The state of Vermont has introduced House Bill 371 to criminalize animal hoarding and impose penalties on lawbreakers.
According to Veterinary Practice News, the bill defines an animal hoarder as someone who:
- Possesses five or more animals;
- Fails to provide adequate food, water, shelter, rest, sanitation, or necessary medical attention or transports an animal in overcrowded vehicles;
- Keeps the animals in a severely overcrowded environment; and
- Displays an inability to recognize or understand the nature of or has a reckless disregard for the conditions under which the animals are living and the deleterious impact they have on the animals’ health and well-being.
Vermont defines animals as ‘all living sentient creatures, not human beings.’ This means House Bill 371 addresses not just dogs and cats, but any type of animal that has the potential to be hoarded.
Under the law if passed, hoarders would be charged with animal cruelty and could spend a year in jail, pay a $2,000 fine, or both. Harsher penalties would apply to repeat offenders.
The law would give ‘humane officers’ authority to take an animal without a search warrant under certain circumstances involving the immediate health or safety of the animal. Humane officers would include:
- Law enforcement officers, auxiliary state police officers, deputy game wardens, humane society officers/employees/agents
- Animal control officers
- Any officer authorized to serve criminal process