Collie Contraband: California Supreme Court Upholds Mandatory Disclosure of All Pets of Probationers — Great and Small

180px-hami-03300px-humongorThe 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.

For a copy of the opinion, click here.
For the story, click here.

8 thoughts on “Collie Contraband: California Supreme Court Upholds Mandatory Disclosure of All Pets of Probationers — Great and Small”

  1. round up them there goldfishes!!!

    tho i must admit, years ago i had 2 lovebirds. lily and herman(munster)herman was a sweetie but lily almost took my finger off once!

  2. JT: “The wheels of justice have caught up to hamsters.”

    Have they?

    Have they really?

    “The Hamster Did It: PetSmart Sued Over Diseased Hamster in Wrongful Death Action”

    No doubt the California Supreme Court is concerned about probationers stuffing said hamsters with explosives and thereby increasing the zone of danger.

  3. Overbroad laws = potential for abuse. And when there is potential for abuse, you bet it happens.

  4. Vince,
    I understand your comments, but this kind of step may be just the beginning in the state outlawing pets of any kind for parolees or as Prof. Turley suggested some probationer may be cited for a non-threatening pet. When it overbroad any legislation can be more restrictive than it needs to be to control the legislative issue that is the subject of the law. It may give the state too much leeway which will allow for abusive actions against the probationers.

  5. Although the court ruling seems overly broad in its application to any and all pets, including pet rocks, I do not see how the probationer was really harmed in any way by the simple duty to give notice. While the dissent argued overbreadth, the virtue of the decision is that it is not void for vagueness. It is very clear. If it is a pet, disclose.

    All the court required was disclosure of a new pet. It did not ban pets. There is nothing unreasonable about this. A landlord can reasonably require a fully law abiding tenant to disclose any new pets under a lease, so why can’t the probation officer get the same notification? The court reasonably held that the probation officer, not the probationer himself, ought to make the first call on the distinction between a combat pit bull and Peter Rabbit, and everything in between.

    Anyway, that is just the first call by the probation officer, and it can always be reviewed. So what is all the fuss about?

  6. The honorable court should heed the time-honored maxim that every dog is entitled to one bite.

    “No one knows your internet is on the dog.”

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