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Montana Animal Forfeiture Bill in Committee TODAY

(Friday, April 01, 2011)

Please share this alert with concerned dog 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 passed the Senate and is assigned to the House Judiciary Committee. SB 421 could be heard by the committee as early as 8:00 a.m. on Friday, April 1. Click here for a copy of the bill.

SB 421 would allow a court to order forfeiture of animals seized under an alleged violation of animal cruelty laws unless the defendant posts a bond or security sufficient to pay the costs of care for the animals for 30 days. Payment would be required within 72 hours following an animal welfare 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.

The American Kennel Club (AKC) abhors the mistreatment of dogs and supports full enforcement of reasonable animal cruelty laws. However, we have strong concerns with SB 421, which include:

  • If the owner does not make payment and his animals are forfeit, he loses the opportunity to defend his property rights at trial.
  • There is no provision for the reimbursement of costs to animal owners who are found not guilty or against whom charges are dismissed.
  • By the date of the animal welfare hearing, the defendant’s seized animals may have been out of his care for a protracted period of time. 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.
  • There is no provision for defendants with low incomes who cannot pay the 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.

How You Can Help

  • Immediately contact members of the Montana House Judiciary Committee to politely express your concerns and ask them to not advance Senate Bill 421. Call (406) 444-4800 during business hours to leave a message for all committee members.
  • Click here to send a message to all members of the House Judiciary Committee using an online form. You may also send polite messages to the email addresses below.

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