Tomorrow, Thursday, March 9, 2023, the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee is scheduled to vote on Senate Bill 456, a bill that would trample the due process rights of animal owners.
SOUTH CAROLINA ANIMAL OWNERS – PLEASE TAKE ACTION IMMEDIATELY! All animal owners in South Carolina are urged to immediately contact committee members and respectfully ask them VOTE NO on S 456. See contact information, below. You can send email and voice messages this evening and tomorrow morning prior to the committee meeting at 10:00am. Scroll down to view specific concerns with the bill and talking points you can use.
This bad legislation continues to advance. Therefore, it is imperative that the voices of concerned animal owners are heard in opposition to Senate Bill 456. Please note, three committee members are sponsors of S 456 and certain other committee members previously voted in favor of the bill. Make sure ALL committee members know you oppose this bill!
Committee Contact Information:
Senator Wes Climer, email@example.com, (803)212-6230
Senator Mike Fanning, firstname.lastname@example.org, (803)212-6108
Senator Stephen Goldfinch, email@example.com, (803)212-6172
Senator Richard Harpootlian, firstname.lastname@example.org, (803)212-6148
Senator Michael Johnson, email@example.com, (803)212-6024
Senator Dwight Loftis , firstname.lastname@example.org, (803)212-6100
Senator A. Shane Massey, email@example.com, (803)212-6330
Senator J. Thomas McElveen, firstname.lastname@example.org, (803)212-6132
Senator Mike Reichenbach, email@example.com, (803)212-6016
Senator Ronnie Sabb, firstname.lastname@example.org, (803)212-6032
Senator Vernon Stephens, email@example.com, (803)212-6024
Senator Scott Talley, firstname.lastname@example.org, (803)212-6048
Senator Daniel Verdin, email@example.com, (803)212-6250
Senator Kent Williams, firstname.lastname@example.org, (803)212-6000
Senator Josh Kimbrell , email@example.com, (803)212-6108 (bill sponsor)
Senator Billy Garrett, firstname.lastname@example.org, (803)212-6032 (bill sponsor)
Senator Penry Gustafson, email@example.com, (803)212-6040 (bill sponsor)
Concerns with Senate Bill 456 and Talking Points:
Senate Bill 456 addresses disposition of animals confiscated due to alleged cruelty or neglect. As the bill is constructed, a court would be required to order an animal owner to pay the costs of seizure and costs of care for their confiscated animals throughout the trial process. If unable to pay, the owner would permanently forfeit ownership of their animals, even if the owner is not the person charged with a crime, and even if no person is ever found guilty. And if found not guilty, only the unexpended payments would be returned. The innocent owner would bear all costs of impoundment from date of seizure through the verdict.
Under current South Carolina law, an owner convicted of cruelty can be required to pay costs of care for impounded animals. This is reasonable. Senate Bill 456, however, would delete and replace this current law with troubling provisions.
Under Senate Bill 456, an owner could permanently lose their animals absent any finding of guilt. The bill provides for the permanent forfeiture of seized animals by operation of law if the owner is unable to pay assessed costs of care throughout proceedings. Forfeiture for lack of payment would also occur in cases where the person accused of a cruelty offense is ultimately found not guilty or charges are dropped.
Senate Bill 456 tramples the due process rights of animal owners. It would require a court to order an animal owner to pay costs of care for confiscated animals based on a determination explicitly limited to whether seizure of the animals was authorized. As long as that minimal requirement is met, a court would be mandated to require payment by the animal owner of amounts sufficient to cover costs of the seizure and care for the confiscated animal from seizure date and continuing through all processes that follow.
Under Senate Bill 456, the owner of confiscated animals has to pay, even if the owner is not accused of an offense. For example, if animals were confiscated because of an accusation against an animal caretaker, such as a stable worker, trainer, boarding kennel operator, etc., it would be the owner who must pay costs of care. S 456 also fails to adequately protect the rights of innocent co-owners of confiscated animals who were not in possession of the animals at the time of confiscation.
Senate Bill 456 does not allow a court to consider an animal owner’s ability to pay for costs of care. An inability to pay would result in permanent forfeiture of the animals, which would raise procedural due process concerns.
Senate Bill 456 provides no caps on the costs that an animal owner would be required to pay while animals remain confiscated. Further, an innocent animal owner would effectively pay twice for the costs of housing confiscated animals throughout the time of impoundment. This is because an owner would also continue maintaining and keeping available owner-provided housing for their animals while the case is pending.
Senate Bill 456 does not prohibit elective, non-therapeutic procedures or surgeries (such as spay/neuter) from being performed on seized animals. No permanent alteration of confiscated animals should be performed without the owner’s written consent.
Senate Bill 456 does not consider the unintended consequences of S 456, including that the bill potentially incentivizes animal sheltering organizations to promote confiscations of animals. Such confiscations could be authorized by a magistrate in response to a third-party complaint. The sheltering organization then could—and likely would—receive the confiscated animals, and a court would be mandated to require costs of care be paid to the sheltering organization by the animal owner, absent any criminal charges, determination of probable cause, or finding of guilt against the animal owner or any other person. Consequently, even if no person is found guilty, the sheltering organization would receive uncapped costs of care, and if the owner cannot keep up payments, be awarded possession of the animals to be sold/adopted for additional fees.
For additional information, please contact AKC Government Relations at 919-816-3720 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.