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URGENT - Montana Animal Forfeiture Bill Advances to House

URGENT - Montana Animal  Forfeiture Bill Advances to House

Please share this urgent alert with concerned animal owners in Montana.

Senate Bill 421, which would allow Montana courts to order the permanent forfeiture of animals that are seized based on alleged acts of animal cruelty, has advanced to the Montana House of Representatives and could be voted into law.

The American Kennel Club abhors the mistreatment of dogs and supports strong enforcement of reasonable animal cruelty laws. Senate Bill 421, however, could result in permanent forfeiture of animals that are impounded based on alleged violations of animal cruelty laws.  Our concerns with SB 421 include the following:

  • Loss of property ownership rights and the right to challenge extensive costs – SB 421 would allow a court to order forfeiture of animals seized under allegations of animal cruelty unless the defendant posts a bond or security to pay the costs of care for the animals for 30 days.  Payment would be required within 72 hours following a hearing that finds probable cause that the animals exhibit extreme disease, injury or suffering.  It should be noted that a finding of “probable cause” is not a determination of guilt.  If the owner does not pay the costs of care, his property is forfeit, he relinquishes the right to challenge potentially extensive costs, and he loses the opportunity defend his ownership rights at trial.
  • Third party interference – At the time of the hearing, seized animals will have been out of the owner’s care for a number of days or weeks.  During the seizure, transportation and impoundment process, animals may have suffered injury and exposure to disease while outside the defendant’s control and without his knowledge.
  • Even if the defendant wins, he loses – There is no provision for the reimbursement of costs to animal owners who are found not guilty or against whom charges are dismissed.  A citizen unjustly accused of animal cruelty could be forced to spend thousands of dollars to retain ownership of animals that should not have been impounded in the first place.
  • Burdensome for low-income citizens – There is no provision for defendants with low incomes who cannot pay animal care costs.

The AKC supports existing Montana Code 45-8-211 in which a person convicted of animal cruelty is required to pay costs of veterinary treatment for affected animals, may be required to forfeit his animals, and may be required to pay reasonable costs of care.

SB 421 violates the rights of animal owners who may be forced to forfeit ownership prior to adjudication.  No citizen should  be charged with costs of care for animals removed from his possession absent a finding of guilt.

How You Can Help

  • Immediately contact members of the Montana House of Representatives to politely express your concerns and ask them to vote “No” to Senate Bill 421. Call (406) 444-4800 during business hours to leave messages Representatives.  Email addresses (when available) are listed below.  Click here to find the Representative for your district.
  • Click here to send a respectful message to “Vote Against” SB 421 to Representatives using an online form.
  • Fax a message to all Representatives at fax number (406) 444-4825.  Clearly indicate “House of Representatives” on your fax.

    Duane Ankney            
    Elsie Arntzen              
    Liz Bangerter              
    Dick Barrett                 
    William Beck              
    Tony Belcourt              
    Bryce Bennett                      
    Gerald Bennett            
    Tom Berry                   
    Mark Blasdel               
    Joanne Blyton             
    Cydnie Boland             
    Randy Brodehl            
    Tom Burnett                
    Christy Clark               
    Patrick Connell            
    Rob Cook                    
    Virginia Court              
    Mike Cuffe                   
    Robyn Driscoll             
    Champ Edmunds         
    Ron Ehli                      
    John Esp                    
    Lila Evans                   
    Steve Fitzpatrick         
    Kelly Flynn                  
    Timothy Furey             
    Steve Gibson                       
    Edward Greef                       
    Alan Hale                    
    Betsy Hands               
    Kristin Hansen            
    Bill Harris                    
    Gordon Hendrick         
    Ellie Hill                      
    Cynthia Hiner              
    Roy Hollandsworth       
    Galen Hollenbaugh      
    Brian Hoven 
    David Howard              
    Chuck Hunter              
    Pat Ingraham              
    Douglas Kary              
    Dan Kennedy              
    Krayton Kerns             
    Harry Klock                 
    James Knox                
    Austin Knudsen           
    Steve Lavin                  
    Cleve Loney                
    Margaret MacDonald    
    Gary MacLaren           
    Sue Malek                  
    Bill McChesney           
    Edith McClafferty         
    Thomas McGillvray      
    Mary McNally              
    Jonathan McNiven       
    Walter McNutt             
    Robert Mehlhoff           
    Mike Menahan            
    Mike Milburn               
    Mike Miller                  
    Michael More              
    Pat Noonan                 
    Jesse O'Hara              
    Jerry O'Neil                 
    Ryan Osmundson        
    Carolyn Pease-Lopez   
    Kenneth Peterson        
    Mike Phillips                  
    Jean Price                   
    Lee Randall                 
    Joe Read                    
    Keith Regier                
    Scott Reichner            
    Michele Reinhart         
    Donald Roberts                    
    Matthew Rosendale     
    Daniel Salomon           
    Diane Sands               
    Trudi Schmidt              
    Jon Sesso                   
    Dan Skattum               
    Derek Skees               
    Sterling Small             
    Cary Smith                  
    Frank Smith                
    Carolyn Squires           
    Wayne Stahl               
    Kathy Swanson           
    Janna Taylor
    Gordon Vance             
    Bob Wagner
    Wendy Warburton       
    Ted Washburn             
    Jeffrey Welborn                    
    Kathleen Williams       
    Franke Wilmer            
    Max Yates                  

Contact AKC Government Relations at (919) 816-3720 or for additional information.

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