Pennsylvania House Bill 82, the Cost of Care of Seized Animals Act passed in the House of Representatives Monday, July 1 after the Senate made amendments and returned it to the House. On Monday the bill was sent to Governor Tom Corbett's office, where it is expected to be signed.
The bill states, in part, "Owners of animals have a duty of care. Because of this duty of care, owners of animals are responsible for the costs of caring for those animals and that responsibility continues if those animals are duly seized."
Animal owners are afforded due process rights in the form of an immediate hearing in which humane officers must prove their case. An amendment allows the court to establish a defendant's "indigent" status to determine whether they could afford to pay the bills.
"This legislation will protect non-profit animal shelters from being bankrupted by costs incurred in large scale animal rescues," said bill sponsor Rep. Brian Ellis, R-Butler County.
The bill provides that if a person whose animal is seized is not convicted of any related criminal charge and all costs of care have been made in a timely fashion, the owner shall have the right to re-possession of the animal and a return of all reasonable costs of care.
Karen Kolos, humane officer for Paws Along the River said, "We are over the moon excited about this bill passing and Senator Scarnati helping us. Its just huge. This is going to help shelters across Pennsylvania."
She added, "We've had three cruelty cases in the last six months that have cost ten of thousands of dollars, when even after we win in court it takes years ro get reimbursed, but our bills for utilities and all the other costs keep coming in. We currently have two dogs that have been here since January 4, and the costs to date is $3959. The owner pleaded guilty, but won't be sentenced until July 19, so the dogs have to remain here in their kennels."
"We are required by law to do this, but it virtually cripples us." She said the bill will mean more work for the humane society, but in the long run it will help the animals.