Oregon's Animal Cruelty Statute

An untitled proposal to amend Oregon’s Animal Cruelty statute was posted by the Oregon Secretary of State on November 14, 2018 and is available on its website.

The proposed amendment does not appear to have been formally introduced as a bill in the Oregon legislature.  The amendments, if enacted would permit anyone to file a civil action “for the protection and humane treatment of animals.”  By anyone, as the amendment provides, “plaintiff shall include any person even if the person does not have any legal interest or possessory lights in an animal.”  As another Oregon court recently observed, the state legislature might determine that the state could permit an unrelated party to file a complaint against an animal’s owner based on public policy and concerns about the humane care of animals.  See Justice v. Gwendolyn Vercher, Case No. 18CV17601 (Oregon Judicial Department, Washington County Circuit Court, Twentieth Judicial District, Sept. 17, 2018) previously discussed here.

The amendment also provides for temporary restraining order or preliminary injunction upon the filing of a verified complaint, and if the plaintiff requests it and plaintiff’s agent could be permitted “unrestricted access to the premises where the animal is located to evaluate, monitor, and provide minimum care to the animal.”

And “if it appears on the face of the complaint that the condition giving rise to the violation of O.R.S. §167.305-390 requires the animal to be removed from the defendant, then it shall be proper for the court in the order or injunction to allow the plaintiff to take possession of the animal and provide minimum care.”

Keep in mind that this is all without any evidentiary hearing of any sort, but simply based on the face of the complaint, in a suit filed by someone who, until after the complaint was filed may have had possession or first-hand knowledge of the conditions in which the animal was housed or its physical status.

But the amendment does not stop there.

It would require a defendant to post bond within ten days after a court allowed a plaintiff to take possession of the animal, and if not posted, “the court shall deem the animal to have been abandoned.”

Yikes!!

Oregon already permits a peace officer, based on probable cause, to obtain a search warrant and enter the premises or vehicle where an animal, believed to being treated inhumanely, “to provide the animal with food, water and emergency medical treatment and may impound the animal.”  Or. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 167.345 (West).

Oregon defines “peace officer” as:

(a) A member of the Oregon State Police;

(b) A sheriff, constable, marshal, municipal police officer or reserve officer as defined in ORS 133.005, or a police officer commissioned by a university under ORS 352.121 or 353.125;

(c) An investigator of the Criminal Justice Division of the Department of Justice or investigator of a district attorney’s office;

(d) A humane special agent as defined in ORS 181A.345;

(e) A regulatory specialist exercising authority described in ORS 471.775 (2);

(f) An authorized tribal police officer as defined in ORS 181A.680; and

(g) Any other person designated by law as a peace officer.

Or. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 161.015 (West).

The entirety of the proposed amendment is available here.

A discussion of several cases decided on the basis of Oregon’s animal cruelty statute to follow shortly.