Score One For the Good Guys!Posted by Scott Heiser, Director of ALDF's Criminal Justice Program on August 10th, 2009
summer and that can only mean one thing: the Oregon Legislature is in
recess. I know, we lawyers have such warped minds—it wasn’t that long
ago when Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out for Summer” would have been
blaring from that boss “new” Sony console cassette deck while I
polished the chrome wheels on my car…
And now I get excited by sitting down to review what the Legislature enacted at the end of each session while MP3s emerge from a computer. Wow, do things ever change, but I digress…
I write today to express my deep gratitude to Representatives Sara Gelser and Brad Witt for sponsoring a very important bill on behalf of yours truly and ALDF, namely House Bill 2529. HB 2529 does a number of good things:
- It makes the pre-conviction forfeiture process in dogfighting cases the same as any other animal cruelty case. Under the old law, in dogfighting cases the court could order that the abused dogs remain in the hands of the offenders while their criminal cases were pending—that’s just nuts! If you want proof, just have a look at the Bemis/Tarpani cases in Kern County, California or the Pet Rescue case in Du Page County, Illinois as examples of how not to deal with an offender’s desire to continue to possess animals while their case is pending. That little problem is fixed now, at least in Oregon.
- It includes animal fighting within the scope of Oregon’s possessory chattel lien laws by amending ORS 167.345 (relevant in the application of ORS 87.159, the statute creating the lien for the costs of caring for abused animals) and ORS 133.377, making it easier for law enforcement and humane societies to recover their costs for caring for fighting dogs (not every dogfighter has six-figures to post up-front, like Michael Vick, to cover the cost of caring for these dogs).
expressly includes animal fighting within the scope of Oregon’s
mandatory arrest statute, found in ORS 133.379(1). This one is huge.
Couple this amendment with the fact the Oregon already includes animal
fighting as a R.I.C.O. predicate, and animal advocates now have some
very strong and persuasive authority to support the view that Oregon’s
newly elected Attorney General,
acting in concert with the Oregon District Attorneys Association,
should organize and implement a targeted animal fighting task force to
aggressively target this barbaric set of criminals. The existing
reward-based “tip line” was good PR, but there’s much more that can be
done here—simply waiting for the phone to ring isn’t sufficient.
None of these improvements would have been possible without the willingness of two exemplary state legislators to listen, learn and act. My deepest thanks to both Representatives Gelser and Witt, for sponsoring HB 2529 and for their leadership on this issue.
P.S., just for sport, should you have the inclination to blare some Alice Cooper and read some new laws, here are a few other Oregon “animal” bills worthy of note: HB 2470 (a puppy mill bill that is so watered down—because it exempts the first 50 dogs—that it’s of limited practical value, but it is a step in the right direction nonetheless); HB 3348 (making it clear that humane investigators acting under authority of Oregon’s special agent law have the authority to apply for search warrants); SB 398 (corrects a loophole by including horses in the list of animals that are subject to abandonment).