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From the Dane County Humane Society:

The committee will hold a public hearing on the following items at the time specified below:

Thursday, March 11, 2010
10:15 AM - or upon adjournment of the Executive Session
415 Northwest
State Capitol, Madison WI

Assembly Bill 793

*Relating to: animals taken into custody.
*By Representatives Pocan, Berceau, Black, Brooks, Hebl, Pasch and Pope-Roberts; cosponsored by Senators Risser, Carpenter, Erpenbach and Miller


On June 14, 2006, the FBI executed a U.S. Department of Justice search warrant on the property of Robert Lowery, looking for evidence related to drug trafficking. Lowery was arrested on drug charges and held without bail. The authorities discovered and seized 48 pit bulls housed on the Lowery property – dogs that had allegedly been involved in dog fighting. While Lowery remained in custody, state law enforcement officials gathered the necessary evidence and charged Lowery and his wife Julie in December of 2006 with dog fighting under 951.08, Wis. Stats., a full six months after the dogs had been seized.

In accordance with a contract between Dane County and the Dane County Humane Society (“DCHS”), Lowery’s dogs were held at DCHS pending resolution of the criminal dog fighting charges. As the state and federal criminal cases proceeded, Lowery’s attorneys filed a petition under Chapter 173 of the Wisconsin Statutes (a civil statute) seeking the return of his dogs. In January 2007, the Dane County Circuit Court heard the case. Subsequently, in March 2007 the DCHS, Dane County and the Lowerys settled the civil matter, with the Lowerys agreeing to surrender the dogs in return for a dismissal of charges and a waiver of costs. From the day that the dogs were seized to the day of the settlement, DCHS incurred well over $200,000 in costs. This figure doesn’t include the cost of the original seizure or the attorney fees from the court action. As a result, Dane County included a special $100,000 appropriation in its 2007 budget specifically to help DCHS with the expenses related to the Lowery’s pit bulls.

As a result of this experience, DCHS and Dane County, in association with many other local governments, state prosecutors, humane societies, and non-profits located around the state that have experienced the financial and other adverse consequences associated with animal seizure cases, have sought to have Chapter 173 modified from its current form.

We are therefore introducing the following legislation in order to make these situations less onerous on county governments, private and public animal shelters. Among other things, the proposed legislation will:

1. Change current state law to provide clearer rules enabling a court to require that an owner of an animal who is the subject of a Chapter 173 seizure or a Chapter 951 criminal case, to pay for the reasonable costs of custody and care for the animal.

2. Change current state law to allow local animal shelters working under contract with a political subdivision and having custodial control of an animal impounded under Chapter 173 to directly petition a court for an early disposition of the civil matter.

3. Change current state law by setting reasonable time limits for the court to act on certain items related to any animal seizure and for the owner to respond to various steps in order to expedite the entire disposition process under Chapter 173.

4. Change current state law by removing the requirement that an animal alleged to have been involved in fighting be maintained in custody pending the outcome of any criminal charges, and instead allow that the animal be retained in custody for a period that is reasonable to allow the collection of evidence relating to the animal.


*AB-793/SB-580, Revisions to Chapter 173 (Animal Seizure Law)
*Summary of AB-793/SB-580, Revisions to Chapter 173 (Animal Seizure Law)

Please click HERE to see how you can help support this bill!

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