BILL ANALYSIS SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE Senator Ellen M. Corbett, Chair 2007-2008 Regular Session AB 2949 A Assembly Member DeSaulnier B As Amended May 12, 2008 Hearing Date: June 24, 2008 2 Civil Code 9 CS:rm 4 9 SUBJECT Abandoned Pets DESCRIPTION Generally, a voluntary deposit of property occurs when a party gives to another, with his or her consent, possession of their personal property; whereas an involuntary deposit of property occurs when the property is provided to another by accident (without negligence) or by necessity. This bill would provide that an involuntary deposit is also made by the abandonment or leaving of a live animal in or about any premises or real property that has been vacated, upon, or immediately preceding, the termination of a rental agreement or foreclosure of the property. This bill would require any person or private entity with whom a live animal is left, as specified, to immediately notify animal control officials for the purpose of retrieving the animal as provided by Penal Code Section 597.1, which authorizes any peace officer, humane society officer, or animal control officer to take possession of the abandoned animal and provide care for the animal until the animal is deemed to be in a suitable condition to be returned to the owner. This bill would also authorize animal control officials to secure a lien upon the animal for the purpose of recovering the costs of rescuing it, as provided by Penal Code Section 597.1. (more) AB 2949 (DeSaulnier) Page 2 of ? This bill would require a public agency, or a shelter with whom an abandoned animal is deposited, to take charge of it. This bill would exempt abandoned animals, as specified, from the provisions of the Civil Code that governs the disposition of personal property remaining on the premises after a tenancy has terminated and been vacated by the tenant. BACKGROUND Although the state provides a process to lawfully deposit animals for adoption and also criminalizes the neglect of animals, the practice of abandoning animals is on the rise. According to the Humane Society and SPCA, animals are being abandoned in record amounts as a result of the mortgage crisis. These pets are often left by families dealing with financial hardships that must move to apartments that have no-pet policies or to the homes of relatives who do not want the pets. In addition, institutions that own the vacated or foreclosed property are left with the abandoned animals and in some instances direct their agents to not feed or care for the abandoned animal. To control the increase in abandoned animal cases and to encourage the reporting of those instances, this bill would require any person or private entity on whose property a live animal is involuntarily left to immediately notify animal control officials. CHANGES TO EXISTING LAW 1. Existing law authorizes any peace officer, humane society officer, or animal control officer to seize an abandoned or neglected animal and provide care for the animal until the animal is deemed to be in suitable condition to be returned to the owner. (Penal Code (Pen. Code) Section 597.1 et seq.) Existing law provides that any animal properly seized constitutes a lien on the animal if the seizure is upheld at a postseizure hearing, otherwise the lien must be relinquished. The animal owner, agent of the owner, or AB 2949 (DeSaulnier) Page 3 of ? keeper of the animal is subject to personal liability for the costs associated with the lien if they receive notice of the seizure and they do not attend or request a post seizure hearing. (Pen. Code 597.1(f).) Existing law provides that an involuntary deposit is made by the accidental leaving or placing of personal property in the possession of any person, without negligence on the part of its owner, or by the owner of personal property committing it, out of necessity, to the care of any person, or by the delivery to, or picking up by, and the holding of, a stray live animal by any person or public or private entity. (Civil Code Section 1815 et seq.) This bill would provide that an involuntary deposit is also made by the abandonment or leaving of a live animal, as proscribed by Section 597.1 of the Penal Code, in or about any premises or real property that has been vacated upon, or immediately preceding the termination of a lease or other rental agreement or foreclosure. 2. Existing law requires a person or private entity with whom a thing is involuntarily deposited upon to take charge of it, if able to do so. (Civil Code Section 1816 et seq.) This bill would also require any person or private entity with whom a live animal is involuntarily deposited upon, to immediately notify animal control officials for the purpose of retrieving the animal as provided by Penal Code Section 597.1. This bill would also authorize animal control officials to secure a lien upon the animal for the purpose of recovering the costs of rescuing the animal, as provided by Penal Code Section 597.1. This bill would require a public agency or a shelter with whom an abandoned animal is deposited to take charge of it as required by Penal Code Section 597.1. 3. Existing law provides an optional procedure for the disposition of personal property that remains on the premises after a tenancy has terminated and the AB 2949 (DeSaulnier) Page 4 of ? premises has been vacated by the tenant. (Civil Code Section 1981 et seq.) This bill would exempt from that procedure abandoned live animals that have been left on or about any premises or real property that has been vacated, or abandoned animals left immediately preceding the termination of a lease or other rental agreement or foreclosure of the property. COMMENT 1. Need for the bill to eliminate the practice of abandoning live animals and to encourage appropriate reporting The author asserts that the practice of abandoning animals is increasing with the recent housing crisis. Financially strapped families are abandoning their pets, the author asserts, because they cannot afford to take care of them when they are facing foreclosure or eviction. Yet, their abandoned pets are not being cared for by the subsequent owner of the property, which is generally the foreclosing lender which has no interest in rescuing the animal. Therefore, the author argues that AB 2949 would ensure more animals find proper care and sanctuary by requiring notification of the abandoned pet to animal control officials by any person or private entity. Proponent of AB 2949, Animal Place, contends that this measure will better inform the real estate industry of their duties when they encounter an abandoned animal. (Animal Place Letter of Support, dated June 5, 2008.) Other proponents of AB 2949 also indicate that this measure will lead to a decrease in animal neglect and an overall increase in animal adoptions. In sum, the author argues that AB 2949 will directly address the need to rescue animals from vacant homes and will provide direction to the housing industry when dealing with abandoned animals. 2. The bill intends to clarify the parties responsible for taking care of or reporting involuntarily deposited AB 2949 (DeSaulnier) Page 5 of ? animals Existing law implies that an involuntarily deposited animal should be cared for by a shelter or a private party if they are able to do so - but it does not provide direction regarding abandoned animals at vacated properties. (See Civil Code Section 1815 et seq.) The intent of AB 2949, the author contends, is to make clear that animal shelters and private parties must also take charge of live animals at vacated properties to further eliminate the overall abandonment of animals. 3. Notifying animal control officials of an abandoned animal reflects a legislative priority When the Legislature enacted SB 1785 (Hayden, Ch. 752, Stats. 1998), creating the duty to take charge of involuntarily deposited animals, the Legislature stated in its declaration and findings that "[i]t is better to have public and private shelters pick up or take in animals than private citizens." (See Civil Code Section 1815 et seq.) AB 2949's requirement that any person or private entity notify animal control officials of an abandoned animal is consistent with the Legislature's preference that animal shelters receive notice and take charge of the animal. Proponents of AB 2949 reason that this provision would provide direction to private parties, particularly the real estate industry, who are more frequently encountering abandoned animals at vacated or foreclosed upon homes. 4. Lien provision is imposed upon the animal and must be paid by the owner or keeper of the animal AB 2949 provides an animal control agency with the explicit authority to secure a lien upon the animal for its services pursuant to the Civil Code, mirroring that authority under the Penal Code. (See Pen. Code Section 597.1(a).) That provision requires the owner, the owner's agent, or the keeper of the animal to pay the lien if the seizure is justified. (Pen. Code Section 597.1(f)-(g).) A party-owner/keeper is also subject to AB 2949 (DeSaulnier) Page 6 of ? personal liability for the costs associated with the lien if they receive notice of the seizure and they do not attend or request a post seizure hearing. (Id.) Under AB 2949, when an animal control agency seeks to enforce a lien upon an animal that has been found at a vacated home - the actual owner of the animal is unlikely to respond or pay the costs associated with that lien. Rather, the private party that is required to report the incident would be the only available party and might be considered the keeper of the abandoned animal as that phrase is used under the lien provision. To ensure that private parties comply with the reporting requirement, the committee may want to consider revising this measure to avoid the situation where a private party left with an abandoned pet is also considered the keeper of the animal. From a policy standpoint, this measure intends to encourage reporting of abandoned animals - yet if private parties are subject to liability as a keeper for the animal control agency's costs of recovering the animal, it may lead to further neglect of abandoned pets. SHOULD THE REPORTING PARTY POTENTIALLY BE SUBJECT TO LIABILITY FOR THE ANIMAL CONTROL AGENCY'S COSTS OF RECOVERING THE ANIMAL? WOULD NOT SOME PRIVATE PARTIES, TO AVOID THE COSTS, FAIL TO REPORT OR TRANSPORT THE ANIMAL ELSEWHERE? Suggested amendment: The private party or successor property owner should be excluded from the definition of keeper for purpose of Section 597.1 of the Penal Code. (For details on the postseizure process afforded to animal owners and details regarding the imposition of the lien upon the animal - see Penal Code Section 597.1(f)-(g).) 5. Exempting abandoned animals from the optional disposition procedure is consistent with existing law Under existing law, certain livestock, such as cows, horses, and sheep, are exempted from an optional AB 2949 (DeSaulnier) Page 7 of ? procedure that permits a property owner or landlord to dispose of personal property that remains on the premises after a tenancy has terminated and been vacated by the tenant. (See Civil Code Section 1981(d).) The Legislature enacted this provision to address the need of animal owners that inadvertently leave their livestock at their previous residence or property. (See AB 2605 (Bordonaro), Ch. 653, Stats. 1996.) AB 2949 similarly exempts abandoned animals left on vacated property from the optional disposition procedure. Support: Animal Place; Animal Switchboard; California Federation for Animal Legislation Opposition: None Known HISTORY Source: California Animal Association; American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) Related Pending Legislation: None Known Prior Legislation:SB 1785 (Hayden, Ch. 752, Stats. 1998) imposed, inter alia, a duty to take charge of involuntarily deposited animals upon animal shelters and private persons, and made various declarations and findings regarding the abandonment of animals. Prior Vote: Assembly Floor (Ayes 76, Noes 0) Assembly Judiciary Committee (Ayes 10, Noes 0) ************** AB 2949 (DeSaulnier) Page 8 of ?