Let’s take a look inside AB 1117

May 18, 2011 at 8:07 am Leave a comment

BILL ANALYSIS Ó AB 1117 ~ Date of Hearing: May 18, 2011

ASSEMBLY COMMITTEE ON APPROPRIATIONS Felipe Fuentes, Chair AB 1117 (Smyth) – As Amended: May 11, 2011 Policy Committee: Public Safety Vote: 7-0 Urgency: No State Mandated Local Program: Yes Reimbursable: Yes

SUMMARY: This bill requires the court (current law authorizes) to impose a condition of probation prohibiting animal ownership for a person convicted of animal cruelty and granted probation, and requires the court, regardless of sentence, to order the convicted person to immediately deliver all animals in his or her possession to a public entity.

Specifically, this bill:

1)Prohibits a person conviction of misdemeanor animal cruelty from owning an animal for five years, and a person convicted of felony animal cruelty from owning an animal for 10 years.

2)Makes it a misdemeanor for any person convicted of animal abuse to thereafter own, possess, maintain, have custody of, live with, or care for any animal within the specified period of the animal-ownership injunction.

 3)Prohibits the court, following an acquittal or dismissal of the case, from releasing seized animals to the defendant unless the defendant establishes

(a) proof of ownership,

 (b) proof that all charges have been fully paid,

(c) proof that all animals are physically fit,

(d) proof that the owner can and will provide the necessary care, and

(e) proof that all the animals in question can legally be retained.

4)Creates an exception for the animal ownership prohibition for livestock owners who can show the restriction would result in undue economic hardship and that the defendant can care for all livestock in his or her possession.

 5)Allows a defendant to petition the court to reduce the period AB 1117 Page 2 of the ownership prohibition if the defendant can establish that he or she:

(a) does not present a danger to animals,

(b) has the ability to properly care for animals, and

(c) has completed all court-ordered classes or counseling.

6)Makes changes to animal seizure procedures, designed to clarify and enhance reimbursement for the costs of housing seized animals.

FISCAL EFFECT : 1) Unknown potentially state-reimbursable mandated costs, likely in excess of $150,000, to county probation departments to enforce mandatory conditions of probation, including home visits. For a point of reference, 35 persons were committed to state prison over the past two years for felony animal cruelty, which means there were likely considerably more felony offenders who did not receive state prison time, as well as hundreds of misdemeanor cases. If a similar number of felons were added to formal probation caseloads as a result of the animal conditions, the costs for these offenders alone would be about $140,000. If these conditions resulted in a similar number of misdemeanants being added to formal probation, those costs would be in the range of $60,000.

 2)Unknown, likely minor, nonreimbursable costs for local law enforcement and incarceration, offset to a degree by increased fine revenue.

COMMENTS 1)Rationale. The author and sponsor, the Humane Society, contend animal abuse is sufficiently problematic to warrant curtailing judicial discretion in this area and making animal forfeiture mandatory. According to The Humane Society of the United States, “Animals must be protected from those who have failed to provide them with the basic care required by law. People convicted of harming animals must be considered capable of violence towards other animals.” AB 1117 

 2)Current law provides the court discretion to impose reasonable conditions of probation as it may determine are fitting and proper. In the case of animal cruelty, the court may, when a defendant is convicted of animal abuse, order as a condition of probation that the offender be prohibited from owning or having any contact with animals of any kind, and order the offender to deliver all animals in his or her possession to a designated public entity for adoption or other lawful disposition.

3)Does animal cruelty warrant the diminution of judicial discretion ? Courts have broad discretion in considering and ordering conditions of probation because they are in possession of the specific facts and circumstances of each case and each defendant. Mandatory sentencing minimums and conditions of probation assume a one-size-fits-all disposition is more effective than a case-based evaluation. As noted in the Public Safety Committee analysis, eliminating judicial discretion raises such circumstancial difficulties as a situation in which a person convicted of animal cruelty or neglect cannot reside in his or her own home if another family member happens to have an animal on the property.

4)How will a post-probation animal possession ban be enforced ? Will local law enforcement send officers to homes and farms to monitor compliance? When the ban on animal ownership outlives the period of probation, is it appropriate – or even constitutional – to subject persons to unannounced inspections by law enforcement or animal control?

5)Impact on local law enforcement and jail overcrowding . With about half of the state’s jails under population caps, and with the pending realignment of non-serious and non-violent state inmates to local incarceration and control, is increased monitoring and punishment of animal ownership the best use of local resources?

6)Opposition . The California Judges Association opposes the elimination of judicial discretion in these cases. “An enjoining order would probably be appropriate in most cases of animal abuse, but exceptional cases can arise. The bill tries to anticipate such exceptions, notably in cases where a defendant would suffer substantial hardship were her livestock confiscated (see proposed Penal Code section 597.9(d)), but AB 1117  there might still be other limited set of codified exceptions. For example, under AB 1117, if a blind defendant were convicted under an animal abuse statute for starving her parakeet to death, the court would have no choice but to order the defendant to give up her seeing-eye dog. Courts need flexibility to make orders appropriate to the case at hand. By taking away a court’s discretion to do so, AB 1117 goes too far.”

7)Similar legislation (AB 243, Nava, 2010) was vetoed. Gov. Schwarzenegger stated: “This measure is unnecessary. Judges already have the discretion to enter an order forbidding persons from caring for animals if it’s warranted. Making this order mandatory could unjustly impact individuals who make a living working with or caring for animals.” Analysis Prepared by : Geoff Long / APPR. / (916) 319-2081

Happy writing folks, here is the link to our California legislature, a simple email and telephone call works wonders.

Happy Wagging Tails ~ Martha


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California AB 1117 Amended/revised For the Love and Care

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