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A bill is advancing in the Montana Senate that would impact those who are charged with cruelty violations and whose animals are seized. 

AKC urges those who reside or participate in dog events in Montana to call their State Senator and express concerns with Senate Bill 203.  Visit the AKC Legislative Action Center and type your address in the “Find Your Elected Officials” box to get the name and contact information for your State Senator. 


When an animal owner is suspected of cruelty and animals are seized under current law, the court may at its discretion consider a number of factors, including the extent of the animal’s injuries (if applicable), requiring the owner to pay for the care of the animals (and the owner’s ability to pay), and the availability of funding to provide for the animal’s treatment and care. 

Under Senate Bill 203, the court is required to consider the extent of the animal’s suffering and determine whether the animal should be released to the accused or held and cared for by the county. If the animal is held by the county and the court finds there is sufficient evidence, then the defendant must pay for the cost of the care of the animals every 30 days until the trial is over.  If at any point a payment is missed, then all ownership rights are permanently severed.  Even if the animal is returned to the owner during the trial, the court may require the owner to pay for the cost of the care of the animal while it was under the county’s care.

This bill does state that if the person is ultimately found not guilty, the money is refunded and the animal is returned, but this does not help if someone misses just one payment.  The AKC believes this bill would infringe on the rights of responsible dog owners, and in particular is concerned that someone may permanently lose their animals even if they are ultimately found not guilty. 

The bill also provides that when an animal is placed under county supervision pending resolution of a civil proceeding, the court shall order imposition of a bond or security to reimburse the county for reasonable expenses incurred in caring for the animal from the time that it was placed under supervision until the time it is removed from supervision. This section does not provide for reimbursement. 

Read AKC’s article “Guilty Until Proven Innocent?” for talking points and more information on this issue.

AKC Government Relations will continue to closely monitor this legislation.  For more information, contact AKC Government Relations at