Sen. Ted W. Lieu announces plan to halt animal cruelty, deaths due to crowded shelters

March 02, 2012
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Animal-protection measure seeks to minimize cruelty and deaths
     SACRAMENTO – Neglected or injured animals would no longer be returned to abusive owners under an animal-protection measure introduced by Sen. Ted W. Lieu of Torrance.
     “This is a comprehensive approach to address the issues of crowding in shelters, ensure the protection of prosecutor’s evidence and protect animals from being returned to their abusive owners,” Lieu said about Senate Bill 1500. “Too often agencies and shelters hold onto animals when they could be adopted because of court procedures. Besides the cost of holding these animals, it is unfair to the seized cat or dog to be stuck in a cage, in many cases forcing other animals to be euthanized due to lack of space.”
     According to Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley, SB 1500 fixes a loophole in state law that forces many animal-control agencies to return animals to abusive owners despite evidence the animals were mistreated. Specifically, the law states mistreated animals must be returned to the owner if the animal is physically fit or the owner can and will provide the necessary care for the animal. Because these hearings typically occur weeks after an animal has been seized, the animal is almost always “fit” due to the care provided by the animal-control agency. This means the agencies are then forced to return animals to the same harmful environment where they had been abused.
     Should SB 1500 become law, however, an animal-control agency would have to find that the animal is healthy and that the owner can and will provide the necessary care for the animal before returning a seized animal to its registered owner.
     In certain cases, even if an owner is acquitted of the charges brought against them, they still may not be legally entitled to have the animal returned to them, such as when the owner is hoarding an excessive number of animals or they possess an animal prohibited by law.  Most agencies do not have the capacity to hold these animals for the duration of criminal proceedings and still provide shelter for other animals brought to them as part of their normal operation.  Because of this many otherwise healthy and adoptable animals have to be euthanized to make room for animals being held as part of a criminal proceeding.
     As written, SB 1500 would authorize an animal-control agency or prosecutor to request the court order an animal be turned over to an animal-control agency prior to the final disposition of the criminal case, where regardless of the outcome of the criminal case an owner will not be permitted to regain custody of the animals.  Turning over the animals early in the proceeding will result in more animals being adopted and reduce the need to euthanize healthy, adoptable animals, Lieu said
     “Every week across the state animal-control agencies return cats and dogs to their abusive owners while other perfectly adoptable pets are killed,” Lieu said. “This bill would close a loophole in state law so we can to keep animals safe.”
     SB 1500 is waiting to be assigned to a policy committee for review, which should occur within the next month. 
 
For more, including a Fact Sheet on SB 1500, please visit Lieu’s Web site at the address below.

Ted W. Lieu chairs the Senate Labor Committee and represents nearly 1 million residents of Senate District 28, which includes the cities of Carson, El Segundo, Hermosa Beach, Lomita, Manhattan Beach, Redondo Beach and Torrance, as well as portions of Long Beach, Los Angeles and San Pedro. For more, visit www.senate.ca.gov/lieu

PHOTO CAPTION: Sen. Ted W. Lieu with children and their pets during a Capitol Park event. (Photo by Ray Sotero).