Family planning money at risk
Family planning money at risk

Sen. Deb Fischer has two dogs, a border collie named Duchess and Jack, a lab mix. They are her companions, her pets. But they are also her property under state law. And Fischer doesn’t think the animal police should be able to take her property without really good reason. More Session 2006 stories in Legislature | Blog at Around the Rotunda

The Valentine senator sponsored a bill (LB885) supported by the Nebraska Breeders Association that would make it more difficult for law enforcement officers to impound animals because of suspected abuse.

“I do not condone animal abuse in any way. It is abhorrent and must be punished. I am not trying to sabotage the Humane Society or any other animal control group,” said Fischer, whose bill has raised an avalanche of e-mail from objectors.

The dog breeders cited several cases from other states where they believe overzealous animal control officers have seized animals that were not being abused or neglected.

The bill closes loopholes that have been used in other states to “wrongly confiscate animals,” said Clem Disterhaubt, a breeder from Stuart and president of the Nebraska Breeders Association.

But the bill would make it impossible for animal control to rescue animals from abusive situations, according to Bob Downey, executive director of Lincoln’s Capital Humane Society. Law enforcement could impound animals only if they are in life-endangering situations, under the measure.

That wouldn’t likely include an owner who kicks his dog, said Downey.

It wouldn’t cover taking a razor blade and removing the ear. “That does not endanger the animal’s life, though it is certainly mutilation and has to be painful for the animal,” he said.

People on both sides of the issue shared stories of abuse in the public hearing before the Legislature’s Judiciary Committee Wednesday.

Disterhaubt told about a breeder in Sioux Falls, S.D., whose 67 dogs were confiscated based on a report of a thin Italian greyhound, which are normally thin. The woman spent more than $6,000 on legal costs and many of her dogs were adopted out to other people before the case was resolved, he said. The breeder was found not guilty of most of the charges, yet she lost most of her dogs and her livelihood, he said.

“Basically they (her dogs) were stolen,” said Disterhaubt.

He called the bill proposed by Fischer,  a “common sense bill that provides reasonable powers to confiscate animals.”

The bill was opposed by more than a dozen people, many representing law enforcement and animal control groups.

The bill would likely stop animal control work in Lancaster County, according to Sheriff Terry Wagner in an interview about the bill. 

The bill, as written, would require the state or local government to pay the owner’s attorney fees, and costs of impoundment if the owner wasn’t found guilty of abuse.

“We just wouldn’t seize any animals rather than risk the financial exposure for liability,” he said.

Reach Nancy Hicks at 473-7250 or nhicks@journalstar.com.

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