Require Animal Abusers to Compensate Shelters for Care and Rehabilitation

Target: John Boehner, Speaker of the United States House of Representatives

Goal: Implement a national civil seizure law that requires owners to pay for the care of their animals when they are seized for abuse or neglect

Three states have now passed laws that fall within the category of civil seizure or bond requirements for animal shelters. This allows shelters to receive payment for the care of an animal once it is seized for abuse or neglect. Such laws will save countless lives and ease the financial burden for animal shelters. Similar legislation needs to be expanded to the national level.

Civil seizure laws are fairly simple. If a law enforcement agency, such as the police or animal control, investigates a complaint about the condition of an animal, they have the right to seize the animal for observation. This often means having a veterinarian examine the pet for symptoms that can be directly attributed to improper care. In more serious cases, which they often are, the animal will be kept at the shelter, rehabilitated, and then offered for adoption. Under civil seizure laws, the agency has the right to request that the owner of the animal cover the cost of these expenses until the case is brought to trial. This can often be hundreds to thousands of dollars depending on the severity of the abuse.

The main reason more laws like this haven’t been passed is because they are still considered unconstitutional. This is because, even though the accused can defend themselves in court, they are still required to pay for the care of the animal while they are awaiting trial. What this side of the argument seems to ignore is that if the animal is in need of such care, it is the responsibility of the owner to see that it gets it regardless. Also, perpetrators of crimes with human victims have to pay bail and legal fees until the end of the trial.

Many shelters and animal rights groups across the country believe these laws are necessary to create balance. Traditionally, animal cruelty has only been treated as a civil matter, but with advancements in animal rights most of these acts are considered criminal. As this change in status occurred, so should have the responsibility, but it didn’t. Police and state investigators should have been trained to oversee these cases, rather than placing the burden on animal shelters that can’t afford it. So the charges applied to animal cruelty have changed, but how the cases are handled hasn’t.

Civil seizure laws act as the middleman. Animal shelters are still forced to handle the investigations unless the severity of the case requires state or national investigation, but they don’t have to foot the bill. Not only will this keep non-profit shelters from going bankrupt, it will also make room for more animals in shelters, reduce euthanization, and reduce taxes because organizations like the Humane Society will have more revenue.

Please sign the petition below to support civil seizure laws so that animal shelters no longer have to pay for the cruelty of others.


Dear Speaker Boehner,

Last year Maryland and Virginia both adopted civil seizure laws, and this year Pennsylvania will follow. These laws require anyone accused or convicted of animal abuse to pay reparations to the shelter the pet is taken to. The money will cover the cost of their care and treatment until the completion of the trial. For many, this is still considered unconstitutional, but why is it that these shelters that do not have the financial backing to handle these cases are forced to pay when it should be the responsibility of the owner? If I were accused of a crime, I would still be required to post bail and pay court fees.

These laws need to be put in place on a national level. Not only will they free non-profit shelters from undue financial strain, they will also reduce the numbers of animals being euthanized, make more room in shelters, and lower taxes. If animal shelters are going to be required to investigate and manage criminal cases, then the criminals should be required to pay for the damages. Please consider passing this legislation.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Le Howl Studio via Flickr

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