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This Kansas dog trainer is fighting for his constitutional rights in court. Here's why.

The Topeka Capital-Journal logo The Topeka Capital-Journal 12/2/2022 Sam MacRoberts
Sam MacRoberts © Submitted Sam MacRoberts

Your home is your castle. For most people, that is. But not if your job is to teach a dog to point or retrieve game birds. For that, the government forces you to turn over the keys to your kingdom. That’s not right.

Scott Johnson trains and handles bird dogs for a living at his rural homestead. He’s good at it, too. Really good. Award-winning and nationally recognized good. But in Kansas, training and handling dogs at a kennel — even a home-based kennel like Scott’s — requires a license, and to get that license, you’re forced to waive your constitutional rights.

The government can, and does, search your homestead even if you’ve done nothing wrong. You shouldn’t have to give up your rights just to earn an honest living.

Making matters worse, the warrantless searches are unannounced, and being more than 30 minutes away from your home is punishable. That means that if Scott or his designated representative — his wife — isn’t back for the surprise search within 30 minutes, he risks a fine. Even asking the government inspector to come back later is punishable.

In most places, but especially in rural Kansas, just getting to the grocery store takes longer than that.

Kansas’ licensing and warrantless search regime for bird dog trainers and handlers like Scott is a major problem — a constitutional one — that ignores the very reasons our Founders insisted on the Fourth Amendment to begin with.

In 1761, during a five-hour fiery speech, the great patriot James Otis railed against a British statute that authorized suspicionless searches of Colonists’ homes by British customs agents. He rightly declared it the “worst instrument of arbitrary power, the most destructive of English liberty and the fundamental principles of law, that ever was found in an English law book.”

He went on. “Now one of the most essential branches of English liberty is the freedom of one’s house. A man’s house is his castle(.)”

The Fourth Amendment protects property and privacy rights and was meant to protect against the very type of governmental searches Scott and others face. Everyone has a right to be secure in their homes, persons, papers, and effects. Even bird dog trainers.

Rather than accept the unreasonable, unfair and unconstitutional licensing regime, Scott Johnson has teamed up with Kansas Justice Institute and is fighting back in court.

Our lawsuit, filed in federal court, isn’t asking for money.

Instead, it’s about keeping the government in check, making sure Kansans’ homes stay their castles, and preventing the government from forcing you to waive your rights just so you can earn an honest living.

Sam MacRoberts, of Kansas City, is the litigation director for Kansas Justice Institute.

This article originally appeared on Topeka Capital-Journal: This Kansas dog trainer is fighting for his constitutional rights in court. Here's why.

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