police acted under orders, over the subject matters of which the issuing officers had jurisdiction and which orders on their faces did not show any lack of jurisdiction if such there was as to jurisdiction of the person of claimant. Savacool v. Boughton, 5 Wend. 170, at page 181, 21 Am. Dec. 181.

[9] Further, the State is free of liability for false arrest and imprisonment, for all acts of the State Police from the time of, and subsequent to, the issuance of warrant for claimant’s arrest, as at such times they acted solely under “due process of law.” Gearity v. Strasbourger, 133 App.Div.701, at page 704, 118 N.Y.S. 257, at pages 259, 260.Claimant having failed to establish that his arrest and imprisonment resulted from any unlawful act or acts on the part of officers or employees of the State, his claim by separate decision herein, has been dismissed upon the merits.

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