A judge on Wednesday denied a motion to suppress evidence in a criminal case against Durango School District 9-R board member Padraig "Paddy" Lynch, who is charged with trespassing and cruelty to animals.
Lynch has pleaded not guilty to the charges. A one-day trial is set for March 4 in La Plata County Court. Lynch sought to bar jurors from hearing any testimony related to the seizure of his dog and any evidence associated with that seizure.
During the motion's hearing, Durango defense lawyer Michael Wanger said Lynch's Fourth Amendment rights prohibiting unreasonable search and seizure were violated when Animal Control entered his truck and took his dog Aug. 9 in the parking lot of Durango High School.
But Animal Control officer Jason Barr testified he never entered the vehicle. The dog, Marsha, was removed by a woman who noticed the dog was in distress and called Animal Control, he said. She gained entry through an unlocked driver's side door, he said.
When Barr arrived on scene, he took the dog into custody because it was considered a dog at large at that point. It also exhibited signs of heat stress, he said.
"I noticed the dog was acting very weird," Barr said. "It walked into my leg at least three times."
By looking through the windows of the truck, Barr observed no water in the vehicle. He placed a pamphlet with contact information on the outside windshield, he said. He could not recall who closed the door of the truck.
Lynch took the witness stand to dispute the Animal Control officer's testimony.
Marsha had water in the back seat, Lynch testified, and he walked her once every hour during the estimated 10 hours he was at the La Plata County Fairgrounds to work on a car for the demolition derby.
When he arrived at his truck about 5:30 p.m., he noticed the dog was missing and a pamphlet placed on the front seat of his truck, Lynch said.
"The water dish was in the back, and there were water bottles under the driver's seat," he said.
In addition to cruelty to animals, Lynch is charged with trespassing for breaking into the La Plata County Humane Society to free his dog. In an interview with The Durango Herald, Lynch admitted to breaking into the shelter.
"I went out (to the shelter) to see if I could get her, and somebody left the window open, so I went in and took her and left by the front door so it would set off the alarm and let them know," he said on Aug. 11 - two days after the incident. "I wasn't trying to hide anything. I don't like it when people take my dog out of my truck. And the shelter's like Auschwitz - they euthanize them in there, and I don't know their schedule and if she'd be gone by tomorrow."
Barr said he spoke with Lynch the evening Marsha was seized and told him he could retrieve the dog the next morning.
District Judge Jeffrey Wilson is overseeing the case because La Plata County Judge Martha Minot recused herself, apparently because she was at the fairgrounds on the day in question.
"I think taking the dog to the shelter was appropriate," Wilson said in reaching his decision to deny the motion to suppress evidence.