Saturday, October 8, 2011

AB 1117 signed into law

AB 1117 deals with animal asset forfeiture and sets onerous penalties for "abuse".

Governor Brown has signed AB 1117 into law. AB 1117 would extend civil asset forfeiture to include animals. Existing law requires a convicted person to pay for the costs involved with seizing and impounding their animals. AB 1117 would extend the lien on animals based simply upon a correctly issued warrant. This is not only unjust, but onerous and cost-prohibitive to most owners, who would be forced to forfeit their animals even if innocent. The animals would then further add to the financial strain on local shelters, and many would end up being killed.

This bill requires any order prohibiting ownership to also prohibit the person from possessing, maintaining, having custody of, residing with, or caring for animals of any kind. This bill creates 5 and 10-year probation periods. This bill creates a new misdemeanor offense for a person found to be in violation of the animal-possession injunction.

Sentencing terms and conditions of probation are best left to the discretion of judges based on each individual case. For instance, a case of neglect may be as minor as leaving an animal without water, yet the offender would be prohibited from owning or residing with family members who have animals for a proscribed period of between five to ten years. This could adversely impact those households with guide dogs or other service animals.

The California Judges Association opposes the elimination of judicial discretion and noted in the May 18, 2011 analysis: "An enjoining order would probably be appropriate in most cases of animal abuse, but exceptional cases can arise". The California Judges Association concludes:

"AB 1117 goes too far."

AB 1117 is unnecessary. Judges already have the discretion to enter an order forbidding persons from caring for animals when warranted.
This bill will probably need a challenge in court, which will be very costly to pursue. There is an obvious conflict of interest on the part of the seizing agency, who may jump at the opportunity to abuse their power to grab animals and either kill or sell them, while having the owner pay all the costs.
Thank you to everyone who called, faxed and wrote the legislative bodies in opposition, as well as contacted the Governor to request a veto.

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