Public Laws

124th Legislature

Second Regular Session



Chapter 573

S.P. 605 - L.D. 1598

An Act To Strengthen the Laws against Cruelty to Animals

Be it enacted by the People of the State of Maine as follows:

Sec. 1. 17 MRSA §1021, sub-§5-A,  as amended by PL 2007, c. 702, §44, is further amended to read:

5-A. Seizure by state humane agent or state veterinarian without court order.   A state humane agent or a state veterinarian who has reasonable cause to believe that a violation of section 1031 or 1032 has taken place or is taking place may take possession of and retain the cruelly treated animal. Upon taking possession of an animal under this section, the humane agent or the state veterinarian shall present the owner with a notice that:
A. States the reason for seizure;
B. Gives the name, address and phone number of the humane agent or the state veterinarian to contact for information regarding the animal; and
C. Advises the owner of the ensuing court procedure.

If the owner can not be found, the humane agent or the state veterinarian shall send a copy of the notice to the owner at the owner's last known address by certified mail, return receipt requested. If the owner is not known or can not be located, the humane agent or the state veterinarian shall contact the animal shelter or shelters used by the municipality in which the animal was found. The humane agent or the state veterinarian shall provide the shelter with a description of the animal, the date of seizure and the name of a person to contact for more information.

Within 3 working days of possession of the animal, the humane agent or the state veterinarian shall apply to the court for a possession order. Upon good cause shown, the court shall expedite the case and schedule a prehearing conference to take place within 7 days of the seizure. The court shall set a hearing date and that hearing date must be within 21 days of the date the animal was seized. The humane agent or the state veterinarian shall arrange care for the animal, including medical treatment, if necessary, pending the hearing.

The humane agent or the state veterinarian shall notify the owner, if located, of the time and place of the hearing. If the owner has not been located, the court shall order a notice to be published at least once in a newspaper of general circulation in the county where the animal was found stating the case and circumstances and giving 48 hours notice of the hearing.

It is the owner's responsibility at the hearing to show cause why the animal should not be seized permanently or disposed of humanely. If it appears at the hearing that the animal has been abandoned or cruelly treated by its owner, the court shall declare the animal forfeited and order its sale, adoption or donation or order the animal to be disposed of humanely if a veterinarian determines that the animal is diseased or disabled beyond recovery. In the case of an expedited hearing, the court shall issue a writ of possession or return the animal to its owner within 30 days of the seizure.

For an expedited hearing, the State, prior to the prehearing conference, shall submit all veterinary records, reports by investigating officers and other relevant records in the State's possession to the court and shall mail or deliver copies of these same reports and records to the owner of the animal.

All veterinary records, seizure reports prepared by humane agents, police reports, witness statements or other written documents are admissible as evidence when the authors of these documents are available for cross-examination at a possession hearing. Oral statements of a witness included in a police report are only admissible if the witness is present at the possession hearing.

Sec. 2. 17 MRSA §1031, sub-§3-B, ķA,  as amended by PL 2007, c. 439, §37, is further amended to read:

A.  In addition to any other penalty authorized by law, the court shall impose a fine of not less than $500 for each violation of this section. The court may order the defendant to pay the costs of the care, housing and veterinary medical treatment for the animal including the costs of relocating the animal.

Sec. 3. 17-A MRSA §1201, sub-§1, ķA-1,  as amended by PL 2007, c. 577, §4, is further amended to read:

A-1.  The conviction is for a Class D or Class E crime other than:

(1) A Class D or Class E crime relative to which, based upon both the written agreement of the parties and a court finding, the facts and circumstances of the underlying criminal episode giving rise to the conviction generated probable cause to believe the defendant had committed a Class A, Class B or Class C crime in the course of that criminal episode and, as agreed upon in writing by the parties and found by the court, the defendant has no prior conviction for murder or for a Class A, Class B or Class C crime and has not been placed on probation pursuant to this subparagraph on any prior occasion;

(2) A Class D crime that the State pleads and proves was committed against a family or household member or a dating partner under chapter 9 or 13 or section 554, 555 or 758. As used in this subparagraph, "family or household member" has the same meaning as in Title 19-A, section 4002, subsection 4; "dating partner" has the same meaning as in Title 19-A, section 4002, subsection 3-A;

(2-A) A Class D crime under Title 5, section 4659, subsection 1, Title 15, section 321, subsection 6 or Title 19-A, section 4011, subsection 1;

(3) A Class D or Class E crime in chapter 11 or 12;

(4) A Class D crime under section 210-A;

(4-A) A Class E crime under section 552;

(5) A Class D or Class E crime under section 556, section 854, excluding subsection 1, paragraph A, subparagraph (1), or section 855;

(6) A Class D crime in chapter 45 relating to a schedule W drug; or

(7) A Class D or Class E crime under Title 29-A, section 2411, subsection 1-A, paragraph B . ; or

(8) A Class D crime under Title 17, section 1031.

Effective July 12, 2010

Office of the Revisor of Statutes
State House, Room 108
Augusta, ME 04333