Wrong Seizure, Fee, “Charge” for Due Process

In a glaring example of how animal laws are often set up in “adminstrative” hearings, the case below indicates Washington state process actually charged a fee to oppose or be heard in the government administrative process. In general, this is usually almost never allowed (to be charged for a due process hearing)

In California, seizure of animals, impounding and hearings depend on how the owner (if known) is cited. We will be honest in saying that in California the laws re animals were written mostly by groups such as HSUS/friends so they are definitely stacked against the owner, and the owner usually gets stuck with the cost of storage/other fees, even if the owner was not charged in the end, or is exonerated. That is because California, Idaho and Colorado have preseizure forfeiture laws which allow the government to charge you for storage of animals when they bring the animals in, depending on how you are cited. [Yes, so if you are acquitted there can still be a charge]

CA Penal Code 597 outlines basic animal “cruelty” but the other sections can be very specific. In particular, PC597.1 and PC599f have provisions that make it difficult to understand what one might have to pay in order to get their animals returned, and whether one could afford to exert an ownership claim pending a trial. For example, if your trial took place a year later, your storage cost could be $15,000 or more.

We know of cases down south in California where the return of 5 dogs (2 of them not being owned by the owner) required a payment of $14,000. and that was after animal control had the dogs for 3 months. Be very afraid if you breed animals because animal control knows little and nothing about whelping and chances are good if your female is pregnant when seized and animal control attempts to whelp pups, they will usually get sick or die due to the pathogens in shelters, and the general lack of knowledge with canine whelping.

The MOST common way animals are seized are due to “complaints” by neighbors, or disgruntled former friends, or animal rights. Therefore we always tell ALL animal owners to keep a sign posted in front AND back warning of video surveillance. Be very careful about how your animals are taken care of, and make sure your vet records are updated. If you have an animal related business do not leave your business files on a computer the police can seize, do not leave files on your phone, and do not leave documents in plain view. We know of many seizures where warrants are done improperly and by then, police will use the inevitable discovery argument to claim they would have found your evidence anyway.

The best protection against seizure is to not invite problems. Second, insure you have your signs up. Third, do not keep your documents as stated above, in plain view, and do not be careless with computer data. Stay off of Facebook which is a HUGE LEGAL liability since anything you say on there, even if it’s not sent to “everyone” is retrievable by subpoena. Do not be in the habit of publicizing your personal business. If you run a business be very careful how you advertise. Animal control stings are popular in certain jurisdictions. They run ads for snitches and offer to “pay” for snitching off people who sell, buy or trade animals.  If animal control or police decide to attack you or arrive with a warrant, you need to shut up, and call an attorney as fast as you can. Preferably a criminal defense attorney that knows the animal related laws.

Read more: http://www.seattlepi.com/local/article/State-Appeals-Court-spares-dangerous-dog-2303942.php#ixzz1fDImQi2F

Issuing a decision that could change administrative hearings around Washington, a state Appeals Court has reversed a dangerous dog order after finding a county ordinance unconstitutional.

At issue in the Pierce County case decided Tuesday was a dangerous dog order placed against Blizzard, a Great Pyrenees previously found to have gravely injured a Pomeranian. Blizzard’s owner had been ordered to surrender the dog to be euthanized or buy a dangerous dog permit, tag the animal and keep him securely caged.

In a unanimous decision, the Division II Court of Appeals agreed there wasn’t sufficient evidence presented to support a Pierce County hearing examiner’s decision – no one, it turned out, witnessed the attack that saw Kayla, the Pomeranian, injured so severely she had to be put down.

More broadly, though, the appellate court found that a $250 “review fee” imposed by Pierce County on dog owners wishing to challenge dangerous dog declarations by animal control officers violates the due process rights of state residents. Reversing a Pierce County Superior Court decision, the judges found that imposing such fees on residents seeking a preliminary review of a government action violates the state constitution.

“Requiring the responding party to pay a fee to access any review of a government initiated action could prevent many people from obtaining the review they are legally entitled to before deprivation of a property interest,” Judge Jill M. Johanson wrote for the three-judge panel.   

“Although the county’s interest in protecting the public from dangerous animals is strong, charging an administrative fee to offset the expense of conducting preliminary administrative proceedings and, arguably, control the number of meritless challenges to (dangerous dog orders) must be balanced against the risk that the fee could compromise the requirement that ‘some form of hearing is required before an individual is finally deprived of a property interest,’” Johanson continued.

The judges also found that a non-public, off-the-record auditor’s review is not enough to satisfy the government’s due process obligations. In doing so, the court also rejected a $500 fee imposed on pet owners who want to present evidence to a hearing examiner.

In Seattle, owners facing a dangerous dog petition don’t have to pay a fee to get the case before a hearing examiner. City law, though, does appear to allow hearing examiners to reject petitions they deem frivolous without a hearing. An attorney for Seattle said Tuesday’s decision will not impact the city process.

The case in question – brought by Blizzard’s owner, Heidi Downey, against Pierce County and several agencies – stemmed from the April 2009 attack. Kayla was loose on her owner’s property when she was attacked. According to the Appeals Court decision, her owner told investigators she did not see what, if anything, precipitated the attack but saw a larger dog run away with Kayla.

Four months passed before Kayla’s owner identified Blizzard as her dog’s attacker; Downey contended she’d identified the wrong dog, and that Blizzard was kenneled when the attack occurred.

A hearing examiner ultimately sided with animal control and Kayla’s owner, finding that Blizzard had attacked Kayla without provocation while loose. The Appeals Court reversed that finding, ruling that no evidence had been presented showing the larger dog had not been provoked.

“Because no one saw how the incident started, there was no evidence regarding whether Blizzard’s apparent attack of Kayla was unprovoked, and the hearing examiner erred in finding that the county had established lack of provocation by a preponderance of the evidence,” Johanson wrote for the panel.The court’s decision vacates the earlier order against Blizzard. Attorneys fees were not awarded.

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