Forfeiture of Animals in an Animal Cruelty Case

A NYSHA Fact Sheet

  1. When police remove animals pursuant to 373(2), all the animals have to be removed from unhealthy or unsanitary conditions, or not properly cared for, etc. because police cannot leave any animals in such conditions. Therefore, all the seized animals are included if the impounding organization applies for a security posting.
  2. If a security posting is sought and granted — and the defendant does not pay it — the judge may via 373 (6)(b-2) order “the immediate forfeiture of the seized animal to the impounding organization…” If there were more than one animal seized, the forfeiture would apply to all of the animals for whom the impounding agency is requesting a posting not just the ones on which the defendant was arraigned.
  3. If for some reason a posting is not done, and the defendant is convicted (but has not surrendered the animals as part of a plea), the logic for not returning any of the animals is:
    1. Even if the DA chose to charge the defendant with only one or two charges (because it is pointless to write up dozens of Informations), the other animals seized cannot be returned because the convicted person caused the set of conditions from which all the animals were rescued. Not returning them is further supported by Section 353 which states “a person …who engages in, or in any way furthers any act of cruelty…or any act tending to produce such cruelty, is guilty of a misdemeanor…” No animals should be returned to a person convicted of animal cruelty because that would put the judge or DA in the position of breaking the law by committing an act which would “tend to produce cruelty” by knowingly placing animals into the hands of a person convicted of animal neglect/abuse.
    2. In addition, 374(5-a) states that in addition to any other penalty “….the convicted person…may be ordered by the court to forfeit ….the animals which are the basis of the conviction….” Because they were all seized pursuant to the conditions specified in 373, all the animals thus seized are the basis of conviction even though only a few representative Informations were created for use in the court case.

Section 374(5-a) is supported and supplemented by 374(5-c) which states “The court may additionally order that the convicted person….shall not own, harbor, or have custody or control of any other animals…..” It is clear from reading the two together that the intent of 374(5-a) is to not return to the convicted person any of the animals seized pursuant to 373 and further, that the intention of section 374(5-c) is to enable the judge to prohibit the convicted person from having any other animals.

This information was prepared by the New York State Humane Association. It is not intended to be legal advice, but rather information that we have formulated based on years of experience in animal cruelty cases. It has been reviewed for accuracy by two attorneys who are familiar with the NYS animal cruelty statutes.