The California Supreme Court has ruled that probationers must disclose any pets — great or small — in their possession or risk going back to prison. In a 5-2 ruling, Chief Justice Ronald George held that
“[p]ets residing with probationers have the potential to distract, impede and endanger probation officers.” The ruling includes anything from a goldfish to a hamster to a Rottweiler. Even Angelfish and Lovebirds must register. The wheels of justice have caught up to hamsters.
The court was most concerned with dogs, but refused to limit its ruling — leaving it up entirely to the probation officers whether pet turtle is a threat to personal or public safety. Some of these pets can be deceptive like a pet mocking some officer “Am I a Clownfish, do I make you laugh.”
Dissenting Justice Joyce Kennard (who was joined by Justice Carlos Moreno) was left in mocking disbelief: “Jaws the goldfish, Tweety the canary and Hank the hamster,” she noted, are now presumptive probation threats. She objected that “[m]ost pets – including domestic cats, tropical fish, and songbirds like canaries – present no conceivable risk of impairing or interfering with probation supervision.
Of course, Kennard is probably unaware of recent statement of Karl Lagerfield that we must wear fur to protect ourselves from the mink menace and rabbit beasts.
The defendant Alejandro Olguin pleaded guilty in 2005 to two counts of drunken driving, with previous convictions, and was sentenced to a year in jail and three years of probation. He challenged the requirement to notify his probation office within 24 hours of any new acquisitions.
I can certainly see the point of the majority, but I remain concern that some probationer is going to be held in violation for a small non-threatening pet. It seems like the rule could have been more narrowly tailored — or groomed — to fit its worthy purpose of protection probation officers.