A proposed amendment to Tennessee House Bill 852 seeks to significantly change the nature and scope of the bill as it was originally filed. HB 852, and amendments thereto, are on the agenda of the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee tomorrow, May 27. Due to COVID-19 disruptions, it is unclear if this bill actually will be considered by the subcommittee.
However, there are numerous provisions of concern in amendments to HB 852. Therefore, concerned animal owners are urged to contact subcommittee members and ask them to VOTE NO on HB 852 and any proposed amendments to the bill.
Among many other problematic provisions, an amendment to HB 852 seeks to :
- Authorize non-governmental organizations and not-for-profit “societies” to confiscate animals when a person is taken into custody on an accusation of certain offenses involving animals. This is extremely problematic because under current Tennessee law, the president of any society incorporated for the prevention of cruelty to animals may appoint himself/herself or any other person to make arrests for offenses involving non-livestock animals within that county. The amendment to HB 852 would expand powers of agents of “societies” so they could make arrests and seize animals. Such powers are ordinarily granted to P.O.S.T.-certified law enforcement officers.
- Require the seizure of animals when a person is taken into custody on an accusation of a violation of certain offenses involving animals. The amendment would also require that the arresting agent SHALL seize any other animal that is believed to be at risk of being the subject of an offense. Seizure of animals would be required, regardless of the nature of the offense or if other persons are available to provide care to the animals.
- Require that seized animals must be placed into the custody of a specified list of entities, including “societies.” Veterinarians, owners not accused of an offense, co-owners, and other responsible parties are excluded from the list.
- Require that any second or subsequent conviction for simple animal cruelty is a felony. These are sometimes referred to as “two spilled water containers = a felony” proposals. Current state animal cruelty law makes it an offense to fail unreasonably to provide necessary food, water, care or shelter for an animal in a person’s custody, subject to penalties of up to 11 months, 29 days in prison and up to a $2,500 fine. The amendment would require that any second conviction in a person’s lifetime rises to a felony. There are already felony-level offenses under several sections of existing state animal law. For example, current law provides for enhanced penalties for aggravated animal cruelty, and makes it a felony-level offense to fail to provide food and water to a companion animal resulting in a substantial risk of death or death.
- Expand unjust cost of care provisions for confiscated animals. Neither current law nor the proposed amendment provides for return of cost of care funds if the accused is found not guilty or charges are dropped.
- Further enable the awarding of seized animals, property, fines, and fees to non-governmental organizations and not-for profit “societies.” Certain non-governmental “societies” would be authorized to make arrests; confiscate animals; and potentially be awarded the seized animals, fines, and fees; while receiving significant protections from liability. This could potentially encourage “seize now, sort it out later” actions by “societies” that lack governmental administrative oversight.
What you can do:
Concerned animal owners should contact subcommittee members and respectfully ask them to VOTE NO on HB 852 and any amendments thereto.
Rep. Andrew Farmer, Chair
Rep. Karen D. Camper
Rep. Michael G. Curcio
Rep. Clay Doggett
Rep. G.A. Hardaway
Rep. William Lamberth
Rep. Brandon Ogles
Rep. Antonio Parkinson
For questions or additional information, please contact AKC Government Relations at 919-816-3720 or firstname.lastname@example.org.