Wednesday, April 14, 2010

animal seizure amendments - deconstructed.

what if your (likely unlicensed) cat was swept up by a humane officer and someone in the administrative chain decided you were a crappy person/owner? your life just got way harder - and you're not a dogfighter or animal abuser.

on friday, we told you about proposed changes to the state's animal seizure law.  on review of the proposed bills, the consequences of the bill don't seem to match up with how it's being explained by its proponents.

the bill is aiming to remove the cost of caring for seized animals away from the county and onto the owners, extra protection from incidents like the lowery case in 2006 when the county racked up thousands of dollars in costs caring for seized pit bulls.

to accomplish this, the bill sets a time line for which the legal process must occur, and it requires the owner to pay for all costs relating to the care of seized animals.

but some in opposition to the bill say that it will have unintended consequences as the bill applies to all pet owners, not just those accused of running dog fights or puppy mills, and will compromise the individual liberties of all pet owners for the actions of the few.

here's what the bill might mean:

  • from the time the animal is seized, the owner is responsible for any costs incurred for the care of the animal if the bill passes. if the owner is unable to pay the costs, the animal is treated as an unclaimed animal.
  • the bill sets strict time limits in order to expedite the legal process - the owner has seven days from the time of seizure in which to file a petition to claim ownership of the animal. if the owner does not petition, the animal is treated as an unclaimed animal.
  • however, the people who have the seized animal are not required to disclose any information unless forced to do so by the court. so the owner would need to petition the court for the information, then petition to claim ownership of the animal within the seven day time period.
  • the owner must post bond or other security for the expected costs of the custody, care or treatment of the animal. if the owner is unable to pay within five days of the court order, the animal is treated as an unclaimed animal. but forcing an owner to pay penalties before a conviction of guilt is a violation of the 14th amendment right to due process.
  • if the owner is found not guilty of the charges, the owner must provide proof that the animal has been micro-chipped, licensed and vaccinated before the animal can be released. if the owner refuses or is unable to, the animal is treated as an unclaimed animal.
  • overall, the bill will help counties with costs incurred from large raids/seizures but it may end up hurting individual pet owners. 

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