HB 204 - Currently, any public health official or law enforcement officer may seek a warrant to inspect, care for, or impound neglected or abused animals. This act instead requires that such warrant only be sought by a law enforcement officer, and is to confiscate, rather than impound animals. A person acting under the authority of a warrant is required to appear at a disposition hearing before the court through which the warrant was issued within 10 days of the confiscation, rather than within 30 days of the filing of the request, for the purpose of granting immediate disposition of the animals. An animal cannot be sterilized before the completion of the disposition hearing unless it is necessary to save life or relieve suffering.
Third parties approved by the court may care for confiscated animals. The owner of any animal that has been confiscated is not responsible for the animal's care and keeping prior to a disposition hearing if the owner is acquitted or there is a final discharge without conviction.
This act also provides that anyone claiming an interest in the confiscated animal may prevent the disposition of the animal after the disposition hearing and until final judgement, settlement, or dismissal of the case by posting reasonable bond or security within 72 hours of the disposition hearing in an amount sufficient to provide for the animal's care and keeping. The bond or security amount shall also be consistent with the fair market cost of boarding such an animal in an appropriate retail boarding facility.
An owner of any humanely killed animal cannot recover damages related to the value of the animal if a veterinarian determines the animal was diseased or disabled beyond recovery for any useful purpose. Damages are also recoverable if the animal owner fails to post a bond or security after being notified of the confiscation and after the disposition hearing.
All animals confiscated shall receive proper care as determined by state law and regulations. Any facility or organization where an animal is placed shall be liable to the animal owner for damages for any negligent act or abuse of the animal which occurs while the animal is in the facility or organization's care, custody, and control.
In the event an animal owner is not liable for the costs incurred while charges were pending, the costs of care and the liability for the life or death of the animal and any medical procedures performed are the responsibility of the confiscating agency. An animal owner may demand the return of the animal held in custody if he or she posted a sufficient bond and is acquitted or there is a final discharge without a conviction. Any entity with care, custody, and control of the animal shall immediately return the animal to the owner upon demand and proof of the acquittal or final discharge without conviction. The animal owner is not liable for any costs incurred relating to the placement or care of the animal while the charges were pending unless there is a settlement agreement, consent judgment, or a suspended imposition of sentence.
This act creates a penalty for any person or entity that intentionally euthanizes or sterilizes an animal that such person or entity is not permitted to euthanize or sterilize. Each individual animal for which a violation occurs is a separate offense. The penalty is a Class B misdemeanor for the first offense and any second or subsequent offense is a Class A misdemeanor.
Finally, this act provides that the confiscation of dogs that were involved in dog fighting shall be carried out in the same manner set forth in the act for neglected or abused animals.
This act is substantially similar to SB 115 (2019), identical to the perfected HB 1945 (2018) and HCS/HB 384 (2017), and is similar to SCS/SB 817 (2018).