A bill is quickly advancing through the Illinois House of Representatives that would increase the instances in which an animal is seized on suspicion of cruelty. This may result in more Illinois dog owners losing their animals even if they are ultimately found not guilty or charges are dropped.
House Bill 2810 has already passed the House and Senate and is expected to be scheduled for a final vote in the House at any time. Those concerned about this legislation are encouraged to contact their State Representative TODAY. Visit the AKC Legislative Action Center and type your address in the “Find Your Elected Officials” box to find the name and contact information for your State Representative.
Under current law, anyone charged with a violation of the state’s cruelty laws may have their animals seized by law enforcement, and the state’s attorney may recommend the permanent seizure of those animals. In addition, if an owner has had animals seized on suspicion of dog fighting, they are forced to pay for the cost of care for these animals during the trial. If the owner is ultimately found not guilty, the payments are refunded. If a payment is missed, however, then all ownership rights are forfeited and the animal shelter may adopt out or euthanize the animals.
House Bill 2810 would expand this law to allow for the court to order those charged (but not yet convicted) of cruelty to animals to pay for the care of seized animals during an ongoing trial. Those who have an animal seized from a motor vehicle, if it is perceived that the animal’s health may be at risk, would also be included in this section and required to pay for the care of animals during the trial. Further, if the animals are forfeited, no one residing in the person’s household may own those animals.
The AKC appreciates that if charges are dropped or the owner is found not guilty that the owner will get the money back that they paid for the animal’s care. However, there is a significant concern that some individuals may lack the resources to board one or multiple pets for months on end during a trial, particularly while also mounting a legal defense. Such owners could be forced to give up their animals before a verdict is reached, even if the court finds them not guilty.
Read AKC’s article “Guilty Until Proven Innocent?” for talking points and more information on this issue.
Those who reside or participate in dog events in Illinois are strongly encouraged to contact the Illinois House of Representatives TODAY regarding House Bill 2810. For questions or more information, contact AKC Government Relations at firstname.lastname@example.org or the Illinois Federation of Dog Clubs and Owners at email@example.com.