CA state Senator Ted Lieu sponsored a pet related, HSUS backed bill that was signed by the governor in September and will take effect January 1, 2013. Senator’s Lieu’s website makes the bill sound pretty good:
Neglected or injured animals will no longer be returned to abusive owners[.]
Pretty good, yes? Hold your applause.
The bill purportedly fixes a “loophole” in existing CA law which allows for the return of seized pets under certain circumstances:
Specifically, the law states mistreated animals must be returned to the owner if the animal is physically fit or the owner can and will provide the necessary care for the animal. Because these hearings typically occur weeks after an animal has been seized, the animal is almost always “fit” due to the care provided by the animal-control agency. This means the agencies are then forced to return animals to the same harmful environment where they had been abused.
I am not seeing a loophole here. What I see is a poorly worded law that allows a sluggish court system to dictate when the assessment of the abused animal is made. It could be fixed by speeding up the wheels of justice (not likely) or by simply wording it such that the assessment of the animal is made at time of seizure. The new law does nothing to address the time of assessment but rather replaces the “or” with “and”, requiring pets to be fit and the owner to demonstrate ability to provide care before a seized pet is returned. I have to wonder how prosecutors in CA are able to secure animal cruelty convictions if assessments of the animals’ health are not made until the court case comes up on the docket. This makes no sense to me and the new bill does not fix it.
In addition, the bill “would allow a seizing agency or a prosecutor to file a petition in the criminal action requesting that the court issue an order forfeiting the animal(s) to the county or seizing agency prior to final disposition of the criminal charge.“ [emphasis added] The reasons given for this change are:
- The cost of housing seized animals at the pound.
- The cruelty of keeping seized animals in cages for an extended period of time.
- The fact that pounds “have to” kill other pets for space taken up by the seized animals.
- If the accused owner lives in an area with a pet limit law and has more than the allowed number of pets seized, the owner won’t legally be able to keep all the pets anyway, regardless of the outcome of the case.
This is a bunch of baloney. It’s all a fancy way of saying that shelters aren’t doing their jobs therefore the state should be able to seize and dispose of property (pets) as it deems fit, regardless of the owner’s right to due process.
No shelter “has to” kill healthy/treatable pets. Many don’t, in fact. Only the ones that choose to kill do so. If an owner is simply over the pet limit and not found guilty of animal cruelty, the owner should have first option to place as many pets as needed to come into compliance with the law. Animal control can offer to assist with placement but no pet killing facility should be able to legally take ownership of someone’s well cared for pets without due process.
Furthermore, I see nothing to protect the lives of the seized animals and no mechanism to return the legally allowed number of pets to the accused owner. It looks as if the law will allow the pound, or the state, to simply take every animal from a home and give the owner nothing in return, even if he is acquitted.
Thanks Senator Lieu and HSUS for another backwards law enabling shelters to kill more animals, even ones whose owners love and want them, under the guise of animal protection. How humane. We are the real humane society – small h, small s. Join us.
(Thanks Jan for alerting me to this bill.)