BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    



                                                                  AB 1117
                                                                  Page  1

          Date of Hearing:   May 18, 2011

                        ASSEMBLY COMMITTEE ON APPROPRIATIONS
                                Felipe Fuentes, Chair

                     AB 1117 (Smyth) - As Amended:  May 11, 2011 

          Policy Committee:                              Public Safety 
          Vote:        7-0

          Urgency:     No                   State Mandated Local Program: 
          Yes    Reimbursable:              Yes

           SUMMARY  

          This bill  requires  the court (current law authorizes) to impose 
          a condition of probation prohibiting animal ownership for a 
          person convicted of animal cruelty and granted probation, and 
           requires  the court, regardless of sentence, to order the 
          convicted person to immediately deliver all animals in his or 
          her possession to a public entity.  Specifically, this bill:

          1)Prohibits a person conviction of misdemeanor animal cruelty 
            from owning an animal for five years, and a person convicted 
            of felony animal cruelty from owning an animal for 10 years. 

          2)Makes it a misdemeanor for any person convicted of animal 
            abuse to thereafter own, possess, maintain, have custody of, 
            live with, or care for any animal within the specified period 
            of the animal-ownership injunction.

          3)Prohibits the court, following an acquittal or dismissal of 
            the case, from releasing seized animals to the defendant 
            unless the defendant establishes (a) proof of ownership, (b) 
            proof that all charges have been fully paid, (c) proof that 
            all animals are physically fit, (d) proof that the owner can 
            and will provide the necessary care, and (e) proof that all 
            the animals in question can legally be retained.

          4)Creates an exception for the animal ownership prohibition for 
            livestock owners who can show the restriction would result in 
            undue economic hardship and that the defendant can care for 
            all livestock in his or her possession. 

          5)Allows a defendant to petition the court to reduce the period 








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            of the ownership prohibition if the defendant can establish 
            that he or she: (a) does not present a danger to animals, (b) 
            has the ability to properly care for animals, and (c) has 
            completed all court-ordered classes or counseling. 

          6)Makes changes to animal seizure procedures, designed to 
            clarify and enhance reimbursement for the costs of housing 
            seized animals.  
           
          FISCAL EFFECT

           1)Unknown potentially state-reimbursable mandated costs, likely 
            in excess of $150,000, to county probation departments to 
            enforce mandatory conditions of probation, including home 
            visits.

            For a point of reference, 35 persons were committed to state 
            prison over the past two years for felony animal cruelty, 
            which means there were likely considerably more felony 
            offenders who did not receive state prison time, as well as 
            hundreds of misdemeanor cases. If a similar number of felons 
            were added to formal probation caseloads as a result of the 
            animal conditions, the costs for these offenders alone would 
            be about $140,000. If these conditions resulted in a similar 
            number of misdemeanants being added to formal probation, those 
            costs would be in the range of $60,000.   

          2)Unknown, likely minor, nonreimbursable costs for local law 
            enforcement and incarceration, offset to a degree by increased 
            fine revenue.  

            COMMENTS

          1)Rationale.  The author and sponsor, the Humane Society, contend 
            animal abuse is sufficiently problematic to warrant curtailing 
            judicial discretion in this area and making animal forfeiture 
            mandatory.

            According to The Humane Society of the United States, "Animals 
            must be protected from those who have failed to provide them 
            with the basic care required by law. People convicted of 
            harming animals must be considered capable of violence towards 
            other animals." 










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           2)Current law  provides the court discretion to impose reasonable 
            conditions of probation as it may determine are fitting and 
            proper. In the case of animal cruelty, the court may, when a 
            defendant is convicted of animal abuse, order as a condition 
            of probation that the offender be prohibited from owning or 
            having any contact with animals of any kind, and order the 
            offender to deliver all animals in his or her possession to a 
            designated public entity for adoption or other lawful 
            disposition. 

           3)Does animal cruelty warrant the diminution of judicial 
            discretion  ?  Courts have broad discretion in considering and 
            ordering conditions of probation because they are in 
            possession of the specific facts and circumstances of each 
            case and each defendant. Mandatory sentencing minimums and 
            conditions of probation assume a one-size-fits-all disposition 
            is more effective than a case-based evaluation. 

            As noted in the Public Safety Committee analysis, eliminating 
            judicial discretion raises such circumstancial difficulties as 
            a situation in which a person convicted of animal cruelty or 
            neglect cannot reside in his or her own home if another family 
            member happens to have an animal on the property.  

           4)How will a post-probation animal possession ban be enforced  ? 
            Will local law enforcement send officers to homes and farms to 
            monitor compliance?  When the ban on animal ownership outlives 
            the period of probation, is it appropriate - or even 
            constitutional - to subject persons to unannounced inspections 
            by law enforcement or animal control?

           5)Impact on local law enforcement and jail overcrowding  . With 
            about half of the state's jails under population caps, and 
            with the pending realignment of non-serious and non-violent 
            state inmates to local incarceration and control, is increased 
            monitoring and punishment of animal ownership the best use of 
            local resources? 

           6)Opposition  . The California Judges Association opposes the 
            elimination of judicial discretion in these cases. "An 
            enjoining order would probably be appropriate in most cases of 
            animal abuse, but exceptional cases can arise. The bill tries 
            to anticipate such exceptions, notably in cases where a 
            defendant would suffer substantial hardship were her livestock 
            confiscated (see proposed Penal Code section 597.9(d)), but 








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            there might still be other limited set of codified exceptions. 
            For example, under AB 1117, if a blind defendant were 
            convicted under an animal abuse statute for starving her 
            parakeet to death, the court would have no choice but to order 
            the defendant to give up her seeing-eye dog. Courts need 
            flexibility to make orders appropriate to the case at hand. By 
            taking away a court's discretion to do so, AB 1117 goes too 
            far." 
           
          7)Similar legislation  (AB 243, Nava, 2010) was vetoed. Gov. 
            Schwarzenegger stated: 


            "This measure is unnecessary. Judges already have the 
            discretion to enter an order forbidding persons from caring 
            for animals if it's warranted. Making this order mandatory 
            could unjustly impact individuals who make a living working 
            with or caring for animals." 

           




           Analysis Prepared by  :    Geoff Long / APPR. / (916) 319-2081