BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    



                                                                    AB 2278


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          Date of Hearing:  April 5, 2016
          Counsel:               David Billingsley


                         ASSEMBLY COMMITTEE ON PUBLIC SAFETY


                       Reginald Byron Jones-Sawyer, Sr., Chair





          AB  
                       2278 (Linder) - As Amended  March 28, 2016


                       As Proposed to be Amended in Committee 


          SUMMARY:  Clarifies procedures for notification of animal owners  
          regarding hearings and payment of costs when an animal is seized  
          or impounded.  Specifically, this bill:
          1)Requires a peace officer, humane society officer, or animal  
            control officer to take possession of an animal that is not  
            provided proper care and attention.

          2)Specifies that when there are reasonable grounds to believe  
            that very prompt action is required to protect the health or  
            safety of the animal or the health or safety of others, the  
            animal shall be seized immediately.

          3)Requires a seizing agency to provide care and treatment for a  
            seized animal until the animal is placed, returned to the  
            owner, or euthanized.

          4)Specifies that the owner or keeper of the animal is liable to  
            the seizing agency for the entire cost of the seizure or  
            impoundment of the animal, including costs associated with  
            preparing and posting notices and sending statements of  
            charges. 









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          5)Requires the seizing agency to provide the owner of the animal  
            with the opportunity for a postseizure hearing to determine  
            the validity of the seizure.

          6)Requires the seizing agency to post notice of postseizure  
            hearing rights where the animal was seized, or personally  
            deliver notice of postseizure hearing rights personally to the  
            owner.

          7)Specifies that in order to receive a post seizure hearing the  
            owner must request the hearing within 10 days of notice.

          8)Requires the seizing agency to present the owner with a  
            statement listing all accrued charges, as provided, either at  
            the postseizure hearing, or by personal service, first class  
            mail, or electronic mail, as specified.

          9)Requires the seizing agency to provide notice that the animal  
            will be deemed abandoned if charges are not paid within 14  
            days of service of notice of charges, and that the payment of  
            fees does not guarantee the release of the animal, but does  
            allow the owner to retain an ownership interest in the animal.

          10)Requires the impounding agency to continue to send notices of  
            additional charges for care of the animals, at the discretion  
            of the agency, not less than 14, and not to exceed 21 days  
            from the last statement.

          11)Requires that if the animal was seized pursuant to a search  
            warrant that the court that issued or adjudicated the warrant,  
            give its express approval prior to the release of the animal  
            to the owner.

          12)Allows for a preseizure hearing when the need for immediate  
            seizure of the animal is not present.

          13)Provides the same requirements for notice of monetary charges  
            and abandonment if the animal is seized after a preseizure  
            hearing.

          14)Requires the prosecutor's office to inform the seizing agency  
            if they decide not to file criminal charges based on conduct  








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            related to the impoundment of the animal.

          15)States that the animal will be released to the owner if a  
            decision has been made not to file criminal charges and the  
            animal has not otherwise been deemed abandoned.

          EXISTING LAW:  

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

          2)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.  (Penal Code  597.1, subd. (a).)

          3)Specifies that when the officer has reasonable grounds to  
            believe that very prompt action is required to protect the  
            health and safety of the stray or abandoned animal, or others  
            the officer shall immediately seize the animal.  (Penal Code   
            597.1, subd. (a).)

          4)States that the owner of a seized animal is liable for the  
            full 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, if the  
            seizure is upheld.  (Penal Code  597.1, subd. (a) and (b).)

          5)Requires any peace officer, humane society officer, or animal  
            control officer to take all injured cats and dogs found  
            without their owners in a public place to a veterinarian who  
            ordinarily treats dogs and cats for a determination of whether  
            the animal shall be immediately and humanely destroyed or  
            shall be hospitalized under proper care and given emergency  
            treatment. (Penal Code  597.1, subd. (c)(1).)

          6)Specifies that if the owner does not redeem the dog or cat  
            that has been seized, as specified, within the locally  
            prescribed waiting period, the veterinarian may personally  
            perform euthanasia on the animal, or if the animal is treated  
            and recovers from its injuries, the veterinarian may keep the  








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            animal for purposes of adoption, provided the responsible  
            animal control agency has first been contacted and has refused  
            to take possession of the animal. (Penal Code  597.1, subd.  
            (c)(2).)

          7)States that if the veterinarian provides medical treatment to  
            a dog or cat that has been seized, as specified, the full  
            costs the full cost of caring for and treating that animal  
            shall constitute a lien on the animal and the animal shall not  
            be returned to the owner until the charges are paid. (Penal  
            Code  597.1, subd. (c)(4).)

          8)Provides that any peace officer, humane society officer, or  
            any animal control officer may, with the approval of his or  
            her immediate superior, humanely destroy any stray or  
            abandoned animal in the field in any case where the animal is  
            too severely injured to move or where a veterinarian is not  
            available and it would be more humane to euthanize the animal.  
            (Penal Code  597.1, subd. (e).)

          9)States that whenever an officer seizes an animal as specified,  
            the officer shall, prior to the commencement of any criminal  
            proceedings, provide the owner or keeper of the animal, if  
            known or ascertainable after reasonable investigation, with  
            the opportunity for a postseizure hearing to determine the  
            validity of the seizure or impoundment, or both.  (Penal Code  
             597.1, subd. (f).)

          10)Sets forth the notice requirements for animal-seizure  
            hearings. (Penal Code  597.1, subd. (f) and (g).)

          11)Specifies that in order to receive a postseizure hearing, the  
            owner or person authorized to keep the animal, or his or her  
            agent, must request the hearing by signing and returning a  
            declaration of ownership or right to keep the animal to the  
            agency providing the notice within 10 days, including weekends  
            and holidays, of the date of the notice. (Penal Code  597.1,  
            subd. (f)(1)(D).)

          12)Requires the postseizure hearing be conducted within 48 hours  
            of the request, excluding weekends and holidays. (Penal Code   
            597.1, subd. (f)(2).)








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          13)States that failure of the owner or keeper, or of his or her  
            agent, to request or to attend a scheduled hearing shall  
            result in a forfeiture of any right to a postseizure hearing  
            or right to challenge his or her liability for costs incurred.  
            (Penal Code  597.1, subd. (f)(3).)

          14)Specifies that if it is determined in the postseizure hearing  
            that the seizing officer did not have reasonable grounds seize  
            the animal, the agency that seized the animal shall be  
            responsible for the costs incurred for caring and treating the  
            animal. (Penal Code  597.1, subd. (f)(4).)

          15)States that if it is determined the seizure was justified,  
            the owner or keeper shall be personally liable to the seizing  
            agency for the full cost of the seizure and care of the  
            animal, and the costs for the seizure and care of the animal  
            shall be a lien on the animal. (Penal Code  597.1, subd.  
            (f)(4).) 

          16)Provides that an animal determined to be a legally seized  
            animal shall not be returned to its owner until the charges  
            are paid and the owner demonstrates to the satisfaction of the  
            seizing agency or the hearing officer that the owner can and  
            will provide the necessary care for the animal. (Penal Code   
            597.1, subd. (f)(4).)

          17)Specifies that a preseizure hearing shall be conducted within  
            48 hours, excluding weekends and holidays, after receipt of  
            the request. (Penal Code  597.1, subd. (g)(2).)

          18)States that failure of the owner or keeper, or his or her  
            agent, to request or to attend a scheduled preseizure hearing  
            shall result in a forfeiture of any right to a preseizure  
            hearing or right to challenge his or her liability for costs  
            incurred pursuant to this section. (Penal Code  597.1, subd.  
            (g)(3).)

          19)States that the hearing officer, after the preseizure  
            hearing, may affirm or deny the owner's or keeper's right to  
            custody of the animal and, if reasonable grounds are  
            established, may order the seizure or impoundment of the  








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            animal for care and treatment. (Penal Code  597.1, subd.  
            (g)(4).)

          20)Provides if the charges for the seizure, 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 permitted  
            under this section and take possession of the animal, the  
            animal shall be deemed to have been abandoned and may be  
            disposed of by the seizing agency. (Penal Code  597.1, subd.  
            (h).)

          21)States that if the animal requires veterinary care and the  
            humane society or public agency is not assured, within 14 days  
            of the seizure of the animal, that the owner will provide the  
            necessary care, the animal shall not be returned to its owner  
            and shall be deemed to have been abandoned and may be disposed  
            of by the seizing agency. (Penal Code  597.1, subd. (i).)

          22)Provides that a veterinarian may humanely destroy an  
            impounded animal without regard to the prescribed holding  
            period when it has been determined that the animal has  
            incurred severe injuries or is incurably crippled. (Penal Code  
             597.1, subd. (i).)

          23)States that in the case of cats and dogs, prior to the final  
            disposition of any criminal charges, the seizing agency or  
            prosecuting attorney may file a petition in a criminal action  
            requesting that the court issue an order forfeiting the animal  
            to the city, county, or seizing agency. (Penal Code  597.1,  
            subd. (k)(1).)

          24)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.  (Penal Code   
            597.1, subd. (j).)

          25)States that person convicted of a violation of this section  
            by causing or permitting an act of cruelty, as specified,  
            shall be liable to the impounding officer for all costs of  








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            impoundment from the time of seizure to the time of proper  
            disposition. (Pen. Code,  597, subd. (g).)


          FISCAL EFFECT:  Unknown

          


          COMMENTS:  

          1)Author's Statement:  According to the author, "This bill is to  
            clean up Penal Code 597.1, by clarifying the 14-day notice  
            language and provide that all animals seized for alleged abuse  
            are eligible for mandatory forfeiture after a court hearing.  
            By making these changes we can help avoid any undue suffering  
            to animals that are in shelters as well as avoid any  
            unanticipated cost to the owner." 

          2)Procedures for Seizing Animals:   An animal can be seized in  
            several different ways.  A peace officer, humane society  
            officer, or animal control officer can seize a stray or  
            abandoned animal if he or she has reasonable grounds to  
            believe that prompt action is required to protect the health  
            or safety of the animal or the health or safety of others.   
            (Penal Code Section 597.1(a) and (b).)   Authorities can also  
            obtain a warrant upon a showing of probable cause, and then  
            seize the animal pursuant to the warrant.  

          There is also an option to seize an animal after a hearing 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).  Animal  
            control can conduct a hearing prior to seizure of the animal  
            and before criminal proceedings for animal abuse or neglect  
            commence.  (Penal 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. This hearing is  
            referred to as a preseizure hearing. (Ibid.)  Depending on the  
            findings made at the preseizure hearing, the animal can be  








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            seized and held at that point.  

          3)Current Framework For Administrative Hearings In Animal  
            Seizures:  Under existing law, peace officers, humane society  
            officers, or animal control officers must take possession of  
            the stray or abandoned animal when the officer has reasonable  
            grounds to believe that very prompt action is required to  
            protect the health or safety of the animal.  Once the animal  
            is seized, it is taken to a veterinarian, shelter, or clinic  
            to be treated and housed.  Notice must be posted, or mailed,  
            to give any owner an opportunity for a post seizure hearing.  
            The owner must request a post seizure hearing within 10  
            calendar days from the date of notice, or loses the  
            opportunity for a hearing.  The purpose of the hearing is to  
            determine if the seizure or impoundment of the animal was  
            valid.  If the seizure is upheld the owner is responsible for  
            the costs of care and treatment of the animal.  Those costs  
            are lien against the animal.
          If the owner fails to pay the costs of the seizure and animal  
            care within 14 days of the seizure the animal shall be deemed  
            abandoned and may be placed, or the seizing agency can make  
            other arrangements for the animal.

          Current law does not provide clear guidelines for the seizing  
            agency to provide notice to the owner of the animal regarding  
            payment of costs and when an animal is deemed abandoned by the  
            owner.  This bill provides such guidelines.

          4)As Proposed to be Amended in Committee:

             a)   Requires mandatory seizure of animals under specified  
               circumstances involving animal neglect and safety.  That  
               mandatory language is consistent with existing law.

             b)   Specifies that a seized animal is deemed abandoned and  
               may be disposed of by the seizing agency if the monetary  
               charges for seizure are not paid within 14 days of service  
               of the notice of charges.  This amendment provides  
               consistency with the notice requirements added by this  
               bill.

             c)   Requires prosecutor's office to inform the seizing  








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               agency if they decide not to file criminal charges based on  
               conduct related to the impoundment of the animal.

             d)   States that the animal will be released to the owner if  
               a decision has been made not to file criminal charges and  
               the animal has not otherwise been deemed abandoned.

          5)Argument in Support:  According to The State Humane  
            Association of California, "AB 2278 will make major  
            improvements to Penal Code Section 597.1. This is a section of  
            code that animal shelters rely on to deal with animal cruelty  
            and neglect and what transpires as a result of seizing animals  
            found in those circumstances. However, in the course of  
            executing their duties as proscribed in this statute, it has  
            become more and more apparent that this section of code is  
            both difficult to interpret and implement. 

          "The proposed changes are not meant to undermine or redirect the  
            statute's original purpose. Rather they will clarify the  
            rights and responsibilities of both owners and agencies when  
            an animal is seized for abuse or neglect. This will help to  
            avoid undue animal suffering, financial loss to the shelter,  
            and unanticipated financial burden on the owner. Moreover, the  
            proposed changes will ensure that all animals - not just cats  
            and dogs - are subject to the mandatory forfeiture provisions.  
            These improvements in the statute will enable animal shelters  
            to do a better job of protecting abused animals and giving  
            them a chance at a new life."

          6)Prior Legislation:

             a)   SB 1500 (Lieu), Chapter 598, Statutes of 2012, allows  
               pre-conviction forfeiture of an individual's seized animals  
               in animal abuse and neglect cases.

             b)   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.

             c)   SB 318 (Calderon), Chapter 302, Statutes of 2009,  
               provided for the forfeiture of any property interest that  








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               was either acquired through the commission of dogfighting,  
               or used to promote, further or facilitate dogfighting.

          REGISTERED SUPPORT / OPPOSITION:

          Support

          State Humane Association of California (Sponsor)
          Beagle Freedom Project
          California Police Chiefs Association
          Peace Officers Research Association of California
          Opposition

          None  

          Analysis Prepared  
          by:              David Billingsley / PUB. S. / (916) 319-3744