BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    Ó



                                                                  SB 1500
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          Date of Hearing:  June 19, 2012
          Counsel:       Sandy Uribe


                         ASSEMBLY COMMITTEE ON PUBLIC SAFETY
                                 Tom Ammiano, Chair

                     SB 1500 (Lieu) - As Amended:  June 13, 2012
                       As Proposed to be Amended in Committee
           
           
           SUMMARY  :  Allows pre-conviction forfeiture of a defendant's 
          seized animals in animal abuse and neglect cases.  Specifically, 
           this bill  :  

          1)Clarifies that when costs are owed for the care and treatment 
            of a seized animal, they are "full" costs.

          2)Clarifies that when an animal is deemed abandoned, it becomes 
            the property of the seizing agency, and deletes language 
            stating that the impounding officer may dispose of the animal.

          3)Allows a seizing agency or a prosecutor, in the case of 
            adoptable cats and dogs, to file a petition requesting 
            pre-conviction forfeiture of the animal the pending criminal 
            case and requesting that the court order the animal forfeited 
            prior to final disposition of the criminal charges.

          4)Requires the prosecutor or seizing agency to serve a true copy 
            of the pre-conviction forfeiture petition on the defendant and 
            the prosecuting attorney.

          5)Requires the court to set a hearing on the pre-conviction 
            forfeiture petition within 14 days after filing or as soon as 
            practicable.

          6)Requires the court to order immediate forfeiture of an animal 
            during the pendency of a criminal proceeding if the petitioner 
            establishes beyond a reasonable doubt that the owner will not 
            legally be permitted to retain the animal in question even in 
            the event of an acquittal of criminal charges.

          7)Specifies that nothing in this section is intended to 
            authorize a seizing agency or prosecutor to file a 
            post-conviction petition to determine an owner's ability to 








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            legally retain an animal if a pre-conviction forfeiture 
            petition previously has been filed.

          8)Changes the defendant's burden of proof at a hearing on a 
            petition for reduction of an ownership prohibition or a 
            livestock owner economic hardship exception to "preponderance 
            of the evidence."

          9)Makes technical, non-substantive changes.

           EXISTING LAW  : 

          1)States it is a misdemeanor punishable by a maximum of one year 
            in the county jail and a fine of not more than $20,000 to 
            maim, mutilate, torture, or wound a living animal or to 
            maliciously or intentionally kill an animal.  ĘPenal Code 
            Section 597(a).]

          2)States that every person having charge or custody of an animal 
            who overdrives; overloads; overworks; tortures; torments; 
            deprives of necessary sustenance, drink, or shelter; cruelly 
            beats, mutilates, or cruelly kills; or causes or procures any 
            animal to be so overdriven; overloaded; driven when 
            overloaded; overworked; tortured; tormented; deprived of 
            necessary sustenance, drink, shelter; or to be cruelly beaten, 
            mutilated, or cruelly killed is, for every such offense, 
            guilty of a crime punishable as an alternate 
            misdemeanor/felony and by a fine of not more than $20,000.   
            ĘPenal Code Section 597(b).]

          3)States that ever person who willfully abandons any animal is 
            guilty of a misdemeanor.  (Penal Code Section 597s.)

          4)Provides that any peace officer, humane society officer, or 
            animal control officer shall take possession of a stray or 
            abandoned animal and shall provide care and treatment for the 
            animal until the animal is deemed to be in suitable condition 
            to be returned to the owner.  When the officer has reasonable 
            grounds to believe that very prompt action is required to 
            protect the health and safety of the animal or others the 
            officer shall immediately seize the animal.  ĘPenal Code 
            Section 597.1(a).]

          5)States that the owner of a seized animal is liable for the 
            cost of caring and treating the animal, that these costs will 








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            be considered a lien on the animal, and that the animal will 
            not be returned until the charges are paid.  ĘPenal Code 
            Section 597.1(a), (b), and (c).]

          6)Provides if the charges for the seizure or impoundment and any 
            other permitted charges are not paid within 14 days of the 
            seizure, or, if the owner, within 14 days of notice of 
            availability of the animal to be returned, fails to pay 
            charges and take possession of the animal, the animal shall be 
            deemed to have been abandoned.  ĘPenal Code Section 597.1(h).]

          7)Specifies that the owner of an animal that has been seized has 
            the right to request a post-seizure hearing to determine the 
            validity of the seizure.  ĘPenal Code Section 597.1(f).]

          8)Specifies that the owner of an animal has the right to hearing 
            before an animal is seized when the need for the animal's 
            immediate seizure is not present.  ĘPenal Code Section 
            597.1(f).]

          9)Sets forth the notice requirements and the procedures for 
            animal-seizure hearings. ĘPenal Code Section 597.1(f) and 
            (g).]

          10)Disallows the return of a seized animal to the owner until 
            the seizing agency or hearing officer determines that the 
            animal is physically fit or until the owner shows to the 
            satisfaction of the hearing officer or seizing agency that the 
            owner can and will provide necessary care.  ĘPenal Code 
            Section 597.1(j).]

          11)Provides that any person convicted of a misdemeanor violation 
            of specified sections relating to animal cruelty and who, 
            within five years of conviction, owns, possesses, maintain, 
            has custody of, resides with or cares for any animal is guilty 
            of a public offense, punishable by a fine of $1,000.  ĘPenal 
            Code Section 597.9(a).]

          12)Provides that any person convicted of a felony violation of 
            specified sections relating to animal cruelty and who, within 
            10 years of the conviction owns, possesses, maintains, has 
            custody of, resides with or cares for any animal is guilty of 
            a public offense, punishable by a fine of $1,000.  ĘPenal Code 
            Section 597.9(b).]









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          13)Creates an exception for the animal-ownership injunction for 
            livestock owners who can establish that the restriction would 
            result in substantial or undue economic hardship to the 
            defendant's livelihood and that the defendant has the ability 
            to properly care for all livestock in his or her possession.  
            ĘPenal Code Section 597.9(c)(1).]

          14)Allows a convicted person to petition the court for a 
            reduction to the duration of the prohibition by showing that 
            he or she does not present a danger to animals, has the 
            ability to properly care for all animals in his or her 
            possession, and has successfully completed all court-ordered 
            classes and counseling.  ĘPenal Code Section 597.9(d)(1).]

          15)Gives the court discretion, in the event the length of the 
            mandatory ownership prohibition is reduced, to order that the 
            defendant comply with reasonable and unannounced inspections 
            by animal control or law enforcement.  ĘPenal Code Section 
            597.9(d)(2).]

           FISCAL EFFECT  :   Unknown

           COMMENTS  :   

           1)Author's Statement  :  According to the author, "SB 1500 has 
            three primary goals.

          "The first is to fix a loophole regarding the term 'or' in Penal 
            Code Section 597.1, that results in abused animals being 
            returned to their owners under the sole condition that the 
            animal is physically fit.  Specifically, current law states 
            that at a hearing conducted after the seizure of an animal, 
            the animal may be returned to its owner if it is physically 
            fit or if the owner demonstrates to the seizing agency or 
            hearing officer that the owner can provide the necessary care 
            and does not present a danger to the animal.  The word "or" 
            makes the physical fitness of the animal the sole necessary 
            condition for the return of the animal.  Because these 
            hearings often take place weeks after the initial seizure, the 
            seized animal has often been nursed back to health - thus, 
            regardless of the owner's ability to care for/no longer abuse 
            the animal, animal control agencies feel legally obligated to 
            return the animal.  SB 1500 attempts to fix this loophole by 
            removing the physical fitness provision and making the owner's 
            ability to care for the animal the only necessary criterion in 








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            order to return the animal.

          "The second goal of the bill is to make clear the fiscal 
            responsibilities and procedures associated with the costs of 
            housing a seized animal.  This bill modifies the term 'costs' 
            for seizing agencies to cover for the care and treatment of 
            the animal by amending the language to cover the 'full cost.'  
            This clarifying amendment eliminates any ambiguity as to what 
            part the owner of the animal is required to pay and restates 
            the Legislature's intent to place the financial responsibility 
            with the owner.

          "The final goal of SB 1500 is to address problems of housing 
            animals taken in as part of certain types of criminal 
            proceedings.  Current law stipulates that individuals or 
            households may only own a certain number of specified animals. 
             Other kinds of pet ownership are outlawed entirely.  In cases 
            where 'hoarders,' people who collect unlawful numbers of 
            animals, or in cases where people own illegal exotic pets, 
            even if the owner is eventually acquitted of criminal charges 
            brought against them, they will not be legally allowed to keep 
            (most of) their animals.  However, since the animals are 
            evidence in a criminal case, the shelter must continue to hold 
            them until the cessation of criminal proceedings, and cannot 
            adopt them to other owners or donate exotic animals to zoos.  
            These seized animals take up valuable shelter space, and other 
            healthy, adoptable animals that come to the shelter are often 
            euthanized unnecessarily due to the lack of space.  SB 1500 
            would change would allow an agency or prosecutor to request a 
            hearing, during which a judge will determine whether, even in 
            the event of an acquittal, either the owner cannot or will not 
            provide the necessary care for the animals or that the owner 
            will not legally be permitted to retain the animals in 
            question.  The agency or prosecutor would have the burden of 
            establishing either of these points by a preponderance of the 
            evidence."

           2)Pre-Conviction Forfeiture Proceedings  :  Under current law, 
            seized animals are usually housed until criminal proceedings 
            are resolved.  This bill allows the seizing agency or 
            prosecutor to file a petition in a pending criminal action for 
            forfeiture of the seized animal.  The court can order the 
            immediate forfeiture of the seized animal before the final 
            disposition of the criminal case, if the prosecutor or seizing 
            agency establishes by a preponderance of the evidence, that 








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            even in the event of an acquittal, the owner will not legally 
            be permitted to retain the animal in question. 

            In this respect the pre-conviction forfeiture provisions of 
            this bill are similar to old standards for drug-asset 
            forfeiture.  Before California's drug forfeiture laws were 
            reformed in 1994 by AB 114 (Burton), Chapter 314, Statutes of 
            1994, forfeiture did not need to be based on a criminal 
            conviction and could be proved by a preponderance of the 
            evidence.  According to the Senate Judiciary Committee 
            analysis, the author of AB 114 stated, "Existing asset 
            forfeiture statutes are susceptible to abuse.  Innocent people 
            have all too frequently lost their property without due 
            process.  The purpose of this bill is to put in place 
            necessary protections to ensure that people's property rights, 
            and due process rights, are protected."  Currently in drug 
            forfeiture cases, it is generally a condition precedent to 
            forfeiture that a defendant be convicted.

            The provisions of this bill are at odds with current law on 
            animal fighting forfeiture proceedings.   (Penal Code Section 
            598.1.)    In criminal cases involving dogfighting or 
            cockfighting, the prosecutor may, in conjunction with the 
            criminal proceeding, file a petition of forfeiture with the 
            superior court of the county in which the defendant has been 
            charged with the commission of those crimes that shall allege 
            that the defendant has committed those crimes and the property 
            is forfeitable.  ĘPenal Code Section 598.1(a) and (c).]  The 
            forfeiture proceedings are set for hearing in the superior 
            court in which the underlying charges are set to be tried.  
            ĘPenal Code Section 598.1(f)(1).]  Then, if the defendant is 
            found guilty of the underlying offense, the issue of 
            forfeiture is promptly tried.  ĘPenal Code Section 
            598.1(f)(2).]  At the forfeiture hearing, the prosecutor has 
            the burden of establishing beyond a reasonable doubt (not 
            preponderance of the evidence as in this bill) that the 
            defendant was engaged in the prohibited crimes.  ĘPenal Code 
            Section 598.1(g).]  

            Existing law also permits the seizure of any animals used in 
            fighting as well as all paraphernalia, implements or other 
            property or things used or employed, or about to be employed 
            in violation of any bird or animal fighting statute.  Upon 
            conviction, the seized property shall be deemed forfeited.  
            (Penal Code Section 599aa.)








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            Arguably the framework of current law pertaining to forfeiture 
            proceedings in animal fighting cases may not be effective in 
            cases involving the hoarding of adoptable cats and dogs that 
            are allegedly abused or neglected.  The longer the cats and 
            dogs stay caged at a shelter, the less adoptable they become, 
            thereby increasing the possibility the animals have to be 
            euthanized.

           3)Background on Procedures for Seizing Animals  :   An animal can 
            be seized in several different ways.  First, a peace officer, 
            humane society officer, or animal control officer can seize a 
            stray or abandoned animal.  ĘPenal Code Section 597.1(a) and 
            (b).]  Additionally, when an officer has reasonable grounds to 
            believe that very prompt action is required to protect the 
            health or safety of an abandoned, stray, sick or infirm, or 
            cruelly treated animal, or the health and safety of others, 
            the officer is required to immediately seize the animal.   
            (Ibid.)  Authorities can also obtain a warrant upon a showing 
            of probable cause, and then seize the animal pursuant to the 
            warrant.  (See e.g., Penal Code Section 599a.)   In these 
            three instances, the owner is afforded the right to a 
            post-seizure hearing to determine the validity of the seizure 
            or impoundment or both.  ĘPenal Code Section 597.1(f).]  

          Finally, if animal control observes unsuitable conditions, but 
            these conditions do not rise to the level of exigent 
            circumstances (i.e., the need for immediate seizure is not 
            present), a pre-seizure hearing occurs before the animal can 
            be seized and before criminal proceedings for animal abuse or 
            neglect commence.  ĘPenal Code Section 597.1(g).]  In this 
            situation, the owner must produce the animal at the time of 
            the hearing unless before the hearing he or she allowed the 
            agency to view the animal, or unless the owner can provide 
            verification that the animal was already humanely destroyed.  
            (Ibid.)  

          4)Argument in Support  :  According to the  Los Angeles District 
            Attorney's Office  , (the sponsor of this bill), "SB 1500 
            addresses existing deficiencies in California's animal neglect 
            criminal statute that currently allows animals to be returned 
            to abusive owners and results in many adoptable pets having to 
            being euthanized because of crowding.  SB 1500, which makes a 
            number of technical amendments to Penal Code Section 597.1, 
            has two major components. 








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          "First, under PC §597.1 if an animal is seized because the 
            officer believes that immediate action is required to protect 
            the health and safety of the animal or the health and safety 
            of others, the owner is entitled to a post-seizure hearing.  
            The purpose of the hearing is to determine the validity of the 
            seizure and whether the animal should be returned to the 
            owner.  Existing law states the animal shall be returned to 
            its owner if the seizing agency or hearing officer has 
            determined that the animal is physically fit or the owner 
            demonstrates to the seizing agency's or the hearing officer's 
            satisfaction that the owner can and will provide the necessary 
            care.

          "Every week across the state animal control agencies return 
            animals to owners who have mistreated their animals due to 
            existing language in PC §597.1.  Because of the use of the 
            word "or", hearing officers are placed in the position of 
            being forced to return an animal to the person who caused it 
            to be in such a condition that an officer felt that prompt 
            action was needed to save the animal because the shelter had 
            nursed the animal back to health, knowing that the person was 
            either unwilling or incapable of providing the necessary care. 
             The usage of the term 'or' has resulted in many animals being 
            returned to the same harmful environments with their abusers.

            "SB 1500 amends existing law so that an animal shall not be 
            returned to its owner '?until the charges are paid and the 
            owner demonstrates to the seizing agency or hearing officer's 
            satisfaction that the owner can and will provide the necessary 
            care for the animal.'

            "Second, SB 1500 would allow a seizing agency or a prosecutor 
            to file a petition in the criminal action requesting that the 
            court issue an order forfeiting the animal to the county or 
            seizing agency prior to final disposition of the criminal 
            charge.

            "Currently, if an owner does not voluntarily relinquish their 
            animal to the seizing agency, the agency is forced to keep the 
            animal until the criminal case is resolved - even when the 
            defendant will not ever be able to keep the animal - even if 
            acquitted.

            "For example, in the case of hoarders where large numbers of 








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            animals are seized at one time, an agency can be forced to 
            house literally hundreds of animals.  This creates a huge 
            drain on an agency's resources.  Because most cities and 
            counties have legal limits on the number of animals a person 
            may have on their property, hoarders will never be able to get 
            all of their animals back.

            "SB 1500 would allow an agency or prosecutor to request a 
            hearing, during which a judge will determine whether, even in 
            the event of an acquittal, the owner will not legally be 
            permitted to retain the animal(s) in question.  The agency or 
            prosecutor would have the burden of establishing either of 
            this point by a preponderance of the evidence.

            "This provision not only helps the seized animals find a safe 
            and happy home sooner but also benefits the other animals in 
            shelters who would otherwise have to be euthanized if there 
            was not enough space to care and house them at a shelter. 

            "SB 1500 also modifies the term 'costs' for seizing agencies 
            to cover for the care and treatment of the animal by amending 
            the language to cover the 'full cost.'  This clarifying 
            amendment eliminates any ambiguity as to what part the owner 
            of the animal is required to pay and restates the 
            Legislature's intent to place the financial responsibility 
            with the owner."  

           5)Argument in Opposition  :  According to the  California 
            Federation of Dog Clubs , "This bill would allow for 
            unprecedented abuse by agencies empowered with animal seizure 
            authority.  Public or private agencies would be granted the 
            status of judge, jury, and executioner in cases related to 
            animals.  Animal owners will be subject to capricious 
            deprivation of their constitutional right to maintain 
            ownership of their property.  Even animal owners who are 
            acquitted of the charges against them may be denied the return 
            of their animal, depending on the whim of the seizing agency.  
            We can bet that agents who have already decided that animals 
            need to be removed from an owner's care will not be willing to 
            return those animals even in the case of subsequent 
            dismissal." 

           6)Related Legislation  :  

             a)   AB 1117 (Smyth), Chapter 553, Statutes of 2011, made 








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               changes to the penalties in animal abuse and neglect cases 
               as well as in animal-seizure proceedings.

             b)   SB 917 (Lieu), Chapter 131, Statutes of 2011, increased 
               the misdemeanor penalty for animal neglect in order to 
               conform it to other provisions of law relating to animal 
               abuse, and made it a crime to sell any live animal on a 
               street, parking lot, carnival, or board walk.

             c)   SB 425 (Calderon), Chapter 562, Statutes of 2011, 
               increased the fine for various animal fighting offenses and 
               applied existing forfeiture proceedings for dog fighting to 
               cockfighting. 

           7)Prior Legislation  :  

             a)   AB 243 (Nava), of the 2009-10 Legislative Session, 
               sought to establish a period prohibiting animal ownership 
               after a misdemeanor or felony conviction of animal abuse.  
               AB 243 was vetoed.

             b)   SB 318 (Calderon), Chapter 302, Statutes of 2009, 
               provided for the forfeiture of any property interest that 
               was either acquired through the commission of dogfighting, 
                         or used to promote, further or facilitate dogfighting.

           REGISTERED SUPPORT / OPPOSITION  :   

           Support 
           
          Los Angeles District Attorney's Office (Sponsor)
          California District Attorneys Association
          City of Long Beach
          Humane Society of the United States

           Opposition 
           
          American Herding Breed Association
          California Federation of Dog Clubs
          California Responsible Pet Owners Coalition
          One private individual
           

          Analysis Prepared by  :    Sandy Uribe / PUB. S. / (916) 319-3744 









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