Please note: AB 487/ SB 450 passed both houses
and will be signed into law. 173.19 (1) reduces the so-called "stray
hold" time from 7 days to 4 days. However, an amendment has been
added that states: "Notwithstanding sub. (1), a political subdivision or
person contracting under s. 173.151) may not euthanize the animal taken into
custody under s. 173.13 (1) (a) 1. before 7 days have elapsed after custody is
taken, except to alleviate physical suffering or to protect the safety of
shelter staff, volunteers, or the public." Quite
frankly, we see this as something of a contradiction.
Final Text of Bill Amendment to Bill
Summary & Text of AB 487/ SB 450 DATCP Fiscal Estimate (PDF) AB
487 Bill History SB
450 Bill History
Wisconsn Federated Humane Societies (WFHS)
Wisconsn Federated Humane Societies (WFHS), legislation has
been introduced in Wisconsin that will effect animal shelters, humane societies
and how stray animals are managed.
One intent of
this bill (Assembly Bill 487 and the Senate companion bill SB450) is to improve
the outcome for seized animals (often called Court Case animals) in Wisconsin -
animals who have been taken into custody as victims of cruelty, hoarding, or
animal fighting. Another primary purpose is to alter the stray-hold period from
7 days to 4 days.
There are few
disputes that many of the changes proposed are for the good. However, how
indivicual shelters, rescues, or stray hold facilities will be
affected, if this legislation becomes law, is specific to each's operation and
how it is financed. Due to the variety of types facilities that will be
affected, what at seems simple on the surface may have many unintended adverse,
and possibly catastrophic, consequences for these facilities in the long run.
There may also be unforeseen effects on owners, municipalities, district
attorneys, corporation counsel, law enforcement, humane officers, courts, and
the animals themselves.
This legislation may impact some
shelters in a positive way and other shelters in a negative way. There are no
easy answers, but there is a lot to consider. Please read the summary of the
legislation and Points to Consider below, take a look at the
Wisconsn Federated Humane Societies (WFHS) website for the
most up- to- date information on the legislation and, if you feel that it will
affect you, your shelter, your pets, etc, please contact your state legislators
-- representative and senator both -- and let them know your thoughts.
Find your WI State
try to keep your message brief, and be sure to give your name, address, and
phone number. Please be polite and respectful. Name-calling, and rude or
abusive letters or emails will hurt, rather than help, our cause.
CURRENT LAW: Under State Statute 173 currently
any dog over a year old that has been involved in animal fighting MUST be
AB 487 / SB 450: The
legislation as proposed would redefine these dogs as unclaimed
animals, making them available to be euthanized or adopted out
(presumably, when they are no longer needed as evidence).
Points to consider: Some see this as good
news, as it removes the requirement for any animal over one year in age found
to have been involved in an animal fight to be euthanized. Not all dogs seized
from accused dog fighters have been used in training or fighting; some may be
lost or stolen pets gathered to be used as bait dogs, etc. Many argue that dogs
seized from a convicted dog fighter can and should be rehabilitated and have
the opportunity for loving pet homes.
This is a
tough one, as nobody likes to see a potentially adoptable animal euthanized,
and some groups have had excellent success rehoming dogs rescued from convicted
dog fighters. However, there also could be serious issues with releasing any
dogs from a fighting environment to other persons, such as (but not limited
Can a former fighting dog ever
be completely trustworthy, as they are bred to be aggressive. They have been
trained and rewarded for killing other dogs.
Who makes the determination of
adoptability? There are no provisions for temperament testing of the dogs by a
qualified person before they may be adopted out.
Fighting dogs present unique
challenges in rehabilitation, as, in addition to the obvious, they are trained
to certain triggers such as the removal of a collar
which can change them in an instant from a friendly potential family pet to a
If the dog is not properly
evaluated and is released to an unprepared person or family, the results could
be disastrous for everyone involved with liability issues for the
facility that releases the animal.
The dog may be unintentionally
released to another dog fighter.
Evaluation and rehabilitation of
the animal may present a considerable expense to the shelter or facility,
taking time and resources that might better be spent on more easily adoptable
CURRENT LAW: If an animal has allegedly been
used in, or is evidence of, a crime related to animals, it can be seized and
retained in custody. If the owner wants the animal returned, a court must
determine whether the animal is needed as evidence or if there is reason to
believe that the animal has been used in fighting. If so, the animal must be
retained in custody.
AB 487 / SB 450: If an animal
allegedly has been used in any crime against animals or is evidence of a crime
against animals, it must be retained in custody. However, the animals
owner has 30 days to petition the court for its return and the court must hold
a hearing within 20 days of receiving the application. If the court determines
that the animal is not needed as evidence and that there is no reason to
believe that it was used in a crime against animals, the animal must be
returned to the owner. However, if the court believes that the animal is needed
as evidence or if there is reason to believe that the animal has been used in
fighting, it must be retained in custody.
The bill also allows the facility
that has custody of a seized animal to demand reasonable payment from the
animal's owner for its care, and treatment every two weeks. If the owner does
not pay in a timely manner, the animal will be treated as an unclaimed animal.
Points to consider: This provision could
result in less expense for the holding facility for housing and care, which
could be a significant sum since dog fighting cases take so long to settle. It
would also provide obvious benefits for the animals involved, which
wouldnt have to languish in shelters or holding facilities for months.
animals are unique evidence and the proposed amendment does not go
far enough to address the issue. Thought should be given to quicker timetables
for the adjudication of that issue, coordination between civil and criminal
authorities on how to handle this special kind of evidence, what early
on requirements for the collection of such evidence should be imposed on
the owner and prosecutors to enable early collection of the evidence, and
temporary placement thereafter in foster care pending final adjudication so as
to avoid long-term lock up of animals that could later be redeemed or adopted.
CURRENT LAW: Sets the stray hold
time at seven (7) days before an abandoned, stray, untagged /unlicensed dog, or
an animal whose owner fails to pick it up from a veterinarian is considered
AB 487 / SB 450: Reduces the
stray hold period to four days.
Points to consider: Some entities see
this reduction in time as very beneficial, as it also reduces expenses of
caring for the animal, may get some animals rehomed more quickly, means less
kennel stress, and may also keep the animal healthier by
alleviating overcrowding in shelters. On the surface, it saves taxpayer
dollars. For details, please see
WHS and MADACC support AB 487/SB 450.
opponents argue that:
Stray holding facilities can
include large shelters, small rescues, vet clinics, boarding kennels, police
departments, town offices, individual contractors, etc. There is a huge
disparity in funding, staff, expertise, operations methods, and other resources
This provision may cause serious
financial hardship for non-profit shelters, which rely on the 7 days of
subsidies from municipalities as part of their operating budgets.
There is no established
correlation between a shortened stray holding period and a quicker release or
adoption of these animals.
Reducing the stray hold period
may not allow enough time to find the owners. Some stray hold facilities do not
have the resources to actively advertise or try to find owners. For more
details on this argument, please see:
Lost Dogs of
There may be an unintended
consequence of a spike in euthanasia rates. Stray hold facilities may opt for
euthanasia on day five because they have fulfilled the minimum requirement and
lack the resources to keep animals longer without the 7 days of subsidies from
the municipalities. Additionally, there is no requirement in the legislation to
keep or report these statistics--making it difficult to impossible to track
potential negative outcome for homeless animals.
Shelters may not have the time
to adequately acclimate, evaluate and prepare animals for adoption with just
four days to do so.
According to DATCPs
Fiscal Estimate, costs to local governments who would choose to
limit stray hold to 4 days are indeterminate, but additional costs
could be incurred in dealing with the public including phone calls, emails, and
visits by distraught pet owners whose missing pet was euthanized or given away
after only four days. (Click here for the entire fiscal estimate).
CURRENT LAW: A local governmental unit may
petition the court for an order regarding an animal in custody, including an
order requiring payment or the posting of a bond for the costs of custody,
care, and treatment pending the outcome of a proceeding or an order authorizing
the sale, destruction, or other disposal of the animal.
AB 487 / SB 450: A person
other than a local governmental unit that has custody of an animal, such as a
humane society, may petition the court for such an order.
Points to consider: While it is good that
anyone with custody of a seized animal may petition for payments from the owner
for care of the animal, it also means that the humane society or shelter will
probably have to pick up the costs for filing the petition, and also for an
attorney to handle the filing. The cost of hiring an attorney may be
prohibitive for some shelters. In the past, humane organizations would, in some
cases, get assistance in this area from municipal or county corporation
counsels or district attorneys.
CURRENT LAW defines an unclaimed
animal as one that has been abandoned or astray, an untagged or
unlicensed dog, or an animal whose owner fails to pick it up from a
veterinarian. After a specified holding period, unclaimed animals
may be adopted out, sold, euthanized, or, if a stray, released for scientific
or educational purposes.
AB 487 / SB 450: Does not
address the possible outcome of stray dogs or animals to be used for
experimentation, vivisection, or outdated "animal labs".
Points to consider: : "Scientific
purposes" means animal experimentation. While most humane organizations
would not release animals for experimentation, the language included in the
bill reinforces that it is a possible outcome. WFHS believes that no pet animal
should end up in a research laboratory. Eliminating the possibility could and
should be included in changes to the current law.
Summary & Text of AB 487/ SB 450 DATCP Fiscal Estimate (PDF) AB
487 Bill History SB
450 Bill History
Wisconsn Federated Humane Societies
Lost Dogs of Wisconsin
website WHS and MADACC support AB 487/SB
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