Oregon’s Proposed Anti-Hoarding Law

Animal_Hoarding_t400Oregon Senate Bill 6 has been approved by the state legislature and has been sent to Gov. John Kitzhaber for his signature. S.B. 6 will increase penalties for some animal cruelty offenses and further limit access to animals by offenders. The bill’s most controversial provisions are, however, the requirements placed on animal rescues.

S.B. 6 defines “animal rescue entity” as “an individual or organization, including but not limited to an animal control agency, humane society, animal shelter, animal sanctuary or boarding kennel…, but excluding a veterinary facility, that keeps, houses, and maintains in its custody 10 or more animals and that solicits or accepts donations in any form.” Under the bill all animal rescues and which includes animal control and public shelters must be licensed each year. Each such person or organization would be required to maintain records for each animal that state:

(A) The date of birth for the animal or, if the date of birth is unknown, the approximate age of the animal;
(B) The date the animal rescue entity acquired possession, control or charge of the animal and the source of the animal;
(C) The number of offspring the animal produced while in the possession or control of the animal rescue entity, if applicable;
(D) The disposition the animal rescue entity makes of each animal possessed by, controlled by or in the charge of the animal rescue entity, including the date of disposition, manner of disposition and the name and address for any individual or organization taking possession, control or charge of an animal;
(E) The source of the animal, date of acquisition, age, sex, breed type and weight of the animal at intake.

The entity must maintain a photo of each animal taken within 24 hours of intake.

Under the bill each person or entity is subject to periodic inspections including of records and must “furnish reports and information required by the enforcing agency”. The “enforcing agency” will be the dog licensing and control program in the city or county or if there is none, then an agency designated by the local government.

The bill would require that complaints about the animal rescue entity that are made to state agencies must be sent on to the enforcing agency. The enforcing agency would be required to conduct inspections if there has been a “credible and serous” complaint. Otherwise, the enforcing agency could conduct inspections at reasonable times. No license could be renewed unless the person or organization is in compliance. The enforcing agency would be required to seize evidence of animal cruelty violations and report it to law enforcement.

The annual licensing fee would be $100. The enforcing agency can impose civil penalties up to $500 per violation and also impound animals and revoke licenses. The enforcing agency must allow for notice, a hearing and judicial review of enforcement actions.

It is not clear this new proposed law will have much impact in improving local animal control or public shelters. After all, the city or county would be responsible for enforcing these requirements against its own animal control or shelter. The greatest impact is likely to be on private animal rescues. The legislation was prompted by a raid in January, 2013 on Willamette Valley Animal Rescue in Brooks, Oregon where 149 dogs were seized and the operator, Alicia Inglish, was charged with 120 counts of animal neglect and one count of evidence tampering. It is hoped this bill, if signed into law, will serve to prevent such hoarding and cruel neglect.

Foreclosure on Liens

The bill also provides a more streamlined process for foreclosure on liens for the cost of care and treatment for impounded animals. This will mean ownership of impounded animals can be forfeited and the animals adopted much sooner. This will ease the burden on local shelters that take in animals seized in abuse and neglect cases. It also means less time in shelters for impounded animals.

Increased Penalties for Animal Cruelty

S.B. 6 raises penalties for animal cruelty and, in particular, in cases of animal neglect in the second or first degree. Both crimes would be a felony for repeat offenders, cases involving more than 10 animals, and those who have a previous conviction for a domestic violence offense and commit the animal neglect in the immediate presence of a minor child.

Prohibitions on Owning Animals

Also, animal abusers would be barred from possessing not only a domestic animal for five years but also any animal of the same genus that was involved in the abuse. Some exceptions were created, however, to the ban on owning animals for those convicted of animal cruelty or neglect. The ban would not apply to a person’s first conviction if the person is the owner of a commercial livestock operation and the underlying violation was committed against livestock.

Also, under the bill a person subject to the ban may file a motion with the sentencing court requesting a waiver of the prohibition as to livestock. The grounds for waiver include:

(A) The person’s conviction leading to the possession prohibition involved only livestock;
(B) During the two years before the conviction triggering the prohibition, the person was the owner of a commercial livestock operation;
(C) The person has not been convicted, in the previous five years, of a crime involving animals or domestic violence or a crime where the victim was under 18 years of age; and
(D) The person’s conviction was the result of:
(i) Criminal liability for the conduct of another person;
(ii) Criminal liability of a corporation; or
(iii) Animal neglect and the person’s criminal conduct was not knowing or intentional.

Upon the filing of a motion and affidavit, the sentencing court shall hold a hearing. At the hearing, the sentencing court shall grant the motion if the person proves by clear and convincing evidence that:
(A) Continued enforcement of the prohibition against possessing livestock would result in substantial economic hardship that cannot otherwise be mitigated;
(B) The person no longer poses any risk to animals; and
(C) The person is capable of providing and willing to provide necessary, adequate and appropriate levels of care for all livestock that would come within the person’s custody or control if the petition is granted.

The sentencing court may consider the person’s financial circumstances and mental health in determining whether the person is capable of adequately caring for livestock.

Under the bill the sentencing court shall further order that for five years the person must consent to reasonable inspections by law enforcement and the United States Department of Agriculture. A refusal to consent to a reasonable inspection described is contempt of court and, if the person is found in contempt, shall result in the sentencing court revoking the waiver of the possession prohibition.