Animals have overlapping statuses in law. They are property, evidence, and victims of crime. Like any property, they cannot just be unlawfully seized or assigned to a different owner. And just like any victims, the injuries and pain they were subjected to must be rehabilitated. But unlike most evidence, they cannot be stored and preserved in evidence lockers for a prolonged time.
Animal Legal Defense Fund’s Criminal Justice Program’s David Rosengard joins Justice Clearinghouse to present the intricacies brought about by these elements in animal cruelty cases. David is ALDF’s Criminal Justice Program Senior Staff Attorney where he works with stakeholders across the criminal justice system in animal cruelty topics advancing animals’ position within the law.
This session’s discussion covered:
- The overlapping status of animals and its implications
- Their diminishing evidentiary value.
- The need to provide animals with appropriate care, shelter, and medical attention, and the costs involved.
- The fact that despite the animal being seized due to cruelty, they remain to be the property of the owner-defendant.
- A look into the criminal process, and where the issue lives across the timeline as it relates to caring for the seized animals and the financial toll it places upon the entity providing the caring.
- Options utilized to resolve the question of who maintains property interest in the animal, who bears the cost of caring for them, and how to provide the animals with the best living conditions
- What pre-conviction forfeiture is: The states where this is available, its civil nature, the legal process involved, and the potential results.
- Samples of pre-conviction forfeiture statutes in different states and the various directions these have taken in defining the basis and outcomes of the process, and the role of the owner-defendant.
- Bond or forfeiture statutes as legal mechanisms to ensure that the owner-defendant covers the cost of care of seized animals or relinquishes ownership of the animals.
- The typical concerns raised relating to pre-conviction forfeiture and how the primary purpose and the civil and non-punitive nature of the process debunk these.
- The importance of conducting pre-conviction forfeiture hearings in a timely fashion.
- Other challenges in a pre-conviction forfeiture due to knowledge gaps within the courts, specifics in the number of animals, and actually recouping the costs of caring for the animals.
- The possible post-conviction options in terms of property interest in the animals which may be incorporated in the plea deal, sentencing, or probation conditions.
- Considerations that should be central to build better pre-conviction forfeiture statutes that stress the sentience of animals, the civil nature of the process, and how this can mitigate costs shouldered by the government.
Questions from the webinar attendees were about:
- Why bond or forfeiture statutes are seen as the gold standard.
- The property status of animals that makes it challenging to immediately get custody of the animals.
- Why the option of having the animal go to a different home isn’t always considered.
- Scope and limits of creating a local ordinance equivalent of forfeiture statutes.
- Handling cases where the defendant doesn’t have the ability to pay.
- Why donations to the entity caring for the seized animals shouldn’t impact the bond.
Webinars in this Series with the ALDF include:
- The Status of Animals in Criminal Animal Cruelty Cases
- Understanding Wildlife Animal Cruelty
- Preserving the Bond: the Veterinarian’s Role in Pre-Empting Animal Cruelty
- When the Evidence Needs a Home: Pre-Conviction Forfeiture (this webinar)
- June 15: Courtroom Animal Advocate Programs: At the Crossroads of Crime Victim Law and Animal Law
- July 15: Prosecuting Farmed Animal Cruelty
Resources and Handouts
- “Really informative and interesting! Thanks!” — Jen
- “Great presentation.” — Tangela
- “The speaker was giving advice on how to streamline things based on past findings as a whole.” — Tyler
- “How the use of a Cost of Care petition in PA compares to some other places and this brought up some things to consider when trying to use Cost of Care as effectively as possible. Thank you!” — Valerie
- “The presenter was very knowledgeable.” — DETECTIVE