When The Evidence Needs A Home: Best Practices for Pre-Conviction Forfeiture Statute Use

When The Evidence Needs A Home: Best Practices for Pre-Conviction Forfeiture Statute Use
Duration: 60 Minutes
Module 1Module 1
Recorded on: 2021-04-01
Unit 1Slide Deck: When The Evidence Needs A Home
Unit 2Transcript: When The Evidence Needs A Home
Unit 3Workbook: When The Evidence Needs A Home
Unit 4Recording: When The Evidence Needs A Home

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:



Resources and Handouts


Audience Comments

  • “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



View our Animal Welfare Webinar  Schedule and Recordings



This webinar has been certified by the National Animal Care & Control Association and is approved for 1 Continuing Education Unit. Please refer to your NACA membership portal for current CEU submission process. Current NACA Members who attend the live presentation or watch the recording will be able to download a jointly issued attendance certificate that includes the National Animal Care & Control Association logo. Visit the NACA training page for a complete list of future trainings.




This webinar has been pre-approved by the Maine Animal Welfare Program for 1 Continuing Education Unit for the State of Maine’s ACO annual training. You can find more information about Certification, required annual training or submitting materials for credit at Maine’s Animal Control Officer Resource Page.





Additional Resources
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After the Webinar: When the Evidence Needs a Home. Q&A with David Rosengard
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