Dog “Abuse” Seizure Case, 2 yr, CA Haven Humane=2 Infractions

Haven Humane,  which is located in Redding CA, asserted extreme animal abuse, misdemeanors, claimed water bowl “dirty”, dogs had eye “issues”, and “kennel cough”, and were not “social” enough? Search warrant was issued, we even knew which Judge signed it…… Multiple misdemeanor counts were lodged.  If found guilty on charges, owner cannot own animals for 5 years?

In first case against owner, dogs were all seized and owner (who didn’t know the system) gave most or nearly all away. This was for incidents like purportedly running at large or not having a kennel license.  May have been one generic allegation of abuse by calling it “unsanitary.” However it was not charged under Penal code, but since we didn’t see the citation, cannot be sure.  Owner managed to delay the case criminally for several years.

After fighting the first and now second cases for more than 2 years, where the post seizure  hearing (in either case) was not done  in the required 10 day time period, the warrant appeared stale dated in the 2nd case, there was more…   The poor dogs from 2013 were kept in the shelter for over 8-10 months.  The dogs in the shelter were not separated properly and two separate litters were born while under the shelter’s care.  Not one litter, but two.  We are talking about dogs that are often trained for special needs kids, for example, a dog was trained to recognize when a child was experiencing a certain medical condition?  These dogs are shipped nationally all over the United States with an excellent track record with children.

In addition, Haven Humane (in at least one of their locations) closed down for about a week due to quarantine from an outbreak of disease which they claimed they did not know what it was,  but dogs were dying? This happened while owner’s dogs were in the shelter. We believe that was October 2013 and it was in the newspaper.

The dogs from second case were then the subject of  alleged “abuse” and put up for sale as “adoptions” online by various groups.  Online, various groups and people on “Facebook” claimed that the seized animals were petrified, not social, and completely abused?  Really?  They named the animals and posted the pictures.  These are people that know little or nothing about the animals or the actual circumstances…… They,  for whatever reason, believe owner severely “abused” the dogs, because they got seized? They further mentioned the abuse was probably felony?   Completely untrue. Yet ARs will make such statements without any knowledge of actual facts at all.

In fact, Haven Humane claimed the dogs could be released at one point, but kept changing the number and the release amount in dollars. Neither Owner or owners of  the other dogs seized [already on contract] were able to personally get those dogs  released, despite one owner even hiring the well known San Francisco attorney who is co author of the animal rights case textbook.  At that point the question was since up to six dogs could have been released, initially, why would ANY of the dogs NOT be released?

According to the procedure in the law (no doubt drafted by HSUS)  and according to the hearing officer and Haven Humane animal control — the post seizure hearing was only to determine whether owner can take care of dogs at the property, and whether the setting for the dogs is sufficient for dogs to be kept there.  It (the post seizure hearing) is not allegedly to determine whether there was any animal abuse, but to determine where the facts of the case rose to the level to charge the owner with abuse [in other words, the facts for “seizing” should warrant actual seizure because animals supposedly were in jeopardy and subject to harm if not seized…]    If the facts showed that there was sufficient data to “charge” abuse, then why would a shelter be allowing dogs to be returned to owner?  In fact, the hearing officer actually stated that he did not think the facts rose to the level of abuse.

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For us, as defense counsel, we see more than several problems here…..for one thing, the law is written too subjectively and does not allow for any opinion other than animal control. We believe there should be at least 3 different opinions allowed, including vet, another expert, and another non related party that knows animal husbandry. Only ONE of the parties should be animal control, not five of them.

Further, we do not believe that ALL animal should be seized.  While this law is patterned after child welfare codes, the animals are NOT children.  Just because children are all seized when a parent is accused of abuse should not mean ALL animals are seized, and most animal control agencies cannot afford to keep them in custody anyway. This provision in the law was specifically done so forfeiture could be implemented, which is ridiculous.  Only animals that are actually suffering (if proven) should be seized. The rest can be monitored and the owner accountable.  This can be done by using a specific monitoring set up, not seizure. That further puts the monetary expense on the owner, where it should be.

When we see and learn about cases like this, we immediately think of tort claims and actions against the agency of course. But the dogs are already gone, sold, given away and even hidden. They are left in the shelter to simply melt down, become over stressed, and the owner then becomes the “abuser” of the century, while the shelter usually wants to then charge the owner for all of the storage.

In any event, this case is proceeding to lawsuit status. We have personal knowledge of the case and of the data involved.  The seized animals should never have been seized in the first place, in our opinion it was more of a backlash due to other circumstances which are currently brewing.

Nevertheless, the Haven Humane recently offered the owner (after having seized all the animals and either sold, gave away or whatever–the majority of such animals to “rescues”) a revised [charge in criminal court] “settlement”–pre trial,  amounting to two infractions, no abuse, no probation, no restrictions on owning animals, etc. What this amounts to is that two infractions are like two parking tickets. You do not get a jury for infractions, see:

http://www.conflictatlaw.com/content/infraction-misdemeanor-or-felony

The reason an infraction is not considered “criminal” is because it does not appear on your Department Of Justice criminal records. Infractions do appear on your driving record, court record, local police agency records but generally are not reflected on your DOJ records because they are not considered as serious as a misdemeanor or a felony.

Common infractions are seatbelt violations, simple speeding tickets, littering citations, running a red light, and failure to stop properly at a stop sign. Many times traffic school is offered for certain infractions considered a moving violation- infractions that carry a point on your driving record. Certain charges like disturbing the peace or trespassing can be charged either as an infraction or a misdemeanor depending on the circumstances.

Because of the non-criminal nature of infraction charges, the accused does not have the right to a jury trial but does have the right to face the allegations against him/her by way of a bench trial (no jury, the judge will decide the facts).

WOBBLER CHARGES

Certain charges, include provisions in the Penal Code that allow them to be charged either as a misdemeanor or a felony, these are considered a wobbler and depending on the surrounding circumstances of each case, the District Attorney decides what type of charge to file. Notably, a skillful attorney can many times reduce a wobbler charged as a felony to a misdemeanor and may also be able to avoid a felony filing alltogether if engaged early on in the prosecution.

MISDEMEANOR CHARGES

A misdemeanor is a crime punishable by maximum confinement of one year in county jail.  Misdemeanors also carry fines, commonly a maximum fine of $1,000.00. Misdemeanor defendants are guaranteed certain rights because of the seriousness of the charges they face, including the right to an attorney and the right to a jury trial.  Misdemeanor cases can go on for several months and in unusual cases last more than a year, due to the gravity and complexity of these cases.

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How much of the state’s time and money was wasted on all this? How much property was lost? How much suffering did the dogs go through by being kept in shelter  for 8-10 months?  How much money did the AR rescues or whomever make, upon sale of the dogs?  It is our understanding that when the first dogs were sold by the rescue which took them, the dogs were going for $900 each?  Should we be seeing cases like this when people apparently complain and then AR animal groups start acting like HSUS?

We personally put a lot of hours into the case just because we knew it was so badly handled as an alleged “abuse” case….  We did not get paid to do any of the work.  But we know illegal when we see it. We were not the appointed criminal defense attorney or attorneys.  But because we have spent so much time reviewing how the Penal Code in CA involving animals is set up to make sure forfeiture happens, we think the Code should be changed so that forfeiture does not happen at ALL.

Who AGREES?

 

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