Recently, bills have been introduced in several states that would require a person accused of animal cruelty to post a bond for the payment of the cost of care of the animals seized while the case is still pending.
Requiring an accused person, to post such a bond, pending adjudication of animal cruelty charges, should require intensive judicial oversight to insure that the individual’s rights to continued animal ownership are preserved in the absence of sufficient evidence of cruelty.
In New Hampshire, an existing statute permits costs to be charged to an animal’s owner only “upon conviction of said person for cruelty to animals.” But HB 624 would change that, and would require a bond posted from anyone charged with cruelty to animals. If a bond is not posted within the prescribed time period, the court may “dispose of the animal in any manner it decides.” In other words, even if never convicted, an accused animal owner in New Hampshire must post bond or could forever lose ownership of the animal. There are no provisions in the bill to reimburse a person even if ultimately acquitted of the charges.
As reported on New Hampshire’s website, the bill appears to be dead in the water:
|House Status:||INEXPEDIENT TO LEGISLATE|
A less draconian version of the bill was filed in Massachusetts. HB 1220 would require posting a security for seized animals in cruelty cases if a court grants a petition requesting an order for costs:
“If an animal is, or animals are, seized or impounded pursuant to the General Laws relating to cruelty to animals or animal fighting resulting in the issuance of a criminal complaint or a criminal indictment, the authority or prosecuting agency, including the district attorney or attorney general, may file a petition with the court exercising jurisdiction over the criminal complaint or criminal indictment requesting that the person from whom an animal is seized or a person claiming an interest in the seized animal, be ordered to post a security.”
If the court grants the petition, a defendant must post the security within 10 business days or risk “immediate forfeiture of the seized animal(s) to the authority, with the full force and effect of a court order.”
However, notably, “the court may waive the security requirement or reduce the amount of the security for good cause shown.”
Furthermore, in stark comparison with the proposed bill in New Hampshire, the Massachusetts version permits “the court [to] direct a refund to the person who posted security upon acquittal of the charges.”
Certainly, in appropriate cases, the cost of animals seized should be the responsibility of a properly convicted individual.
But, in addition to the cost of the animals’ care, their health should be initially determined by a licensed veterinarian immediately upon seizure.
Authorized officials seizing animals in animal cruelty cases should be required to bring the animals to a licensed veterinarian for an examination and diagnosis before any other action is taken. In a majority, if not all states, the diagnosis of disease and conditions in animals is defined as the practice of veterinary medicine.
Failure to obtain such a diagnosis could prove fatal to the animal and also hamper the accuser’s ability to obtain evidence to adequately prove a case of cruelty. If seizure was required to protect the animal’s health, then it follows that veterinary care would be needed.