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  • Kristina Bergsten

My dog was Impounded! Help!

If your dog or pet(s) was impounded, this is a very serious situation. Depending on the circumstances, you could be facing what is known as "forfeiture," or, at the very least, a very long and expensive stay at a local animal shelter (a.k.a. "doggie jail") for your pet.


If your dog is not accused of being aggressive or dangerous, you are most likely looking at an impoundment because of animal neglect, abuse, or cruelty charges. If that is the case, the city or state (or county) will seize your dog and hold it until the outcome of your trial. If you do not file an "impound contest motion" within 10 days from the date of the seizure, your dog will stay in "doggie jail" until the trial is concluded. If you do not pay the monthly "costs of care bond" (which can be very expensive), your dog will be deemed forfeited (i.e., given up) under the law and you lost all rights your dog, even if you are found not guilty following a trial. It is a very unfair law and the only way to change it is to appeal to your local state senator or representative, or local city council member, or file a constitutional challenge.


If your dog is accused of being aggressive or dangerous and was impounded, either the city will institute forfeiture proceedings against you, or you will have to file an impound contest motion (if you are facing state charges, not municipal charges). You face the additional challenge of trying to prove your dog was not aggressive or dangerous in order to get your dog out. If you lose at this hearing, ownership of your dog is transferred to the shelter and they can dispose of the dog however they want. Usually this means euthanasia because it is a liability to the shelter to adopt out dangerous dogs. Your best strategy is to negotiate that your dog should be transferred to a non-profit organization that specializes in training and re-homing "aggressive" dogs. You probably won't get your dog back, but at least your dog won't be killed.


In either scenario, costs of care must be paid 10 days prior to the expiration of the period to the animal shelter. It's very confusing, so make sure you pay attention to the dates you are given by the shelter because if you do not pay and do not pay on time, you lose your dog regardless of your guilt or innocence on the underlying charges. Again, it's very unfair and the only way for the law to be changed is to appeal to your local government official or file a constitutional challenge.


In short, you need an experienced attorney to help you get your dog back or save your dog from being euthanized. These are EXTREMELY difficult hearings to win and they must be done quickly and with very little information, so you want to make sure you have someone who is ready and experienced in these fights to get the best result for your dog.