Animals are technically classified as property, and as such the protections afforded to animals are reliant on the property owner’s rights. It is critical that law enforcement and animal welfare agencies secure legal ground before doing any searches or seizures in properties where alleged animal neglect or abuse is transpiring.
Adam Leath is back on the Justice Clearinghouse, and this time around his discussion revolves around custody considerations in animal control. Adam is the Director of the Volusia County Animal Services and the newly-elected Director of the Board of Directors for the National Animal Care and Control Association. He’s had a prolific career in animal law responding to critical incidents with animal victims and investigating some of the biggest animal fighting and seizure cases.
Specifics discussed in this session are:
- The legal definition of seizure and the owner’s Fourth Amendment considerations to look into to ensure that actions remain lawful.
- Circumstances pertaining to the animals’ condition which may justify the need to remove an animal from its owner’s custody.
- The concept of legal custody, ways the agency can obtain legal custody of the animals they seized, and the benefits of getting legal custody to both the animal and the agency.
- The legal status of animals and their distinction to other properties such that there is a level of care required to be provided by the owners.
- A breakdown of the responsibilities expected that the agencies provide for the seized animals, the potential costs for providing these, and resources that can help shoulder the costs.
- Conducting a civil forfeiture proceeding to expedite custody determination and defrays the costs of caring for the animals before the criminal case is decided upon.
- Bonding and forfeiture laws as a mechanism to determine custody where the owner is required to either post a bond or relinquish ownership if there’s evidence of cruelty.
- A case study of two emaciated dogs and their owner who refused to provide veterinary care.
- A timeline of what happened from the call for service from a concerned citizen to the court proceedings.
- The findings on the condition of the dogs after conducting a forensic exam.
- The value in conducting a custody hearing prior to the criminal case.
- The outcomes of the misdemeanor cruelty case.
- The Florida Statute which was used for the case which…
- Defined what is a neglected animal and an authorized agent.
- Broken down the due process.
- Provided the potential outcomes to the animal if the court declares the owner is unfit.
- Stipulated the costs involved which the owner must pay for.
- Itemized the types of evidence that are admissible for the case.
Points raised during the Q&A were about:
- Working with the prosecutor on animal law cases.
- The outcomes of the dogs in the case.
- Establishing the cost incurred for caring for the seized animals.
- Standards in evidence collection and documentation.
- Handling cases where there are multiple animals and some aren’t as critical as others.
- Potential liabilities for agencies in terms of housing animals.
- Why it isn’t recommended for animal cruelty offenders to do animal-related community service.
- Available education and responsible pet ownership programs.
- Statistics on ACOs and agencies reprimanded for unlawful seizures.
Other Webinars in this Series with Adam include:
- Engagement of Public-Private Partnerships in Animal Cruelty Investigations
- Is Mission Creep Killing Your Agency?
- Custody Considerations in Animal Control (this webinar)
- Dec 8: What Your Boss Wished You Knew: Professionalism in an Increasingly Unprofessional World
Resources and Handouts
- Chattel or Child: The Liminal Status of Companion Animals in Society and Law
- National Agricultural Law Center States’ Animal Cruelty Statutes
- Michigan State University Animal Legal & Historical Center State Animal Cruelty Laws
- Animal Legal Defense Fund US State Animal Protection Law Rankings
- Infographic: ASPCA How Does It Work? (Cost of Care Legislation)
- Link to Recorded Webinar Referenced during the Webinar: Reducing Recidivism: Creating Responsible Pet Owner Programs
- “The webinar was great and I understand the necessity for generalities. The case study was helpful.” — Wendy
- “Reinforced what we are already doing and how we do what we do. Adam, great to see that members of NACA voted you to the board of directors. Hope to see you at a future IVFSA conference.” — Robert
- “This was a great and timely topic. Well-spoken and concise, Adam provided how to create the timeline and what forms are necessary!! — Paul
- “Overall this webinar was excellent. I learned a lot of helpful information. This is the first webinar I have heard regarding animals and I will watch additional webinars if they are offered.” — Lillie
- “The justice system in South Africa is overloaded and we struggle to get animal cruelty cases heard. The importance of continued education of all role players in animal welfare can not be overstated Thank you for the opportunity to attend these webinars – I have learned SO MUCH since I started attending.” — Michelle
- “Fantastic webinar! The case presented, clarified the legal process and cautions an ACO needs to take when considering to confiscate an animal.” — Desiree