3-1721. Petition of seizure; notice of seizure; lien for expenses; forced sale; disposition of proceeds; nonliability of state; neglect or cruel treatment of equine; civil penalty; legal representation
Now that’s a mouthful, isn’t it? And the entire statutue runs over 800 words! So I’ll do a little paraphrasing, starting with boiling down the first sentence – which weighs in at 66 words! (It’s a good thing that a southerner’s education is dosed liberally with Faulkner!)
Essentially the first line says that any person who believes an equine is in poor physical condition because of neglect may petition the court to have the Department of Agriculture seize the equine and provide care for 15 days. There’s also a need for the person to verify the Dept of Ag has funds available to pay for the care through this period.
If the judge grants the petition, s/he will set a hearing date. At that hearing each party will present their argument as to why the horse is or is not in poor physical condition due to neglect. Please realize that I just put in an owner or someone making an argument for the seized equine into our scenario and that may not be the case. This situation could very well have been a horse without a known owner. But in this scenario, the judge then will decide where the horse winds up: going back to where it was, or becoming property of the Dept of Ag to be sold at public auction.
I want to specifically bring to light one other option provided by this statute in the situation where the owner is not awarded the equine back. In paragraph D you’ll find the following: if the equine’s condition makes its sale impractical, dispose of the equine in the most humane manner possible.
I see hay prices at feed stores are up to $18/bale and still rising right along with those non-core inflation items called food & fuel. Sadly I foresee during the course of the upcoming winter many horses potentially traveling down this last road. Having been neglected to the point of no return and having no one with the resources to provide long-term care, I fear many will ultimately be humanely euthanized by myself or others in the State Veterinarian’s Office. Not a thought I enjoy. But I believe it’s better than the alternatives of starving to death or dying of hypothermia.
The final point about this statute that I wanted to make is that this is a civil matter, not criminal. There is language specifically addressing civil penalties in addition to the loss of property the (now former) owner suffers. That penalty has a maximum of $750 per violation. Additionally it specifies that the county attorney may keep the equine if s/he considers it to be of evidentiary value in any criminal prosecution relating to the condition of the equine. In other words, the owner may well face criminal charges under ARS3-2910 after the civil proceedings are concluded.