Wolff v. State
87 N.E.3d 528 (Ind. Ct. App. 2017)
This Indiana case addresses the status of animals seized in conjunction with a criminal animal cruelty case. Specifically, the appeal addresses whether the trial court erred in granting a local animal rescue the authority to determine disposition of the seized animals. The animals were seized after county authorities received complaints of animal cruelty and neglect on defendant's property in late 2016. As a result of the charges, five horses, two mules, and two miniature donkeys were impounded and placed with a local animal rescue. Following this, the state filed a notice with the court that estimated costs of continuing care for the impounded animals. About a month later, the state filed an Amended Motion to Determine Forfeiture/Disposition of Animals, requesting the trial court issue an order terminating defendant's ownership rights in the animals. Alternatively, the state requested that defendant could seek to have his posted bond money apportioned to cover the costs associated with the animals' care. The court ultimately entered an order that allowed the rescue agency full authority to determine disposition of the animals after defendant failed to respond. In his current appeal of this order, defendant first claims that the trial court erred in giving the animal rescue such authority because defendant paid $20,000 in bail. The appellate court found that this money was used to secure defendant's release from jail and he did not request that the jail bond be used for the care of the animals. The court found that the legislature clearly intended the bail and bond funds are used for "separate and distinct purposes," so there was no way for the trial court to automatically apply this money to the animal care costs. Defendant had to affirmatively exercise his rights concerning the disposition of the animals pending trial, which he failed to do. As to defendant's other issue concerning an investigation and report by a state veterinarian, the appellate court found defendant waived this issue prior to appeal. The decision was affirmed.