Changes to Livestock Animal Welfare Act advanced

Senators gave first-round approval April 4 to a bill that would strengthen seizure protocol in the case of livestock neglect or cruelty.

LB423, introduced by the Agriculture Committee, would authorize law enforcement officials to enter into an agreement with animal owners and custodians outlining interventions to be undertaken to avoid seizure of neglected animals. In the event that a seizure of animals occurred, the bill would authorize animals to be kept on the premises of the owner or custodian.

Committee chairperson Ogallala Sen. Ken Schilz said the need for a solution arose from a 2012 interim study.

“We found that there was growing concern at the county level of fiscal liability with regard to enforcing animal cruelty laws,” he said. “We want to make sure the animal owners understand from the beginning that they have a responsibility to take care of those animals as long as they own them. If they don’t, someone will come in and make sure those animals are taken cared of.”

The bill also establishes procedures for determining the need to euthanize animals experiencing extreme suffering. Upon seizure of the animals, the law enforcement agency taking custody would have seven days to petition for a hearing before the district court, which would be scheduled within 10 days of the date of petition.

If a court determined that abandonment or cruel neglect had occurred, it could:
• order immediate forfeiture of animals and authorize euthanasia;
• detail conditions that must be met to restore custody to the owner; or
• order a bond or security to pay for the seizing agency’s cost for care of the animals.

If the owner or custodian were found not guilty, all costs associated with the seizure and care of animals would be refunded.

An Agriculture Committee amendment, adopted 34-0, would allow a court to order direct installment payments to cover expenses for the care of seized animals.

Hoskins Sen. Dave Bloomfield opposed the bill, saying it would place an unfair financial burden on animal owners.

“There’s nothing in the bill that prevents someone from spending way more than the animal is worth and putting that cost on the owner,” he said.

Senators advanced the bill to select file on a 34-1 vote.

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