A Washington state House committee has scheduled a hearing for January 25 to consider House Bill 1234. This proposed bill addresses the issue of animals being seized on cruelty charges, and the payment of their care during impoundment.
As currently written, the proposal’s language is ambiguous around reasons for seizing an owner’s animals, and the bill could cause a person to permanently forfeit their animals even if they are ultimately found not guilty of charges. AKC encourages Washington residents to contact the committee and express concerns with House Bill 1234.
House Bill 1234 would allow for animals to be seized for failure to provide “minimum care”, including providing care “sufficient to preserve the physical and mental health and well-being”. Examples include but are not limited to maintenance of healthy body weight and continuous access to an area with adequate space for exercise. It is unclear how this would apply to caring for senior animals, those who do not have a large yard but do take their dogs elsewhere for regular exercise, or other actions and care that are in the best interest of the animals but may not be fully understood or interpreted correctly.
When the animal is seized, the owner must pay for its care during an ongoing trial. If they miss one payment, then the animals are permanently forfeited, even if the owner is found not guilty.
Further, AKC has concerns over equity as the proposed measure does not consider a person’s ability to pay during their animal’s impoundment; this is especially concerning when coupled with seized animals being forfeited in the event the owner misses a payment. Lastly, the proposed bill does not allow for the seized animal to be placed with a court-approved third party; an option that would reduce costs to all relevant parties and ease overcrowding concerns for animal shelters.
AKC appreciates Washington’s current laws protecting animals from cruelty and strongly agrees that animals should always be treated in a humane manner, but we have significant concerns over the proposed ambiguous measures and consequences to responsible dog owners contained in House Bill 1234. For more talking points, view AKC’s Responsible Policy video Protecting Due Process Rights for Dog Owners.
What You Can Do:
Those who reside or participate in dog events in Washington are strongly encouraged to contact the House Civil Rights & Judiciary Committee. Scroll Down for contact information. Express your concerns with House Bill 1234, and respectfully ask that the bill be amended to:
- Address the ambiguity in the bill concerning why an animal can be seized.
- Fully protect the rights of those not proven guilty of animal-related charges.
- Consider a person’s ability to pay for bonded care.
- Allow for a verified third party (such as a co-owner) to house seized animals until case is resolved.
Those who wish to contact members of the committee can do so by clicking HERE. If you are a constituent, be sure to mention that when contacting them (Click HERE to find out who your representative is).
AKC Government Relations continues to monitor bills in Washington impacting dog owners and will provide updates. For questions or more information, contact AKC GR at firstname.lastname@example.org.