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URGENT - Montana Animal Forfeiture Bill Advances to House

(Friday, April 08, 2011)

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. Click here for a copy of the bill.

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 goodwind.duane@gmail.com
    Elsie Arntzen emarntzen@gmail.com
    Liz Bangerter liz@lizb4house.com
    Dick Barrett rnewbar@gmail.com
    William Beck rep.bbeck@centurytel.net
    Tony Belcourt tbelcourt@hotmail.com
    Bryce Bennett
    Gerald Bennett jbenhd1@hotmail.com
    Tom Berry tom@tomberrymt.com
    Mark Blasdel mblasdel@bresnan.net
    Joanne Blyton dblyton@aol.com
    Cydnie Boland ccboland@bresnan.net
    Randy Brodehl brodehl@centurytel.net
    Tom Burnett tburnetthd63@hotmail.com
    Christy Clark christy_clark@ymail.com
    Patrick Connell connell4hd87@yahoo.com
    Rob Cook robc_hd27@itbusa.com
    Virginia Court vjchd52@yahoo.com
    Mike Cuffe mike@mcuffe.com
    Robyn Driscoll rdriscoll@peoplepc.com
    Champ Edmunds champ.edmunds@yahoo.com
    Ron Ehli montanamutt@montana.com
    John Esp johnesp2001@yahoo.com
    Lila Evans boyd.evans@gmail.com
    Steve Fitzpatrick fitzpatricks@bresnan.net
    Kelly Flynn hideaway@mt.net
    Timothy Furey tjfurey@montana.com
    Steve Gibson
    Edward Greef
    Alan Hale alangail38@wildblue.net
    Betsy Hands betsyhands@gmail.com
    Kristin Hansen krishansen33@gmail.com
    Bill Harris bharris@midrivers.com
    Gordon Hendrick hendrickhd14@yahoo.com
    Ellie Hill elliehillhd94@gmail.com
    Cynthia Hiner matthiner@hotmail.com
    Roy Hollandsworth hgrain@3rivers.net
    Galen Hollenbaugh galen@hollenbaugh.org
    Brian Hoven
    David Howard d.howard@usadig.com
    Chuck Hunter chunter717@bresnan.net
    Pat Ingraham pathd13@blackfoot.net
    Douglas Kary dougkary.hd48@gmail.com
    Dan Kennedy dan@votedankennedy.com
    Krayton Kerns krayton@kraytonkerns.org
    Harry Klock klock@mtintouch.net
    James Knox james@vote4knox.com
    Austin Knudsen austinforhouse@yahoo.com
    Steve Lavin stevelavin4hd8@gmail.com
    Cleve Loney cloney@q.com
    Margaret MacDonald macmargaret@gmail.com
    Gary MacLaren garymaclaren@yahoo.com
    Sue Malek suemalek@gmail.com
    Bill McChesney macwilly66@msn.com
    Edith McClafferty edie.mcclafferty@gmail.com
    Thomas McGillvray tmcgillvray@bresnan.net
    Mary McNally mcnallyhd49@gmail.com
    Jonathan McNiven jonathanmcniven@gmail.com
    Walter McNutt walt@midrivers.com
    Robert Mehlhoff rmehlhoff@yahoo.com
    Mike Menahan mike@mikemenahan.com
    Mike Milburn mmilburn@mcn.net
    Mike Miller mike4hd84@blackfoot.net
    Michael More mp_more@yahoo.com
    Pat Noonan pnoonan73@yahoo.com
    Jesse O'Hara jesse59404@yahoo.com
    Jerry O'Neil oneil@centurytel.net
    Ryan Osmundson ryanosmundson@gmail.com
    Carolyn Pease-Lopez Clopezzz@wildblue.net
    Kenneth Peterson kenneth59@bresnan.net
    Mike Phillips mikephillips@montana.net
    Jean Price jl_price@bresnan.net
    Lee Randall LeeRandall_2003@hotmail.com
    Joe Read jrdemob@yahoo.com
    Keith Regier kregier@centurytel.net
    Scott Reichner sreichner@centurytel.net
    Michele Reinhart michelereinhart@gmail.com
    Donald Roberts
    Matthew Rosendale mattrosendale@midrivers.com
    Daniel Salomon dansalomon12@gmail.com
    Diane Sands hdsands@aol.com
    Trudi Schmidt trudischmidt@q.com
    Jon Sesso jonsesso@yahoo.com
    Dan Skattum skattumd@wispwest.net
    Derek Skees derekskees@gmail.com
    Sterling Small badcatsmall@yahoo.com
    Cary Smith cary@bresnan.net
    Frank Smith clairena@nemontel.net
    Carolyn Squires sqigs@msn.com
    Wayne Stahl wstahl@nemontel.net
    Kathy Swanson kswansonforrep@live.com
    Janna Taylor jannataylor@montana.com
    Gordon Vance vancehd67@gmail.com
    Bob Wagner
    Wendy Warburton wendywarburton@gmail.com
    Ted Washburn ted@tedwashburn.com
    Jeffrey Welborn
    Kathleen Williams kathleenhd65@bresnan.net
    Franke Wilmer franke.wilmer@gmail.com
    Max Yates max.yates.hd74@gmail.com

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