BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    



                                                                  SB 1500
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          SENATE THIRD READING
          SB 1500 (Lieu)
          As Amended  June 26, 2012
          Majority vote 

           SENATE VOTE  :39-0  
           
           PUBLIC SAFETY       6-0                                         
           
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          |Ayes:|Ammiano, Knight, Cedillo, |     |                          |
          |     |Hagman, Mitchell, Skinner |     |                          |
          |     |                          |     |                          |
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           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 during 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.








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          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 
            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.  

          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.   

          3)States that ever person who willfully abandons any animal is 
            guilty of a misdemeanor.  

          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 








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            officer shall immediately seize the animal.  

          5)States that the owner of a seized animal is liable for the 
            cost of caring and treating the animal, that these costs will 
            be considered a lien on the animal, and that the animal will 
            not be returned until the charges are paid.  

          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.  

          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.  

          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.  

          9)Sets forth the notice requirements and the procedures for 
            animal seizure hearings. 

          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.  

          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, maintains, 
            has custody of, resides with or cares for any animal is guilty 
            of a public offense, punishable by a fine of $1,000.  

          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.  

          13)Creates an exception for the animal-ownership injunction for 








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            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.  

          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.  

          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.  

           FISCAL EFFECT  :  Unknown.  This bill is keyed non-fiscal by the 
          Legislative Counsel.

           COMMENTS  :  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 order to return the 
          animal.

          "The second goal of the bill is to make clear the fiscal 








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          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 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."

          Please see the policy committee analysis for a full discussion 
          of this bill.
           

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


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