TITLE 16

Health and Safety

Regulatory Provisions Concerning Public Health

CHAPTER 30F. ANIMAL WELFARE

Subchapter III. Enforcement of Animal Welfare Laws


(a) The Office of Animal Welfare within the Department of Health and Social Services shall enforce all animal cruelty laws in the State, except in cases of domestic agricultural animals specified in § 101(8) of Title 3, where the Department of Agriculture shall have primary enforcement authority. In cases of imminent danger, the Office of Animal Welfare and the Department of Agriculture shall have concurrent jurisdiction to seize and impound an animal and take any other necessary step to alleviate the imminent danger or preserve evidence.

(b) The Office of Animal Welfare within the Department of Health and Social Services shall enforce all dog control, dangerous dog and animal fighting laws, and laws concerning the maintenance of a dangerous animal in the State.

(c) The Office of Animal Welfare is a "law-enforcement agency'' for purposes of § 8901B of Title 11 and any other purpose relating to communication and access to criminal justice information.

(d) Animal welfare officers of the Office of Animal Welfare or Department of Agriculture shall be trained and certified pursuant to § 122(3)bb. of this title.

(e) Animal welfare officers of the Office of Animal Welfare shall have the power to investigate, search, seize, detain and arrest when investigating and enforcing animal cruelty and fighting, dog control, or dangerous animal laws.

(f) The Department of Agriculture shall have the power to investigate, search, seize and issue criminal summons when investigating and enforcing animal cruelty laws.

(g) Animal welfare officers of the Office of Animal Welfare and the Department of Agriculture shall have no police powers to investigate or enforce laws other than those related to animal cruelty or fighting, dog control, or dangerous animal laws.

(h) Animal welfare officers of the Office of Animal Welfare or the Department of Agriculture shall not be permitted to carry firearms while on duty as such.

80 Del. Laws, c. 200, § 2; 81 Del. Laws, c. 96, § 1.;

The constables of the several counties of this State, and the police force of the City of Wilmington, as well as all other places in the State where police organizations exist, shall, as occasion requires, assist the Office of Animal Welfare and the Department of Agriculture in the enforcement of all laws which are enacted for the protection of animals.

Code 1935, § 2556; 49 Del. Laws, c. 256, § 1; 77 Del. Laws, c. 118, §§ 1, 2; 78 Del. Laws, c. 282, § 1; 80 Del. Laws, c. 200, § 2.;

All fines, penalties and forfeitures, imposed and collected in any county of the State under every act relating to or affecting cruelty to animals, animal fighting, dog control, or dangerous animals, shall be remitted to the enforcing agency.

16 Del. Laws, c. 382, § 3; Code 1915, § 2239; Code 1935, § 2563; 3 Del. C. 1953, § 7905; 60 Del. Laws, c. 209, §§ 3, 4; 70 Del. Laws, c. 283, § 11; 80 Del. Laws, c. 200, § 2; 81 Del. Laws, c. 96, § 1.;

Any warrant, subpoena, summons, or other process issued in relation to animal cruelty and fighting, dog control, or dangerous animal laws may be directed to and executed by any trained and certified animal welfare officer of the Office of Animal Welfare.

18 Del. Laws, c. 246; Code 1915, § 2249; Code 1935, § 2573; 3 Del. C. 1953, § 7906; 60 Del. Laws, c. 209, §§ 5, 6; 70 Del. Laws, c. 283, § 11; 77 Del. Laws, c. 393, § 1; 80 Del. Laws, c. 200, § 2; 81 Del. Laws, c. 96, § 1.;

(a) Any trained and certified animal welfare officer working for the Office of Animal Welfare or the Department of Agriculture, or any law-enforcement officer as defined in § 222 of Title 11, may, in instances of alleged acts of animal cruelty or animal fighting and as provided for by the laws of Delaware relating to seizure of property, impound in an appropriate shelter, animal rescue or, if required, in an appropriate veterinarian facility, any animal subjected to cruel mistreatment or cruel neglect. Should the owner or custodian of an animal not be available at or near the premises where the animal is located, upon taking an animal under this section the agent shall leave in an appropriate place written notice to the animal's owner or custodian of such action. The officer shall take all reasonable action to insure that owners or custodians of an animal, impounded under this section, shall have received notice of such action as soon as possible and no later than 24 hours after the impoundment.

(b) An animal impounded under this section shall not remain in the custody of the State longer than 48 hours and shall be returned to its owner or custodian unless a complaint is filed within the 48-hour period in the appropriate court under the animal cruelty laws against the owner or custodian, except that upon good cause shown a court may permit a reasonable extension of the 48-hour period not to exceed 30 days. When a complaint is filed in the appropriate court, the impounded animal shall remain in the custody of the State pending the outcome of the action. If the owner or custodian is found to be in violation of the animal cruelty laws the court shall make a final determination as to the disposition of the animal. Should the complaint be withdrawn, prior to a court hearing, the animal shall be immediately made available to its owner or custodian.

(c) Upon a determination that probable cause exists to believe that the animal cruelty or animal fighting laws have been violated by the owner or custodian of any impounded animal, the State or its agent shall have the right to recover the costs of holding and caring for any animal impounded under this section from the owner or custodian of the animal. Upon impoundment, the State shall submit a detailed billing to the owner or custodian of the animal, listing the monthly costs of boarding, evaluation, veterinary and other costs associated with care. Notwithstanding any provision of this section or any other law to the contrary, failure of the animal's owner or custodian to pay these costs within 30 days of delivery of a detailed monthly billing will result in ownership of the animal reverting to the State and the State may determine the final disposition of said animal. The provisions of this subsection shall be applicable notwithstanding the final disposition of the criminal charges.

(d) An owner or custodian of an animal impounded under this section who is found guilty of cruelty to the animal, and the court orders the animal returned to such owner or custodian, shall, prior to taking the animal, reimburse the State or its agent its regular standard fees charged for the care of animals while in the State's custody plus any veterinary fees incurred for the animal during the period of impoundment. Failure of the animal's owner or custodian to pay such fees within 5 days after a finding of guilty will result in ownership of the animal reverting to the State. The State may then dispose of the animal in accord with its procedures for such disposition.

(e) Should an animal which has been impounded under this section expire while in the custody of the State, the animal shall, as soon as possible, be turned over to the State Veterinarian at the Department of Agriculture. The State Veterinarian shall take whatever action necessary, including necropsy if required, to determine cause of the animal's death and shall record such cause. The cause of death shall, if requested, be furnished to the animal's owner and to the court handling the complaint relative to the animal. Disposition of the animal's remains shall be coordinated with the animal's owner and, provided a complaint has been filed, with the court handling the complaint.

63 Del. Laws, c. 104, § 1; 70 Del. Laws, c. 283, § 11; 73 Del. Laws, c. 238, §§ 6-8; 79 Del. Laws, c. 374, § 1; 80 Del. Laws, c. 200, § 2; 81 Del. Laws, c. 96, § 1.;