ALDF Cheers Court DecisionJuly 10th, 2003
Animal Legal Defense Fund is awaiting final word from the Oregon Supreme Court regarding this cases appeal.
(Portland, Oregon) On July 9, the Oregon Court of Appeals struck down the state's controversial Measure 3 as unconstitutional. The initiative, passed in the 2000 election, made it extremely difficult for animal shelters to place abused animals in new, loving homes.
Measure 3 made numerous changes to the Oregon Constitution, many of them restricting the forfeiture of property used in criminal activities. The intention was to protect citizens from seizures until they’d actually been convicted of a crime. Unfortunately, Measure 3 failed to distinguish animals from other types of personal property. In the past, forfeiture laws had given Oregon courts the power to order defendants charged with animal neglect or cruelty to pay the cost of care for the mistreated animals. The courts could also grant shelters permission to find new homes for the animals before the conclusion of their former guardian’s criminal case (since court cases can drag on for months or even years).
Soon after the election, the Lincoln Interagency Narcotics Team, a law enforcement agency in Lincoln County, Ore., filed suit arguing, in part, that Measure 3 was unconstitutional because it violated the Oregon Constitution’s single-subject and separate-vote requirements. ALDF (along with the Oregon Humane Society and the Humane Society of the Willamette Valley) joined the challenge due to the measure’s harmful impact on abused animals and the shelters that care for them. ALDF contended then, as it does now, that there are many ways to address concerns about Oregon’s forfeiture laws without causing further harm to abused animals or crippling the shelters trying to save them. In fact, in 2001 the Oregon Legislature enacted wide statutory reforms to the civil forfeiture system which made the constitutional changes of Measure 3 wholly unnecessary.
“This decision is a big win for abused animals throughout Oregon and the shelters that care for them. We hope that the proponents of Measure 3 will respect the Court of Appeals’ well-reasoned decision and not force us to continue diverting precious resources to a protracted defense of the state’s vital animal protection laws,” says Stephan Otto, co-plaintiff and attorney at ALDF’s Portland-based Anti-Cruelty Division. “The Court of Appeals made the right decision, and we are hopeful that this decision will stand.”
For more background information on ALDF's Measure 3 challenge, click here.