Las Vegas Sun

June 24, 2017

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Nevada Senate OKs bill to give inmates choice on pet care

CARSON CITY — Corrections officials would have to ask Nevada jail and prison inmates what they want to happen to their pets while they're incarcerated under a bill state senators passed Thursday.

After one week of detainment, the proposal would give inmates the opportunity to authorize another person to take care of their pets and require government employees to transport the animals if they decide the alternate home provides adequate care and shelter.

Otherwise, officers would put inmates' pets in animal shelters.

"If they don't have someone who is willing to take and care for the animal, a family member, then they can be offered up for adoption," state Sen. Pete Goicoechea said of his proposal.

Government agencies would charge people they arrest for pets' room and board costs if the owners are later convicted.

The process could spare pets from being euthanized or given away.

Goicoechea, a Republican from Eureka, said he's aiming to ease the burden on county governments that must pay to care for those animals, and shield municipalities from lawsuits if the animals are put down or adopted.

The bill would apply to inmates' dogs, cats, horses and other domesticated animals such as canaries. It excludes livestock.

It is unclear who would be responsible for picking up pets of people arrested and detained outside the county where they live.

"I don't know how that would work," Goicoechea said. "There really isn't a mechanism in the law that addresses what would happen if you were arrested in another jurisdiction; this was actually each county trying to take care of their own issues."

Currently, local governments are responsible for boarding or euthanizing animals found at inmates' homes. They're not required to — and usually don't — involve arrested owners in that process.

One of the state's vast, rural counties has spent as much as $300,000 in one year to impound inmates' animals, Goicoechea said. Impoundment costs around $20 a day per pet.

"I brought the bill really for Nye County because they had some huge issues with it," he said.

The American Kennel Club opposed a previous version of the measure that additionally would have required people detained on animal cruelty charges to forfeit their pets if they fail to pay for animal care after two weeks.

Goicoechea removed that provision. AKC lobbyist Jennifer Clark did not respond to voicemails seeking comment on the amended bill Thursday.

State senators unanimously approved Senate Bill 371. It moves to the Assembly for consideration.

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