Over the past few weeks, the American Kennel Club Government Relations department has been handling a large number of due process-related legislation. Whether it is called ‘Bond for Care’, ‘Animal Forfeiture’, ‘Cost for Care,’ or ‘Due Process infringement,’ it often means that if your animals are seized, you could potentially lose ownership of your animals without being convicted or if the charges are eventually dropped.
Increasingly, state and local legislative bodies are considering proposals that could force people not proven criminally guilty for offenses involving animals to be financially responsible for the costs of caring for seized animals—usually payable by securing a bond—while their cases are pending.
These proposals are commonly proposed as a means of offsetting a community’s animal control costs. AKC does not oppose requiring those convicted of animal cruelty to be fully responsible for the costs of their animals’ care. However, AKC has grave concerns about measures that permanently punish individuals by forcing them to forfeit property (their animals) simply because they cannot afford to pay for bonds for the care and long-term boarding costs for their seized animals while also incurring the significant costs of defending themselves in a court of law. Forced forfeiture is particularly egregious in cases where the charges are found to be frivolous or without merit.
AKC shares concerns about ensuring that local animal control agencies receive adequate public funding to achieve their public mandate, however, an important balance must be struck in animal cruelty cases. On one hand, the criminal justice system must operate to protect the animals that have been subjected to cruel treatment; while on the other hand, it is important that constitutional guarantees protect an accused person from overreaching governmental enforcement.
Anyone convicted of animal cruelty should be held accountable, including paying for the costs of caring for the animals they mistreated; while those found not guilty or for whom charges have been dropped must be made whole through a return of seized animals and a refund of all assessed costs.
For more information on ‘Bond for Care,’ please check out our Government Relations toolbox. Some of the relevant materials include:
- Link to policy explainer video
- Bond for Care One pager
- Issue Analysis: Guilty Until Proven Innocent? How Latest “Bond-for-Care” Bills Hurt Disadvantaged Dog Owners