Cost of Cruelty Too Often Borne by Animal Protection Advocates, Rather Than Animal Abusers

By on April 25, 2016 with 11 Comments By Wayne Pacelle

EDITOR’S NOTE: GOOD NEWS! The HSUS and the New York Blood Center have announced an agreement to provide long-term sanctuary for the Liberian chimpanzees. READ THE UPDATE »

In The Humane Economy, I look at the question of animal protection partly through an economic lens. I argue that the vast majority of dollars devoted to animal protection go to cleaning up the messes made by others – people who use animals for profit, but then abandon or discard them when they no longer consider them useful or valuable. Think of the homeless animals cared for by shelters. The former exotic pets taken in by big cat and bear sanctuaries when there’s no other place for them to go. The chimp sanctuaries and the parrot rescues that have to care for animals who will live for decades, long after labs or exotic animal dealers have discarded them. I wrote last week about the New York Blood Center abandoning chimps in Liberia, and now The HSUS is picking up the tab for caring for these animals.

This is our curse in the animal protection movement: cleaning up after callous people who exploit animals and leave them to rot. The cost to our cause is in the billions. And that’s precisely why we should have policies so that it is the people who exploit animals that pay the freight — not overtaxed, overburdened animal protection advocates and organizations.

Each year, The HSUS works with law enforcement on hundreds of animal cruelty and fighting cases, and we understand firsthand the heartbreaking cruelty endured by dogs, cats, horses, and other animals who depend on human care. We work with local agencies and organizations to help rescue thousands of abused and neglected animals and, since 2007, we’ve helped pass dozens of state laws to combat cruelty, including laws to make dogfighting and egregious animal cruelty felony offenses in all 50 states.

But there’s often an obstacle to enforcing state cruelty and fighting laws – the cost of caring for animals while the criminal case is prosecuted. When abused and neglected animals are seized by law enforcement, the very animals the state legislature wanted to protect when it passed anti-cruelty laws are often held hostage by drawn-out court proceedings. The rescued animals must sometimes remain in a shelter environment for months – or years – while prosecutors try to make cruelty charges stick in the courts. This long wait to find a new home is not only hard on the animals, but it is also needlessly expensive for taxpayers and animal agencies and organizations.

Tomorrow, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal is expected to take a big step to help abused animals in the state when he signs the State Taxpayer Animal Relief Act, SB 356. The legislation establishes a legal process so that anyone who has had his or her animals lawfully seized due to cruelty may be required to pay for the animals’ care while the cruelty case is prosecuted. If the defendant refuses to pay, he or she will have to forfeit the animals who can then be placed in a new home. It is a law that will serve well for animals, shelters, and taxpayers in Georgia.

Across the country, a patchwork of state laws inconsistently address the cost of caring for animals from cruelty cases. Sixteen states have sensible laws to help with a timely disposition of seized animals. About the same number have no such law. The rest have cost of care laws that simply aren’t effective. The HSUS is working to help ensure every state can take advantage of these smart laws that enable local governments to do the job of cruelty enforcement while saving animals and money.

Good cost of animal care laws shift the financial burden of caring for animals from town governments, animal shelters, and taxpayers to the animals’ owners. We believe it is unfair for local shelters and counties to have to pay the significant cost of caring for abused and neglected animals, when it is the owner who is legally responsible for their care.

In Georgia, there was a great coalition of groups coming together for the STAR Act – including the Prosecuting Attorneys’ Council of Georgia, Association of County Commissioners of Georgia, the Georgia Municipal Association, the Georgia Sheriffs’ Association, and the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police. There were also shelters from across the state that supported the legislation and could attest to the extreme cost of combating large cruelty and fighting cases. We are especially grateful to Senators Jesse Stone, Michael Williams, and John Albers, and Representatives Rich Golick and Jimmy Pruett. We’ve seen similar legislation passed in Washington state earlier this year, and a very effective cost of animal care bill is now on the Alaska governor’s desk.

Cost of animal care laws are a smart solution to the often significant cost of caring for abused and neglected animals. States have good reason to adopt such laws and we look forward to seeing fast change on this issue in coming years. Doing so will help us build a more humane economy, free of the externalized societal costs of animal cruelty.

Tell your lawmakers you support cost of animal care laws »

Animal Rescue and Care, Companion Animals, Humane Society International

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  1. Sue Mitchel-Runow says:

    I wholeheartedly applaud all your efforts. Yet in very many of these abuse cases, the owners are not financially solvent or responsible people either. Some are even on the lamb, evicted or mentally ill. It will be quite hard to get restitution from these people, adding even more court actions. It’s a very difficult issue for sure. How do you hope to deal with those who cant pay?

    • David Bernazani says:

      Sue: Wayne’s blog is about people who profit from animal cruelty– whether it’s laboratories, roadside zoos, puppy mills, circuses, dog fighters, etc. They all make money from exploiting animals, and hence have money that can be– and should be– used to care for those animals once they are retired or confiscated from their abusers.

    • de car says:

      i on my own have spent thousands dollars taking in spay/nueter find homes for abused homeless pets. those that chose to leave them behind dump them should pay.
      several times when i had to pay the rescue groups to take them plus give them carriers.
      i by myself went into collectors home 80 something cats remember seeing one tears in her eyes saddness in her soul, please help me. she was not one that was rescued
      never wanted to feel that way myself, i have felt it.
      The abusers, thoughs that dump thier animals need to pay for thier care and vet bills. not us thatare out there trying to make this a better world for animals.

  2. Ingrid Hernandez says:


  3. Annoula Wylderich says:

    Animal cruelty affects advocates, organizations and taxpayers. So, ultimately, whether or not folks are involved in the animal protection movement, they are still affected by those who commit egregious acts upon animals. A good reason why every single tax payer should push for charging perpetrators with the costs of care.

  4. John Napolitano says:

    Georgia Governor Nathan Deal just signed SB356 Animal Relief Act today!

  5. David Bernazani says:

    Here in California I worked in a county animal shelter where I befriended dogs who were consigned to live in kennels for months, alone, because their “owners” refused to surrender them while their cases were going through the courts. These were dog fighters and drug dealers, bad people who had no business laying claim to sweet dogs who probably went through hell with them.
    The worst and most heartbreaking part was, after the people were convicted, their dogs were confiscated and euthanized anyway– after months and months of being stuck in kennels, not even allowed daily walks outside. These were wonderful dogs who didn’t deserve their tragic fates.
    I fell in love with one but wasn’t allowed to adopt him because he was considered “unadoptable”– probably because he had occasional erratic behavior from being confined alone for so long.
    If these people had only been made to pay for the care of their dogs, they probably would have surrendered them from the beginning, and the dogs and us caretakers would all have a much happier ending. I hope this kind of law is soon enacted in every state. Thank you, HSUS, for working to make that happen.

  6. Audrey Williams says:

    We need tougher laws all these animals year after year that’s get abuse murder homeless some are place shelters than they are pick off by numbers kill by a needle or gas its all abuse are animals are victims of a crime they didn’t do yes we need tougher laws we need a change

  7. Mad as Hell says:

    Let me get this straight. Law enforcement can come onto someone’s property, grab their animals for any flimsy reason they want, charge whatever they want to care for the animals and drag out court proceedings for as long as they want, and they animal owner has to cough up as much money as demanded or give up their animal BEFORE THEY’RE EVER FOUND GUILTY???? What happened to the presumption of innocence? What about corrupt local officials who see trumped up animal abuse charges as a good way to make money?

    Look at the Upton seizure case in Indianapolis. He ran a board and training facility and bred high end German Shepherds. In 30 years of inspections he had never had a single violation, when suddenly AC swoops in with news cameras and claims he’s abusing dogs. He’s required to pay $6,000 a month to have his dogs cared for in pens smaller than the ones he had. Two of his dogs were pregnant and lost their litters and another died due to substandard care. And you’re expecting me to believe there won’t be a sudden run on “abuse” cases by AC groups trying to make bank on innocent animal owners just because they can. Or cute purebred pups that end up in shelters and adopted out for thousands because the owner “abused” them. I cry BS on 1% Wayne. The whole scheme stinks.

    • Sus says:

      To ‘Mad as hell’
      Hell is volunteering at almost any shelter or humane society and knowing that millions of dogs and cats are killed each year, needlessly, because of ‘high end breeders’ aka puppy mills and irresponsible neglectful so-called owners, who abandon their dogs and cats for amazingly silly reasons (a new couch and decor is one). Not to mention the abused dogs with nails curling under as long as your hand and cowering from people, with broken bones or sores, or those left to die of mange and dropped off at the inbox at night, likewise the pregnant bitches or the many batches of underage puppies. At least 25% of shelter/county dogs are purebred, so if AC groups truly wanted ‘innocent’ animals for money, there are millions already in the system! California alone spends, S P E N D S, over 250 million dollars/year on ‘unwanted’ shelter animals — that is a huge cost on society that could potentially use those resources elsewhere, if breeders were taxed according to the costs they impose of rescue organizations. Yes, there are deplorable, understaffed and under-funded county shelters, where some underpaid staff can become callous and inured to suffering after years of seeing so many sweet souls die. If this fellow from Upton was honorable, perhaps he should have ‘spung’ his dogs and placed them in private for-pay kennels — and/or given them up for adoption. I have no reason to disbelieve that the German Shepherds were sitting in their own excrement at the Upton facilities, as was alleged, because in these days, taking photos by phone is a no-brainer.

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