Animals; posting of bond by owners of those abandoned or cruelly treated. (HB999)

Introduced By

Del. Rob Bell (R-Charlottesville)


Passed Committee
Passed House
Passed Senate
Signed by Governor
Became Law


Bond for abandoned or cruelly treated animals. Provides that unless he is determined by the court to be unable to post bond or that the posting of bond would present a substantial financial hardship, the owner of any animal held by a humane investigator or animal control officer for more than 15 days shall post a bond with the locality for the amount of the cost of boarding the animal. Currently, the requirement to post bond is pursuant to local ordinance, if any has been passed, and the bond begins to accrue at 30 days rather than 15 days. Read the Bill »


Bill Has Passed


01/08/2008Prefiled and ordered printed; offered 01/09/08 080659432
01/08/2008Referred to Committee on Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources
01/23/2008Reported from Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources with substitute (22-Y 0-N) (see vote tally)
01/23/2008Committee substitute printed 083970432-H1
01/24/2008Read first time
01/25/2008Read second time
01/25/2008Committee substitute agreed to 083970432-H1
01/25/2008Engrossed by House - committee substitute HB999H1
01/28/2008Read third time and passed House BLOCK VOTE (99-Y 0-N)
01/28/2008VOTE: BLOCK VOTE PASSAGE (99-Y 0-N) (see vote tally)
01/28/2008Communicated to Senate
01/29/2008Constitutional reading dispensed
01/29/2008Referred to Committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources
02/25/2008Reported from Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources with substitite (15-Y 0-N)
02/25/2008Committee substitute printed 083285432-S1
02/26/2008Constitutional reading dispensed (40-Y 0-N)
02/27/2008Read third time
02/27/2008Reading of substitute waived
02/27/2008Committee substitute agreed to 083285432-S1
02/27/2008Engrossed by Senate - committee substitute HB999S1
02/27/2008Passed Senate with substitute (40-Y 0-N)
02/28/2008Placed on Calendar
02/29/2008Senate substitute agreed to by House 083285432-S1 (98-Y 0-N)
02/29/2008VOTE: --- ADOPTION (98-Y 0-N)
03/04/2008Bill text as passed House and Senate (HB999ER)
03/05/2008Signed by Speaker
03/06/2008Signed by President
03/08/2008G Approved by Governor-Chapter 510 (effective 7/1/08)
03/17/2008G Acts of Assembly Chapter text (CHAP0510)


Robin Harrison writes:

My word! The provision for financial hardship has been removed in the version of this bill noted as "engrossed" on the House floor level. Further, I do not see any provision that the accused owner gets his/her bond back if deemed innocent by the court.

Anyone who can't afford the bond has lost their animals before they ever get to court! This is a free license for any overzealous enforcement authority or cash strapped locality to go about charging every animal owner they can find with animal cruelty and seizing their animals to pad their coffers. Does "due process" not ring any bells with Virginia legislators???

Scottee Meade writes:

This bill needs to die!

It is an open invitation to abuse by unscrupulous "rescue" groups and overzealous local authorities. Too many innocent people could lose their animals and their shirts before they even get their day in court.

We have already seen innocent breeders tricked out of their animals by self-appointed "inspectors" who conduct illegal searches and then threaten the owners with prosecution if they don't surrender their (purebred) animals, which are then sold at a profit by the "rescue" groups involved. This bill would only further that activity and make it even more profitable.

Roberta Pliner writes:

So, with HB 999, someone could walk onto your
property, seize your animals for any reason whether justified or not, and, if you can't
post bond, you don't get them back??? Wow!
What this looks like is a real big incentive
for animal control officers or any other law
enforcement or rescue workers to seize animals for any reason, because someone will buy those animals, or the owner will post a very high bond. The town or county doesn't lose either way, but the animal owner does.

Here I was thinking of vacationing this spring
in Virginia with my dog. I think not; I'd
be terrified to be traveling around the state
with my dog in a car.

I hope Virginia animal owners are scared
enough of HB 999 to immediately appeal to their
delegates and senators not to vote for it.


THIS BONDING BILL PASSED IN NC LAST YEAR AND IT HAS BEEN A GODSEND TO THE TAXPAYERS! Before it was passed, NO county could afford to house all the animals that were seized from dog fighters, cockfighters OR those unscrupulous irresponsible breeders & hoarders. NC's most famous case was NCvsBarbara & Robert Woodley! This case went on for years & at every level the state won!Voting YES on this Bill will turn out to be one of the best things VA can do for it's taxpayers! As with all the other animal bills, you will see that the ONLY folks who oppose it ARE THE BREEDERS & HUNTERS! LOOK AT THEIR TRACK RECORD! THEY VOTE A BIG NO ON ANY BILL THAT HAS THE WORD "ANIMAL" IN IT! You'd have to be deaf, dumb & blind NOT to see this! Their responses to these bills screams it loud & clear! "Get outta my pocketbook"!

Robin Harrison writes:

To the animal shelter (and LEGALLYBlONDE's - NC AR activist Karen Loveless perhaps?) complaint that "We don't get the money if we wait for the court to order payment following trial," the answer is "Then don't seize animals unnecessarily."

Kayce Cover writes:

There is no requirement for a warrant first, before the animals are seized. The government should not be able to come on your property and seize your legal animals more easily than it can come to look for illegal activities.

A "humane investigator" is not defined - our government is not to facilitate the illegal activities of animal rights infiltrators. Most jurisdictions do not provide sufficient training for Animal Control Officers to ensure that these officers can evaluate the conditions/status of unusual animals - for example, service monkeys. The relocation of some legally owned animals can be so stressful as to endanger their health and well-being. Such trauma can cause permanent illness and premature death. Animals may have special medical conditions or requirements that the confiscators will not provide for. Old-age or these special requirements may make an animal appear, to the inexpert, as being abused, when it reality, the animal is geriatric, or under management for a medical condition.

Cash is demanded from owners who may be blameless. There is no provision for return of the cash OR the animals, if the owners are found to be blameless or better, doing a good job.

This bill provides an incentive for the government to confiscate private animals to raise money. Instead, I am for due process where, if there is a question of animal care, a warrant must be issued, and there are provisions from the start for the safe keeping of the animals, the return of the animals, etc.

Notwithstanding the good intentions of the sponsor, this bill unduly undermines the rights of Virginia citizens.

Debra Thompson writes:

This amounts to ransom. A great way for over zealous agencies to procure animals and funds! Doesn't matter if your innocent or guilty, you still have to pay. Court cases can drag out if you choose to fight them, and the longer it takes to resolve, the more $$$$'s an animal owner has to cough up guilty or not. And this is due process? PUHLEESE! This is basically legalized theft. If someone is found guilty of the charges, then a penalty should be assessed....NOT before.

Mary Nagy writes:

This bill is a taking of rights from people that own animals. Warrantless searches, legally stealing our animals, etc... This is awful and if it passes, we definitely will not even travel through VA much less vacation there! Williamsburg, Busch Gardens, Virginia Beach, etc will be off my list forever. Not worth the risk of losing my dogs. There are way too many overzealous as well as downright crooked 'humane investigators' out there, and the risk to animal owners presented by this bill is dire!

Margaret Theresa Konomos writes:

In this bill, a "humane investigator" , animal control or law enforcement officer, can come onto your property, WITHOUT a warrant,and without you there, and "deem" that your animals are abandoned or neglected and seize them. Is this what Virgina has come to? While I don't support the negligence and poor treatment of animals, I oppose this bill in its current form. It sounds like another attempt to put the small farmer out of business. I have enjoyed my milk from the great state of Virginia. I am worried this would impact the years of hard work of the Virginia dairy and other livestock owners/farmers. This bill seems to allow the confiscation of animals with no regard for the responsible animal owner and farmer. It is shocking and disappointing to see that members of the house (representatives of the people!) have already passed this bill.

Lori Gibson writes:

Count me out as one of the visitors to VA if this bill passes. No way would I ever endanger my dogs and I will be more than happy to circumvent VA entirely when I travel east. What's a few more miles out of my way? You won't see any economical profit from me. This is nothing but legalized dogsnatching.

Ruth B writes:

Don't be deceived,this bill affects all breeders. Those with commercial kennels and those with a hobby kennel are treated exactly the same .This law as written would make no distinction!
You are at risk of having your dogs seized without warrant . You will not get your dogs back untill you post a bond.There is no allowance in this bill for return of your bond in event you are innocent of charges.This is a clear example of bad law without due process!I would be surprised if it didn't generate huge lawsuits if it passes.

Mike T writes:

What ever happened to a person Federal Constitutional rights? Search and seizure without a criminal warrant. if the cops cant go onto a dope dealers property without a warrant for "reasonable" action, then why a dog owner? "Evidence" gathered without a warrant can be thrown out of court. A simple writ of habeus corpus or an injunction for proof of "just cause" should easily have these cases thrown out. People, you may dislike each other, but your common enemy is PETA and the legislators lining their pockets with payoffs. Remember Senator Santorum of PA? He was voted out of office. United we stand, divided we fall. If they make this a Class B law, thats criminal law and therefore subject to the same rules and regulations of other criminal laws. Isnt there a lawyer amongs you? Why not sue the legislators voting on this law? Think! If an Afghani cam into this country and tried to search or seize your property, what would you do? Are these "suits" who set themselves up as "moral watchdogs" any better? Isnt it enough we must fear "bad guys" breaking into out homes, now we vote and give these people mandates to do it legally. While I cant suggest that people defend their homes against invaders, why not start doing something to the PETA and HSUS people. These people are high profile and have homes and cars the same as us. If they take your property, why threaten theirs. With all the people that hate them, the list of suspects could be any dog breeder or owner living in any state. Hell, I'd donate money to anyones defense that made these people fearful. What was that old expression,"cut the head of a snake off and the body will wiggle until sundown". Some people "talk the talk and some walk the walk", but what has happened to the spirit of red blooded americans allowing search and seizure to exist. Wasnt that one of the reasons we fought the Revolutionary War? What ever happened to slogans like, "Give me liberty or give me death."?
These people are not your friends, they are your enemies. They are at war with you. They want to "kill" your rights and privledges. Why not find a way to "kill" theirs? Quit whining and hiding damn it, fight these people.

Eric Johnson writes:

This amounts to a kidnapping and ransom. First the folks steal the animals. Then they charge money for assurance that you will get them back.

Gregory P. Thompson writes:

This bill allows "humane investigators" and law enforcement authorities to sashay onto any Virginia animal owner's property WITHOUT a warrant and seize their animals on the allegation of cruelty or neglect. Once seized, the owner is required to pay up to NINE ( 9) MONTHS bond for their animals' board or is forced to sign them away. The owner must still appear in court, regardless of his/her choice. It appears there is provision to return the animal(s) if the owner has paid bond and is judged innocent of any charges. HOWEVER, there is NO provision to return the bond money if the accused is found innocent. Can anyone say "DUE PROCESS?" Really, really STINKY bill. It has already passed our House and is on its way to/through the Senate.

Vickie Littleton writes:

What a nightmare this Bill would create for anyone wrongly accused of neglecting their animals. And it does happen. Most people would lose their pets, even though innocent of any wrongdoing, because they couldn't pay a board bill upfront for up to nine months--especialy for multiple animals. Ten dollars per day per animal is probably the least it would be.

If you love your pets, what good is it to be eventually found innocent, when your dogs have been seized and put to sleep at the local shelter?

Adam Tarshis writes:

This bill is great benefit to taxpayers and mistreated animals and has no negative impact on property rights. It simply shifts the burden of paying for the cost of housing an abused or mistreated animal to the accused instead of the city. Makes perfect sense. Most other states have already passed or are working on passing similar legislation.

Vickie Littleton writes:


the ONLY folks who oppose it ARE THE BREEDERS & HUNTERS! LOOK AT THEIR TRACK RECORD! THEY VOTE A BIG NO ON ANY BILL THAT HAS THE WORD "ANIMAL" IN IT! You'd have to be deaf, dumb & blind NOT to see this! Their responses to these bills screams it loud & clear! "Get outta my pocketbook"!
You make us sound like the bad guys. But, No. What it screams, is: "Animal Rights vilgilantes, keep your paws OFF my beloved pets!"

What use is mere money after your dogs are gone?

Vickie Littleton

Robin Harrison writes:

It makes sense that the "accused" won't get his/her money back even if judged innocent, Adam? That anyone can stumble right up and take someone else's animals with no warrant? Real sense of justice you possess, Comrade.

Very few states have seizure bonds like this in effect. I don't recall even NC having one as a previous poster claimed. NC does allow private groups to file in court to seize animals they believe to be abused. Almost as bad, but not quite.

Animal Rights zealots are working on many states to pass similar seizure bonds during this year's legislative session. Be prepared and beware!

Ungawa Power writes:

What is the pre-requisite for legislators before they are voted in? Isn't it reasonable to presume that people running for such office have at least basic knowledge of government, U.S. Constitution and law?

This bill violates the Fourth Amendment, US Constitution: "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."
Invasion of property without a search warrant is a trespass. Protection of property interests are the basis for this Amendment and acceptance of it is controlled by many cases. (U.S. vs. Jeffers, 342 US 48 (1951); Jones vs. U.S., 362 US 257 (1960).
The Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments (Section 1) guarantee no deprivation of property without due process of law. Due process of law is a process that, following the forms of law, is appropriate to the case and just to the parties affected. It must be pursued in the ordinary mode prescribed by law; it must be adapted to the end to be attained; and whenever necessary to the protection of the parties, it must give them an opportunity to be heard respecting the justice of the judgment sought. Any legal proceeding enforced by public authority, whether sanctioned by age or custom or newly devised in the discretion of the legislative power, which regards and preserves these principles of liberty and justice, must be held to be due process of law. (Hagar v Reclamation Dist., 111 U.S. 701,708 [1884] ); Hurtado v California, 110, U.S. 516,537 [1884] )
This bill is the cart-before-the-horse mentality, a violation of personal rights and Constitutional law. This is still America. Shame-shame on the legislators that are influenced by lobbyists that have an extreme agenda.

moonflower writes:

This bill allows animal rights activists to deprive ANYONE due process of the law and need for a warrent for search and seizure. Virginia representatives, take heed. Vote no.

Walt Hutchens writes:

Am I the only one that has noticed that this bill's number is 666 upside down? The mark of the beast is on it, and no wonder.

As I write this, HB 999 has passed the house and will be heard in the Senate Agriculture Committee, tomorrow, Feb. 18th. Let's see if clarifying the issues kicks off some more discussion.

First, HB 999 makes NO changes in powers of entry for various authorities. NONE. If you're reading the bill itself, remember that plain text is EXISTING law -- no point objecting to that. Italics are the new stuff, strikethrough shows text that will be removed.

By way of review, the powers of entry are: The state vet and his assistants as well as local ACOs and humane investigators can enter any BUSINESS premises where animals are kept during business hours. They may enter ANY premises where animals are kept if they get an appropriate warrant. They can do these things either with or without a complaint.

In certain urgent cases (ACO hears you beating your dog or knows that a dog fight is in progress) a warrant probably is not required to enter a residential premises.

All of that is existing law. If it makes you wonder why we need to "Do something" about 'puppy mills' then join the crowd! Every county has people who have the power to enter any breeding business that isn't inside a home, just to inspect. If he finds violations he can take further action. With probable cause (like a complaint from a neighbor of a terrible stench coming from a house), he can go to a judge, get a warrant, and go anywhere.

Any person can contact animal control and notify them of a violation.

Virginia law also already allows so-called 'seizure bonds' as an option by local ordinance. What HB 999 would do is skip past the local ordinance requirement, giving judges the power to require this 'bond' without local government action.

HB 999 would more accurately be titled "Animals, requirement for owners to prepay board at a confiscatory rate when animals are seized, whether seizure is justified or not."

The first time I read one of these laws, I was absolutely flattened. There's NO chance that this sort of thing is constitutional and I was amazed that any legislature would even consider, let alone pass such a bill. Think about it: Where else in law are you required to prepay at a rate of 1% to 10% of value per day for at least several weeks to keep your rights to your property, pending a jury trial?

Here's how it works: Your animals are seized. Following a hearing (to be held within 10 days of seizure) at which the judge believes you are guilty, you are told "If you don't agree then you can have a jury trial. Pay $10/day/animal in advance for as long as we tell you (up to nine months under HB 999) pending trial OR forfeit your ownership rights NOW."

(The $10/day is a typical figure: I have seen as low as $5 and proposals for $15; with a VERY FEW places using a much smaller actual shelter cost estimate.)

That so-called bond would be $9000 if trial was expected within three months and you had 10 dogs. But this is NOT a bond, because regardless of what you do the money is gone, up to the day of trial. You don't even get it back if you are innocent.

The shelter's view is "It's expensive to hold animals for long periods while waiting for a trial." Several facts are needed to appreciate this:

1. Except in extreme cases, shelters and animal control officers aren't particularly good at evaluating animals for welfare violations. Virginia requires almost NO training in animal husbandry for ACOs. Judges have no husbandry training at all. At these initial hearings, owners are often in shock, rarely well represented, and usually believe that there's just a misunderstanding and the system will clear them of wrongdoing.

2. Although our law says clearly that seizure is to be used only for cases in which animals are in imminent danger, this power is greatly overused. The most common case of overuse is seizure of all animals even though only a very few are in danger. Second to that is the seizure of animals that are ill but are already receiving good care. (It can take a dog a year to recover from mange, even with the best of care.) There are also cases in which the animal is receiving optimum care but looks ill to the untrained eye. (Elderly animals may look terrible even though they're receiving the best of care and are comfortable and happy.) Several breeds of dogs normally show ribs when in optimum weight.

Forfeiture of animals should of course be ordered by a judge on a finding of guilty to a charge indicating that the owner is unfit. The judge may also order payment of shelter expenses for housing of animals as part of sentencing. Shelters say "But if we wait for the judge to order payment, we don't get our money." The translation of that is "Most defendants don't have the money to pay us to hold their animals while exercising their right to a jury trial so they shouldn't have that right." Sorry -- Under our Constitution poor people have the same rights as rich ones.

3. Their great amount of discretionary power (because few owners know their rights or have money to fight unjustified seizures) is used by some animal control organizations to punish people they dislike. Pet breeders and rescuers are particularly at risk.

4. In general, animals do better when left in their own home or kennel than they do in the shelter, EVEN WHEN there are violations of care laws. Indoor cats routinely contract infectious diseases and die in the shelter; pet dogs not used to a kennel environment develop temperament problems and are exposed to more disease than would be the case at home. Seizure should be used strictly per the law, that is, ONLY in those cases where the animal is truly in immediate danger where it is, and the owner cannot or will not provide necessary care.

This cannot be said too strongly: Seizure of owned animals is not intended to be and should never be allowed to be used as a punishment for owners who fail to meet what animal control considers an adequate standard of morality. It is intended to save lives, allow treatment when urgently required, and end abuse, when nothing else is likely to work quickly enough.

5. As shelter intake numbers have declined over the last several decades, they have fewer adoptable animals to sell. Seizure -- especially from dog breeders and rescues -- offers a source of high quality animals. So-called seizure bonds (like that provided by HB 999) are an additional source of profit and thus a further incentive to corrupt practices.

In other words, the shelter's problem with the expense of seizures is almost entirely self inflicted and allowing them to demand that owners immunize them from consequences is very unwise public policy.

We had better animal law enforcement when most personnel had grown up around animals and had hands on experience with basic husbandry for common species. Discretionary powers were less often abused when animal control was done by municipal employees reporting to elected officials. But animal control today is often done by people who have no more hands on background than ownership of a pet cat, with essentially no husbandry training, reporting to someone whose background is ten years in animal control, and responsible to elected authorities only at shelter contract renewal time.

At the same time, the animal control job has changed from being almost exclusively picking up stray dogs to the enforcement of ever more detailed and specific standards of care. And we can no longer assume objective enforcement because there is often an anti-ownership and anti-breeding agenda.

Better animal control and fewer violations of both human rights and animal welfare standards will result when we reduce (rather than expand) the discretionary powers of what is too often an untrained and poorly led contract animal police force. Most of Virginia's animal control people and organizations are as good as most in other parts of the country but we shouldn't be empowering the abusers among them with laws like this.

Waldo Jaquith writes:

Am I the only one that has noticed that this bill's number is 666 upside down?

I think when you inverse 666 it becomes, like, the number of the puppy.