(b) Whenever a humane officer, pursuant to an investigation of animal cruelty, forms a reasonable suspicion that a minor child, or incapacitated or elderly person, is the victim of abuse or neglect or has a suspicion of domestic violence, he or she shall report the suspicion and the grounds therefor. In the event of suspected child abuse or neglect, the humane officer shall report to the local child protective services agency of the Department of Health and Human Resources in accordance with the provisions of section five, article six-a, chapter forty-nine of this code. In the event of suspected abuse or neglect of an incapacitated or elderly person, he or she shall report to the department's local adult protective services agency in accordance with the provisions of section eleven, article six, chapter nine of this code. In the event of suspected domestic violence, he or she shall report to the State Police in accordance with the provisions of article twenty-seven, chapter forty-eight of this code.
(c) Any person who interferes with, obstructs or resists any humane officer in the discharge of his or her duty is guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction thereof, shall be fined not less than one hundred nor more than five hundred dollars or confined in jail not more than thirty days, or both fined and confined. Any penalties imposed for a violation of this subsection shall be imposed in addition to any penalties the person incurs for cruel or inhumane treatment of any animal.
(b) The owner or persons in possession, if his or her identity and residence are known, of any animal seized pursuant to subsection (a) of this section shall be provided written notice of the seizure, his or her liability for the cost and care of the animal seized as provided in this section and the right to request a hearing in writing before a magistrate in the county where the animal was seized. The magistrate court shall schedule any hearing 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 is prima facie evidence of the abandonment of the animal. At the hearing, if requested, the magistrate shall determine by a preponderance of the evidence if the animal was abandoned, neglected or deprived of necessary sustenance, shelter, medical care or reasonable protection from fatal freezing or heat exhaustion or otherwise treated or used cruelly as set forth in this section.
(c) (1) If a hearing is requested and the magistrate finds by a preponderance of the evidence that the owner did abandon, neglect or cruelly treat the animal, or if no hearing is requested and the magistrate finds by a preponderance of the evidence, based upon the affidavit of the humane officer, that the owner did abandon, neglect or cruelly treat the animal, the magistrate shall enter an order awarding custody of the animal to any humane officer for further disposition in accordance with reasonable practices for the humane treatment of animals. After hearing the evidence, if the magistrate is not convinced the animal was neglected or cruelly treated, he or she may dismiss the action and order the animal be returned to the owner. If the magistrate finds in favor of the humane officer, the owner of the animal shall post a bond with the court in an amount sufficient to provide for the reasonable costs of care, medical treatment and provisions for the animal for at least thirty days. The bond shall be filed with the court within five days following the court's finding against the owner. At the end of the time for which expenses are covered by the original bond if the animal remains in the care of the humane officer and the owner desires to prevent disposition of the animal by the humane officer, the owner shall post an additional bond with the court within five days of the expiration of the original bond. During this period the humane officer is authorized to place the animal in a safe private home or other safe private setting in lieu of retaining the animal in an animal shelter. The person whose animal is seized is liable for all costs of the care of the seized animal.
(2) If a bond has been posted in accordance with subdivision (1) of this subsection, the custodial animal care agency may draw from the bond the actual reasonable costs incurred by the agency in providing care, medical treatment and provisions to the impounded animal from the date of the initial impoundment to the date of the final disposition of the animal.
(d) Any person whose animal is seized and against whom the magistrate enters a finding pursuant to this section is liable during any period it remains in the possession of the humane officer for the reasonable costs of care, medical treatment and provisions for the animal not covered by the posting of the bond as provided in subdivision (1), subsection (c) of this section. The magistrate shall require the person liable for these costs to post bond to provide for the maintenance of the seized animal. This expense, if any, becomes a lien on the animal and must be discharged before the animal is released to the owner. Upon dismissal or withdrawal of the complaint, any unused portion of posted bonds shall be returned to the owner. Upon a finding in favor of the humane officer, all interest in the impounded animal shall transfer to the humane officer for disposition in accordance with reasonable practices for the humane treatment of animals. Any additional expense above the value of the animal may be recovered by the humane officer or custodial agency.
(e) After the humane officer takes possession of the animal pursuant to a finding by a magistrate that the animal has been abandoned, neglected or cruelly treated and a licensed veterinarian determines that the animal should be humanely destroyed to end its suffering, the veterinarian may order the animal to be humanely destroyed and neither the humane officer, animal euthanasia technician nor the veterinarian is subject to any civil or criminal liability as a result of the action.
(f) (1) The term "humanely destroyed" as used in this section means:
(A) Humane euthanasia of an animal by hypodermic injection by a licensed veterinarian or by an animal euthanasia technician certified in accordance with the provisions of article ten-a, chapter thirty of this code; or
(B) Any other humane euthanasia procedure approved by the American Veterinary Medical Association, the Humane Society of the United States or the American Humane Association.
(2) The term "humanely destroyed" does not include euthanizing an animal by means of a gas chamber: Provided, That any county which has a gas chamber in operation as of the effective date of this section may continue to operate the gas chamber subject to the following: (1) The gas chamber shall be operated by an animal euthanasia technician certified pursuant to article ten-a, chapter thirty of this code; and (2) the gas chamber shall have been manufactured and installed by a person who regularly manufactures and installs gas chambers. The Board of Veterinary Medicine shall promulgate emergency rules regarding the inspection of gas chambers, pursuant to section fifteen, article three, chapter twenty-nine-a of this code.
(g) In case of an emergency in which an animal cannot be humanely destroyed in an expeditious manner, an animal may be destroyed by shooting if:
(1) The shooting is performed by someone trained in the use of firearms with a weapon and ammunition of suitable caliber and other characteristics designed to produce instantaneous death by a single shot; and
(2) Maximum precaution is taken to minimize the animal's suffering and to protect other persons and animals.
(h) The provisions of this section do not apply to farm livestock, as defined in subsection (d), section two, article ten-b, chapter nineteen of this code; 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.
(i) All persons or entities in the state performing euthanasia under this article shall register with the Board of Veterinary Medicine by December 31, 2009, in a manner to be prescribed by the board. The Board of Veterinary Medicine shall promulgate emergency rules relating to the registration of those performing animal euthanasia, pursuant to section fifteen, article three, chapter twenty-nine-a of this code.
(b) Any person who, with force, assaults, resists, or impedes any other person engaged in the reporting of abandoned, neglected or cruelly treated animals as provided for in this section is guilty of a misdemeanor, and, upon conviction thereof, shall be fined not less than two hundred fifty nor more than one thousand dollars, or confined in the county jail not more than one year, or both so fined and confined.
Note: WV Code updated with legislation passed through the 2014 1st Special Session
The WV Code Online is an unofficial copy of the annotated WV Code, provided as a convenience. It has NOT been edited for publication, and is not in any way official or authoritative.