North Dakota Considers Bill Allowing Police, Vets To Seize Animals

Bill to allow police, vets to seize animals being considered by North Dakota.

Legislators in North Dakota have introduced a bill that would allow police and veterinarians to seize animals they believe are being treated inhumanely. A public hearing on the measure is set for Friday, Feb. 11, 2011.

As introduced, Senate Bill 2365 would grant a law enforcement officer or licensed veterinarian the right to take custody and control of an animal if there is “reasonable cause to believe” that the animal has been subjected to activity prohibited by state laws pertaining to the humane treatment of animals. The measure would allow law enforcement officers to seize an animal without a warrant or court order.

If the officer or the veterinarian seizing the animal knows the animal’s owner, they must notify the owner immediately. If they don’t know the owner, they must publish a notice indicating that the animal may be sold or otherwise disposed of if it is not claimed in five days (from the date of notice).

The law enforcement officer or veterinarian would have a lien on the seized animal for the reasonable value of the animal’s care and shelter and for any expenses incurred in notifying the animal’s owner. SB 2365 would allow the court to order that a seized animal be sold to pay for any expenses incurred as a result of the seizure.

If an owner of a seized animal wants the animal back, the court would grant the owner 10 days to demonstrate that he or she can care for the animal.

The Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC) issued an industry alert today in which the organization expressed support for laws protecting animals against abusive or negligent treatment. However, PIJAC raised concerns about warrantless searches and seizures of private property, claiming they invite the potential for harassment and abuse of police powers. Also, PIJAC contends that police powers should not be extended to private citizens.

The Senate Agriculture Committee is scheduled to hear SB 2365 on Feb. 11, 9 a.m., in the state Capitol. To view the bill in its entirety, click here.

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