Tomorrow, September 28, a Michigan committee is considering two bills that address the issue of animals being seized, and the payment of their care during impoundment. As written, they could cause someone to permanently lose their animals even if they are ultimately found not guilty.
AKC strongly believes that those who treat animals in a cruel manner should be held accountable. However, we continue to be concerned that both current law and the new provisions being proposed ignore the basic premise that individuals should be considered innocent until proven guilty, and could remove the owner’s property rights even if charges are later dropped or the individuals are found not guilty. AKC does appreciate that there are some provisions in House Bills 4703 and 4704 that do protect the rights of dog owners during a trial.
Those who reside or participate in dog events in Michigan are strongly encouraged to contact the Senate Judiciary Committee TODAY. Thank them for clarifying certain provisions to protect some dog owner rights. Express your concerns with current law and House Bills 4703 and 4704, and ask that they be amended to fully protect the rights of those not yet proven guilty. Scroll Down for contact information.
Background – Current Law:
Current Michigan law allows an animal to be impounded by an animal protection shelter, its designee, or a licensed veterinarian when the owner is charged with a violation of the state’s cruelty laws. The law also allows a prosecuting attorney to request a court order that the animal be permanently forfeited to the impounding agency before the case is complete and there is a final disposition. This is also dependent on whether the person with an interest in the animal had prior knowledge or gave consent to the violation.
If a forfeiture order is requested, a hearing must be conducted and the prosecution has the burden of proof to convince the court a violation of the cruelty laws has occurred. If they meet the burden of proof, then the animal must be forfeited unless the defendant pays within 72 hours that an amount that covers the anticipated costs of care, and may be required to continue paying until the final disposition of charges.
Summary of Proposed Bills:
House Bills 4703 and 4704 amend current law and clarify that the owner or possessor may request a hearing within 14 days to determine if the requirement to pay is justified and the cost is fair and reasonable. AKC greatly appreciates that the owner has an opportunity for a hearing before payments are required.
If, however, the court determines that the costs are reasonable, then the animal will be permanently relinquished to the impounding agency unless the owner pays the required amount. The defendant’s ability to pay may not be considered by the court. The payments must be made every 30 days until the criminal action is resolved. Any missed payments will result in the defendant permanently losing the rights to the animal.
AKC appreciates that the bills clarify that if the owner is found not guilty, the animal must be returned to the owner. However, this appears to be incumbent on whether or not the owner has kept up on payments during the trial. Also, the animal control agency has the right to euthanize the animal at any time during the trial if determined necessary by a licensed veterinarian.
What You Can Do:
House Bills 4703 and 4704 will be considered tomorrow at 9am in the House Judiciary Committee. Michigan dog owners are encouraged to contact the committee prior to the hearing. Let them know you appreciate the bills clarifying that the animals must be returned if the owner is found not guilty, but express your concerns with current law and the bills not fully protecting the rights of animal owners during a trial.
If you are a constituent of a committee member, use the form provided. Otherwise, the contact information is as follows:
Rep. Graham Filler, Chair
Phone: (517) 373-1778
Rep. Mike Mueller, Majority Vice Chair
Phone: (517) 373-1780
Rep. David LaGrand, Minority Vice Chair
Phone: : (517) 373-2668, Toll-Free: (888) 750-3326
Rep. Steven Johnson
Phone: (517) 373-0840
Rep. Bronna Kahle
Phone: (517) 373-1706
Rep. Daire Rendon
Phone: (517) 373-3817
Rep. Ryan Berman
Phone: (517) 373-1799
Rep. Douglas Wozniak
Phone: (517) 373-0843
Rep. TC Clements
Phone: (517) 373-2617
Rep. Tenisha Yancey
Phone: (517) 373-0154, Toll-Free (888) 254-5291
Rep. Kyra Bolden
Phone: (517) 373-1788, Toll-Free (844) DIST-035
Rep. Kara Hope
Phone: (517) 373-0587
Rep. Kelly Breen
Phone: (517) 373-0827
AKC Government Relations continues to monitor these bills and will provide more information as it is available. For questions, contact AKC GR at firstname.lastname@example.org.