Nebraska Advances Bill Imposing Forfeiture of Animals Without Court Judgment – Contact the Senate
April 14, 2015
The Nebraska Legislature is set to consider several measures that will impact dog owners and breeders, including an amendment that could force a dog owner to forfeit their animals for only a suspicion of animal cruelty – even before a conviction by the court.
The measures have already passed committee, and Nebraska only has one legislative body, so this bill could be scheduled for consideration and pass the legislature very quickly. AKC encourages dog owners and breeders in Nebraska to contact their State Senator TODAY and express your concerns with Amendment 1149 to Legislative Bill 360, and any comments you have on the other measures. Click here to find the name and contact information for your state senator. A full senate roster may be found here.
Proposed amendments to Legislative Bill 360 make several changes to the state’s Commercial Dog Breeder and Operator Inspection Act, which currently applies in part to all who own or harbor at least 4 dogs “intended for breeding” within a 12 month period.
Amendment 1149 – This amendment (which was originally LB 377) states that if the court finds that there is probable cause (not a conviction) of a violation that poses a threat to the health or safety of the animals, then the court may order the immediate forfeiture of the animals and authorize “appropriate disposition” – including sale at a public auction, adoption of the animal, “donating” the animal to a shelter, or euthanasia. This includes any suspicion of “cruel neglect”, which is defined in current law as failing to provide food, water, or other care necessary for the animal’s health. The AKC would never condone someone intentionally mistreating an animal; however, it is possible for a misunderstanding or misperception of a dog’s true health or care to occur, and under this amendment, that dog could be seized and adopted, sold, or euthanized prior to a court hearing.
The court may also, on probable cause, order the owner to post a bond, security or other payment to cover “an amount … sufficient to reimburse all reasonable expenses” for the care of the dog or cat that is incurred while the animal is impounded. If the monies have been exhausted and another payment has not been made, or if a payment is late, then ownership of the pet would be forfeited. These payments must also be continued to be made during any appeals process. If the owner is ultimately found not guilty, then any additional funds not used will be returned. The bill does not, however, state if ownership rights will be restored.
While the AKC appreciates provisions such as allowing the court the flexibility to allow a dog to stay with an owner during a trial in certain circumstances, we believe the majority of this amendment violates the owner’s right of due process and could force an owner to permanently surrender their animals without a conviction of cruelty.
Other amendments filed for consideration include:
Amendment 1151 – This amendment rewrites LB 360 as introduced and is considered a “priority bill” for the legislature. Among other changes, this bill clarifies that normal business hours for inspections are between 7am and 7pm to prevent inspectors from coming to a property at an unreasonable hour. Licensees do have the option under this amendment to contact the Department of Agriculture and specify other times that would work better. If an inspection is refused, a reinspection fee must be paid, as well as the mileage for the inspector.
The amendment also would impose a one-time $125 license fee in addition to the annual license fee, which in current law is based on the number of animals owned.
Amendment 1193 – This amendment, which was originally part of LB 359, would change the license fee structure for certain dog breeders, dealers, pet shops, rescues, shelters, and boarding kennels. Currently, the annual license fee is graduated based on the number of dogs owned. This would increase the fee by $25, except that the fee for those owning over 500 dogs would increase by $100. An additional fee of $2 per dog would also be levied on those who keep more than 100 dogs. (A prior version of this measure sought to impose a $10 per dog fee. The AKC appreciates the change to decrease the fee).
The amendment also increases the license fee for all dogs from $1.00 to $1.25.
These summaries include just some of the provisions contained in these amendments. Those impacted are encouraged to read the amendments in their entirety.
AKC Government Relations will continue to closely follow these measures and provide updates. For questions or more information, contact (919) 816-3720 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Nebraska Legislature is set to consider several measures that will impact dog owners and breeders, including an amendment that could force a dog owner to forfeit their animals for only a suspicion of animal cruelty even before a conviction by the court.