OK OK OK………Now this has gotta be one of the most interesting cases out there, as we all know Marin Humane has long been involved with the published “seizure” case involving the pet store owner who got into trouble. (Animals had been seized and that he could “request a post-seizure hearing….”)
NOW, the dogsbite site of course, has jumped on the pitbull case from Sausalito, because allegedly the owner’s dogs did treat the subcontractor workers as intruders. We haven’t read the specifics yet and we do not link to the dogsbite site, but it’s easy enough to go find it online.
Most bully owners hate the dogsbite site because we all know that despite the case law, the breed of the canine does not make the case one way or the other; the predisposition of any dog’s inherent character is not fixed in stone.
But it is interesting to note, that the dogs were not rounded up and quarantined. Hmmm, it is true, normally altercations involving injury, the dogs are impounded. Most likely had this been in a poor neighborhood, the dogs would have been seized immediately. Usually if there is no proof of rabies vax, it is automatic quarantine.
OK let’s think hard and remember that PC 597.1 is in general, written terribly–and we know who did a lot of that cobbling, that SF attorney who works with humane officers [even those humane officers who are being sued for violating seizure law] and he wrote the text book on animal law used in law schools.
It should be noted, there is no post seizure hearing written into the law when animals are seized under certain circumstances…the law as written when taken with facts as applied to the specific case–does NOT necessarily give the owner a hearing–on its face, it may appear to give a hearing, but in fact, we have seen cases where no hearing was given at all…because the forfeiture aspect is intertwined with the law, and poorly written, even judges are stunned to find that out in court?
It would be something like you received a speeding ticket, but in order to get a hearing on the ticket, you must fully pay the ticket first, just to be able to get a hearing?
The CA PC statute involving forfeiture and due process are poorly written and difficult to sort out, issues are often complex and the law itself needs to be re-written, as the due process element is actually a forfeiture since payment of money is usually required.
This was done on purpose because humane groups love to make big seizures so they can get (1) in the papers and (2) resell animals for profit. The federal case in Sacramento Eastern District– after the Humane Society of the Sierra Foothills engaged in horrible actions, see
Animals are actually often victims of forfeiture. If one does not pay the impound fees, costs,etc. then one is not necessarily going to get a hearing? But if the animals are not impounded, then what happens? You don’t accrue the charges that they will charge, for storing your animals!
A dangerous dog or multiple dogs hearing will usually entitle the owner to treat the issue on a small scale – a hearing in animal control–you can hire an attorney of course, and often they will do this locally and not in court. The dangerous dog issue is only a first step– and usually treated as an administrative hearing. If criminal charges were also going to be pursued (they might claim dogs were not fed, no shade,etc.)– that would be a different charge under the Penal Code.
However, the actual facts of the case in Marin County may involve the surroundings, whether animals were loose, whether notice had been given that they (subcontractors) were going to be there at a certain time, whether the dogs were confined or not, or broke out, etc. will all be important. Also, whatever warning signs, notice of dogs, or guard dogs, etc. Of course, for anyone injured on another’s property, or out in public, there are always negligence, strict liability laws and tort claims, etc. depending on where it happened/surrounding facts.
But the reason this case is somewhat different–is because the dogs were NOT impounded. In most jurisdictions, that almost never happens. However because the dog owner is an attorney, according to what we saw online, and because the case is in Marin County (very very expensive)– we can already see that it’s likely the attorney will likely be able to hire defense counsel. The personal injury part, if it succeeded, might be covered by insurance.
But the ability to keep dogs that have harmed people may be a different story. Dogs that have caused injury in the past are usually difficult to get insurance for, because they are often designated as dangerous dogs. It is possible to still own a dog or dogs that have been designated as dangerous. For example, an owned dog (like a retriever) was running around with the child in the back yard and her scarf somehow got entangled with the dog to the point where the dog was dragging the child by the scarf and the child choked to death? That dog was placed in San Diego (Helen Woodward) and over 200 people tried to adopt the dog. It ended up going to a couple with no kids.
The laws under the CA seizure code are in need of a complete re-write. Seizing animals often leads to dubious cases involving improper conduct, which is why some errant so called humane groups get into trouble. Although, we have succeeded in handling a post seizure case in Hollywood, and legally won the case, that doesn’t necessarily mean one can afford to get all the animals back. The storage alone is usually excessive in cost.
So we will be updating on this case in the future. We may even contact the dogs’ owner.
You can read much about dangerous animals on the Shouse site: https://www.shouselaw.com/dangerous-animal.html#3.2
or, on the https://dogbitelaw.com/vicious-dogs/regulation-of-dangerous-and-vicious-dogs [this attorney for the dogbitelaw site is not much for APBT or any large guardian type dogs-that’s our opinion after reading the site;however he’s quite knowledgeable as to the law.] or, Marin County site: http://www.cityofbelvedere.org/DocumentCenter/View/365/Marin-County-Animals-Code?bidId=
CA PC 399 FAILING TO CONTROL A DANGEROUS DOG OR ANIMAL
- The owner of a dangerous animal (usually a dog) willfully lets the animal run free or doesn’t use ordinary care in keeping it; and
- As a result, another person is killed or suffers “serious bodily injury”.
For a defendant to be found guilty of failing to control a dangerous animal, all of the following “elements of the crime” must apply:
- The defendant owned, or had custody or control of, a dangerous animal;
- The defendant knew that the animal was dangerous;
- The defendant willfully (that is, willingly or on purpose) allowed the animal to run free or else failed to use ordinary care in keeping the animal;
- The animal killed or caused serious bodily injury to another person; and
- The victim took all the reasonable precautions that an ordinary person would have taken in the same situation (unless the victim was under the age of 5, or was for any other reason incapable of taking reasonable precautions).8
Dangerous Dog Provisions:
California Food & Agriculture Code, Division 14, Chapter 9. Chapter 9. Potentially Dangerous and Vicious Dogs.
§ 31601 . Legislative declarations and findings
§ 31602 . Potentially dangerous dog defined
§ 31603 . Vicious dog defined
§ 31604 . Severe injury defined
§ 31605 . Enclosure defined
§ 31606 . Animal control department defined
§ 31607 . Impounded defined
§ 31608 . County defined
§ 31609 . Non-application of act
§ 31621 . Hearing on declaration of dog as potentially dangerous or vicious
§ 31622 . Determination and orders; notice; compliance; appeal
§ 31623 . Failure of owner or keeper to appear; decision
§ 31624 . Finality of determination
§ 31625 . Seizure and impoundment pending hearing
§ 31626 . Circumstances under which dogs may not be declared potentially dangerous or vicious
§ 31641 . Licensing and vaccination; potentially dangerous designation maintained in registration records; additional fee
§ 31642 . Keeping and controlling potentially dangerous dogs
§ 31643 . Death, sale, transfer, or permanent removal; notice
§ 31644 . Removal from list of potentially dangerous dogs
§ 31645 . Destruction; nondestruction, conditions; enclosures
§ 31646 . Prohibition of owning, possessing, controlling, or having custody
§ 31662 . Fines; limits