Monday, January 14, 2013

Gloucester, VA - Animal Control Code 3-15 Partial Conceded Arguments

We are continuing to investigate 3-15 of Gloucester Animal Control and looking at how 3.2-6503 of Virginia Law is applied for those clues.  Here is what we see so far.  Case law studies under 3.2-6503.

Applicable Case Law:
Settle v. Commonwealth, 692 S.E.2d 641, 56 Va. App. 222 (Va. Ct. App. 2010).
Facts: Charles E. Settle, Jr. was convicted in a bench trial of two counts of inadequate care by owner of
companion animals, pursuant to Code § 3.1-796.68, and one count of dog at large, pursuant to Fauquier
County Code §§ 4-22 and 13-1.  Witness testimony was sufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt
that the defendant, who was sitting in court in the witnesses' presence, was the same person with whom
the witnesses dealt on numerous occasions.
Holding:  Pursuant to Code § 3.1-796.115,all of the dogs at issue were seized from appellant's control
and placed in the care of local animal shelters. Additionally, the trial court declared three of the dogs dangerous pursuant to Code § 3.1-796.93:1. Settle was convicted of two counts of inadequate care by an
owner, in violation of Virginia Code § 3.1-796.68 and allowing a dog to run at large, in violation of Va.
Code § 3.1-796.128, In addition, pursuant to Code § 3.1-796.115, Settle was adjudicated unfit to own a
companion animal and his dogs.  Three dogs were declared to be “dangerous dogs” under Code § 3.1-
796.93.  Remaining dogs were ordered forfeited to the Fauquier County SPCA and/or the Middleburg
Humane Foundation.  Conviction affirmed.

Sentencing:  Settle was ordered to pay a total of $300.00 in fines and $423.00 court costs. The trial
court awarded a monetary judgment pursuant to the Middleburg Humane Foundation in the amount of

Hillman v. Commonwealth, No. 1211-01-3, 2002 WL 496982 (Va. Ct. App. Apr. 2, 2002).
Facts: Appellant convicted in trial court for failure to provide care for her animals under Code § 3.1-
796.68.  Appellant contends her conviction for these offenses in circuit court violated both Code § 19.2–
294 and the double jeopardy prohibitions of the United States and Virginia Constitutions.
Holding: Convictions for cruelty to animals in circuit court did not violate Code § 19.2–294 because
those convictions occurred as part of the same prosecution as her convictions for failure to provide care
for those animals. Appellant’s convictions for cruelty to animals after she already had been convicted for
failure to provide care for those animals did not violate double jeopardy prohibitions because the
offenses are not the same.  The failure to care offense is not included in the cruelty offense.
Sentencing: Individual was convicted of both a Class 4 misdemeanor under Code § 3.1–796.68(A)(7)
for the lesser offense of failing to provide “veterinary treatment to prevent disease transmission” and a
Class 1 misdemeanor under Code § 3 .1–796.122(A)(ii) for the greater offense of failing to provide
“emergency veterinary treatment.”

These two cases above are how 3.2-6503 have been applied on one site.  We dug for many hours trying to find more where 3.2-6503 or 3.2-6503.1 have been used and prosecuted in other counties around the state.    So far we have found only one case where 3.2-6503 and or 3.2-6503.1 were solely used but they were in Gloucester County and charged under 3-15.  No other cases we found were solely prosecuted under 3.2-6503 or 3.2-6503.1.  Others who have been charged with 3.2-6503 or 3.2-6503.1 had other animal control laws that they were in violations of.

  Based on what we have found around other localities in the state, we concede the proper use of 3-15 in it's new form that Gloucester County is seeking to approve.  For that we do sincerely  apologize and admit when we are wrong and we were wrong here.  What we are not conceding at this time is the way in which Gloucester County Animal Control has used 3-15 in the past.  State law 3.2-6503 is very broadly stated to the point of allowing anyone to be charged with a violation to this law, making it a black hole law, even though it is backed by 3.2-6500.  In which case, the real issue is the state law, requiring a better understanding of the state law by localities is then needed along with a more clearly defined set of rules on how it is used.  This then becomes a state problem that the state needs to address with all it's localities.

  Here is what really ticks us off about all of this.  Animals have more rights than humans.  Put those same laws on localities for the homeless in their communities and every locality will fail that test.  Go ahead and apply 3.2-6503 to homeless people in any locality.  The locality would fail the test but even worse, the homeless fail even more.  We enjoy animals as much as the next person, but we do not put animal rights above human rights.  No locality provides adequate food, shelter that is properly cleaned, potable water, adequate space, adequate exercise, adequate treatment and transportation and adequate health care for the homeless of their communities.  None.  Animals have more rights than humans.  Now that should make everyone sick.

  People who torture animals on purpose are sick and require help.  Not more abuse from the legal system.  People who are suffering because of our wonderful economy and can not afford all the proper care that once only a short time ago was not an issue, are now being called criminals.  Animal Control laws that keep expanding infringe on the rights of humans and are a parasite to human rights when overrun by higher rights for animals.  Yes, protect the animals, but in a fair manner.  Clearly define violations in a fair manner.  Broadly stated black hole laws open up abuse.  3.2-6503 is ripe for abuse and has been abused.  There are probably more false charges of animal control violations than real ones causing real issues with anyone even wanting to own an animal anymore.  Hope everyone is ready to become a vegetarian or import all our meat from Mexico and Canada.

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  What is the best solution we can come up with for this mess?  Just bail out the banks again and go back to sleep.  God save the queen.  Bless the Pope and remember that your commander in chief knows best.  Oh yes, and we are not attorneys and only attorneys can give you legal advice.  This post is not meant for using as a mouth wash and can not be taken as legal council or advice.  Also, the world ended on 12-21-12, so what are we still doing here anyway?

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