H. B. 2321

(By Delegate Davis)
[Introduced January 21, 1999; referred to the
Committee on the Judiciary.]

A BILL to amend and reenact section four, article ten, chapter seven of the code of West Virginia, one thousand nine hundred thirty-one, as amended, relating to humane officers; taking possession of animals abandoned, neglected or cruelly treated; and requiring owners of animals seized to post bonds.

Be it enacted by the Legislature of West Virginia:
That section four, article ten, chapter seven of the code of West Virginia, one thousand nine hundred thirty-one, as amended, be amended and reenacted to read as follows:

§7-10-4. Custody and care of animals abandoned, neglected or cruelly treated; hearing; liability for costs; exclusions.

(a) A humane officer shall take possession of any animal, including birds or wildlife in captivity, known or believed to be abandoned, neglected, deprived of necessary sustenance, shelter or medical care or cruelly treated or used, as defined in sections nineteen and nineteen-a, article eight, chapter sixty-one of this code.
(b) The owner, or person in possession, if his or her identity and residence is known, of any animal seized pursuant to subsection (a) of this section, shall be provided written notice of such seizure, their liability for the cost and care of the animal seized as herein provided, and the right to request a hearing before a magistrate in the county wherein the animal was seized. The magistrate court shall schedule any hearing so requested within ten working days of the receipt of the request. The failure of an owner or person in possession to request a hearing within five working days of the seizure shall be deemed prima facie evidence of the abandonment of said animal. At the hearing, if requested, the magistrate shall determine if probable cause exists to believe that such animal was abandoned, neglected or deprived of necessary sustenance, shelter or medical care, or otherwise treated or used cruelly as set forth herein.
(c) Upon finding of such probable cause, or if no hearing is requested, if the magistrate finds probable cause based upon the affidavit of the humane officer, the magistrate shall enter an order authorizing any humane officer to maintain possession of the animal pending further proceedings, appeal or the disposition of any criminal charges pursuant to chapter sixty-one of this code.
(d) Any person whose animal is seized and against whom a finding of probable cause is rendered pursuant to this section is liable for the costs of the care, medical treatment and provisions for such animal during any period it remains in the possession of the humane officer.
(e) If, after the humane officer takes possession of the animal pursuant to the finding of probable cause, it is determined by a licensed veterinarian that the animal should be humanely destroyed to end its suffering, the veterinarian may order the animal to be humanely destroyed according to acceptable humane standards and neither the humane officer nor the veterinarian may be subject to any civil or criminal liability as a result of any such determination.
(f) The provisions of this section do not apply to farm livestock, poultry, gaming fowl or wildlife kept in private or licensed game farms if kept and maintained according to usual and accepted standards of livestock, poultry, gaming fowl, wildlife or game farm production and management, nor to the humane use of animals or activities regulated under and in conformity with the provisions of 7 U.S.C. §2131 et seq. and the regulations promulgated thereunder, as both such statutes and regulations are in effect on the effective date of this section.
(g) If an owner of a seized animal opposes a seizure with the intention to repossess the animal, he or she must post a security bond, cash or corporate security, within ten days of the date the animal is seized. The amount of the bond must be sufficient to cover the estimated cost of custody, including medical care, for the animal for a period of thirty days and is renewable at the end of thirty days if a judicial determination has not been made or the case is not concluded. If the bond is not posted within the ten-day period, the animal may be disposed of by sale, adoption, euthanasia or other lawful means. If a judicial determination is made that the owner is fit to adequately care for the animal, a full refund and release of the bond shall be made.

NOTE: The purpose of this bill is to require animal owners to post bonds for costs when an animal is seized as abandoned, neglected or cruelly treated.

Strike-throughs indicate language that would be stricken from the present law, and underscoring indicates new language that would be added.