Senate Bill No. 383

(By Senators Craigo and Kessler)


[Originating in the Committee on the Judiciary;

reported February 11, 1998.]


A BILL to amend and reenact section four, article ten, chapter seven of the code of West Virginia, one thousand nine hundred thirty-one, as amended, relating to humane officers; and allowing humane officers to enter private property without a warrant to seize vicious animals.

Be it enacted by the Legislature of West Virginia:
That section four, article ten, chapter seven of the code of West Virginia, one thousand nine hundred thirty-one, as amended, be amended and reenacted to read as follows:

§7-10-4. Custody and care of animals abandoned, neglected or cruelly treated; hearing; liability for costs; exclusions.

(a) A humane officer shall take possession of any animal, including birds or wildlife in captivity, known or believed to be abandoned, neglected, deprived of necessary sustenance, shelter or medical care or cruelly treated or used, as defined in sections nineteen and nineteen-a, article eight, chapter sixty- one of this code. In addition, a humane officer may, while in actual pursuit, enter upon private land to seize vicious animals: Provided, That nothing in this section shall be construed to authorize entry into a structure on private land without the permission of the owner or possessor thereof unless such entry is necessary to prevent imminent serious bodily injury.
(b) The owner, or person in possession, if his or her identity and residence is known, of any animal seized pursuant to subsection (a) of this section, shall be provided written notice of such the seizure, their liability for the cost and care of the animal seized as herein provided in this section, and the right to request a hearing before a magistrate in the county wherein the animal was seized. The magistrate court shall schedule any hearing so requested within ten working days of the receipt of the request. The failure of an owner or person in possession to request a hearing within five working days of the seizure shall be deemed considered prima facie evidence of the abandonment of said the animal. At the hearing, if requested, the magistrate shall determine if probable cause exists to believe that such the animal was abandoned, neglected or deprived of necessary sustenance, shelter or medical care, or otherwise treated or used cruelly as set forth herein in this section.
(c) Upon finding of such probable cause, or if no hearing is requested, if the magistrate finds probable cause based upon the affidavit of the humane officer, the magistrate shall enter an order authorizing any humane officer to maintain possession of the animal pending further proceedings, appeal or the disposition of any criminal charges pursuant to chapter sixty-one of this code.
(d) Any person whose animal is seized and against whom a finding of probable cause is rendered pursuant to this section is liable for the costs of the care, medical treatment and provisions for such the animal during any period it remains in the possession of the humane officer.
(e) If, after the humane officer takes possession of the animal pursuant to the finding of probable cause, it is determined by a licensed veterinarian that the animal should be humanely destroyed to end its suffering, the veterinarian may order the animal to be humanely destroyed according to acceptable humane standards and neither the humane officer nor the veterinarian may be subject to any civil or criminal liability as a result of any such that determination.
(f) The provisions of this section do not apply to farm livestock, poultry, gaming fowl or wildlife kept in private or licensed game farms if kept and maintained according to usual and accepted standards of livestock, poultry, gaming fowl, wildlife or game farm production and management, nor to the humane use of animals or activities regulated under and in conformity with the provisions of 7 U.S.C. §2131 et seq. and the regulations promulgated thereunder, as both such statutes and regulations are in effect on the effective date of this section.