PRESS RELEASE: Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upholds California animal protection law

Updated May 6, 2018

EL CERRITO, California - May 4, 2018 - A three-judge panel from the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals said on Tuesday that a California law authorizing animal control and humane officers to seize animals without a warrant when needed to protect the animals' health or safety is constitutional.

This is an important ruling for California's animals and the law enforcement professionals who protect them because it confirms that a law used routinely to rescue animals from unsafe, inhumane, or unhealthy situations provides animal owners with sufficient due process protection under the Fourteenth Amendment.

"Penal Code section 597.1 enables California's animal care and control officers to immediately seize animals in distress," explained Erica Hughes, Executive Director of the California Animal Welfare Association."In many instances, if the officer were required to first obtain a warrant, the animal would not survive."

When someone's animal is seized, he or she is entitled to a post-seizure hearing to determine whether the seized was justified. "This hearing provides the owner with an opportunity to challenge the seizure as unjustified," said Hughes,"which is an important due process protection. The law therefore balances the important governmental and societal interest in protecting animals from pain and suffering with everyone's right to be free of unreasonable seizures."

The Court also held that when officers seize animals in danger, they are exercising discretion and are therefore entitled to discretionary immunity from liability for related state tort law claims.

Read the decision here.



Erica Hughes, Executive Director, 510.525.2744 x 1,

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California's animal care and control agencies, SPCAs, and humane societies are not directly affiliated with any of the national animal welfare organizations, such as Humane Society of the United States and American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.  Read more here.