BILL ANALYSIS Senate Appropriations Committee Fiscal Summary Senator Christine Kehoe, Chair 243 (Nava) Hearing Date: 08/17/2009 Amended: 07/16/2009 Consultant: Jacqueline Wong-HernandezPolicy Vote: Public Safety 7-0 _________________________________________________________________ ____ BILL SUMMARY: AB 243 prohibits a person who has been convicted of specified animal abuse crimes from owning or caring for an animal for a specified period of time. This bill provides that upon a conviction for a misdemeanor animal abuse violation (of subdivision (a) or (b) of Section 597, or of Section 597a, 597b, 597h, 597j, 597s, or 597.1,) the court shall, in addition to any other sentence or penalty imposed, enter an order enjoining the person from owning, possessing, maintaining, having custody of, residing with, or caring for any animal for a period of not less than five years, and ten years for a felony conviction. Violation of the provisions of this bill is punishable by one year in county and/or a fine not exceeding $1000. This bill provides that the court may exempt a defendant from its provisions, as specified. This bill provides a procedure for reclaiming an animal in the event of an acquittal. _________________________________________________________________ ____ Fiscal Impact (in thousands) Major Provisions 2009-10 2010-11 2011-12 Fund Restricts animal ownership for Minor, non-reimbursable enforcement costs Local individuals convicted of certain crimes Creates new misdemeanor Minor, non-reimbursable enforcement costs Local New court order option for ***Unknown; potentially significant savings*** Local forfeiture of ownership General* New requirements to reclaim animals ***Negligible costs to verify proof*** General** * The state currently reimburses counties for various animal control-related mandates. **Trial Courts Trust Fund _________________________________________________________________ ____ STAFF COMMENTS: This bill requires, upon the conviction of specified animal cruelty and abuse crimes, that the court enter an order enjoining a convicted individual from owning or caring for animals, as specified. Violation of this new requirement would be misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in a county jail and/or a fine of $1,000. The creation of a new misdemeanor does not constitute a reimbursable mandate on local agencies. Under existing law, local animal shelters must provide care for animals confiscated from individuals charged with animal abuse crimes. There is an initial court hearing to ensure the animal was seized appropriately and, if it was, it remains with the seizing agency throughout the trial. Animals that are evidence in a trial cannot be euthanized, sold, or Page 2 AB 243 (Nava) given away, and must be kept by the local agency throughout the court proceedings, unless an owner relinquishes ownership of the animal. This bill does not alter the requirements and guidlines for the care of these animals. Owners are notified that they must reimburse local agencies for the care of their animals, and a failure to pay ongoing costs constitutes a lien on reclaiming the animal. If an owner does not reimburse the facility, he or she will forfeit ownership rights, and the animal in custody can be sold. This bill would allow a seizing agency or prosecuting attorney to file a petition asking the court to order termination of ownership rights over a seized animal, prior to final disposition of the criminal charge. The prosecuting attorney or seizing agency would claim that the owner should not have the animal or animals returned regardless of the criminal charge outcome. This provision would likely be most often used in cases in which animals are seized because an owner exceeds the number allowed within the county. For example, in Los Angeles County, a person may only own 3 dogs. If 20 dogs are seized from a residence pending abuse charges, regardless of the outcome of the criminal charges, the owner cannot have more than 3 dogs returned because of the county ordinance. To the degree that these petitions are granted, some savings would likely result from lifting the restriction on the seizing agency to house the animal for the duration of the court proceedings. This bill would also require that, in the event that he or she is acquitted of criminal charges, the owner of a seized animal must provide proof of meeting specified conditions in order to reclaim the animal. Among these conditions is proof of having reimbursed the appropriate local agency for care of the animal. Costs for the courts to verify the required proof would be minor both in court time and in frequency. It is rare that an owner would meet all four conditions that would result in this situation: (a) having not had the animal returned during the preliminary hearing; (b) being acquitted or having the case dismissed; (c) having not relinquished ownership for failure to pay shelter costs; and (d) seek the return of the animals.