Governor Signs Flawed Animal Seizure Bill
- Published on Friday, 01 June 2012 16:55
- Written by DRC
The PA Federation of Dog Clubs opposed HB82 of 2013 as passed by the House and Senate. Read our statement to the Legislature on SB 1527 and HB 2409 of 2011-2012. It was the same bad legislation! Despite some good amendments to the Bill as requested by the Governor's office, it still has the major flaw that would allow your animals to be taken from you and placed in new homes before your day in court. If you are subsequently found not guilty or the charges are dismissed, you may not be able to recover your pets. Sadly, the Governor has signed this bad legislation so now we must find a test case to challenge it in court. Please contact us if you know of such a case.
Basically, this legislation will allow a court to order you to pay for the care and upkeep of your animals seized by the government in an alleged abuse situation. If you fail to pay as ordered, the court could force you to forfeit them. The legislation also provides immunity for shelters against future lawsuits to recover such funds should your charges be thrown out or you are found not-guilty.
The problem is a person who cannot pay may lose the rights to their animals even though they are found not guilty at trial. The forfeiture provision prior to a declaration of guilt is a significant Constitutional issue. If an animal is seized and a case cannot be proven in court, the owner should get their animals back. The state (or seizing agency) should pay the care costs.
Second, a single opportunity to access the animals prior to the hearing to preserve evidence is inadequate. They must have access within 24-48 hours after seizure to be able to document the condition of the animal at the time of seizure. Access later precludes a reasonable opportunity to provide a defense since the condition of the animal may have changed without an opportunity to obtain independent contemporaneous veterinary inspection.
This type of pre-conviction seizure of property was held to be Unconstitutional in a Federal Court considering similar legislation in the City of Louisville, Kentucky. It is hard to imagine how it could be Constitutional here.
Responsible dog owners should contact the PA state legislators immediately to oppose these Bills!