Can a court order a person convicted of a felony for abusing a dog to report to a probation officer about what pets he keeps?

People v. Quintero, 49 Cal. Rptr. 3d 315, 49 Cal.Rptr.3d 315 (2006).

Can a court order a person convicted of a felony to report to a probation officer about what pets he keeps?

Probably not

If there is no history of animal abuse or any good reason to report what animals the person keeps then it is not likely that the court can make such an order.

Can a court order a person convicted of a felony for abusing a dog to report to a probation officer about what pets he keeps?

Yes

Can a court order a person convicted of a felony to report to a probation officer about animal vicious dogs he may keep in his home?

Yes

SUMMARY OF FACTS

On September 20, 2005, defendant was working on car when he was approached by sheriff’s deputies. The deputies suspected defendant was under the influence of drugs and defendant admitted he was on probation. The deputies conducted a probation search of the car and found methamphetamine inside. Defendant then admitted the drugs were his. Defendant pleaded guilty to one felony charge of possession of methamphetamine, in violation of Health and Safety Code section 11377. The trial court granted probation with certain terms.
Terms of probation required defendant keep the probation officer informed of his place of residence, his cohabitants and his pets. Defendant’s attorney objected to the condition concerning pets. The trial court overruled the objection. Defendant appealed the court’s order.

COURTS OPINION

Probation is an act of clemency allowing an eligible convicted person limited freedom in lieu of incarceration. The purpose of probation is rehabilitation of the offender. In granting probation, the primary considerations are: `the nature of the offense; the interests of justice, including punishment, reintegration of the offender into the community, and enforcement of conditions of probation; the loss to the victim; and the needs of the defendant.

The sentencing court has broad discretion to determine whether an eligible defendant is suitable for probation and, if so, under what conditions. The courts “have broad discretion to impose conditions to foster rehabilitation and to protect public safety pursuant to Penal Code. That broad discretion “nevertheless is not without limits.” As with any exercise of discretion, the sentencing court violates this standard when its determination is arbitrary or capricious or exceeds the bounds of reason, all of the circumstances being considered. A condition of probation must serve a purpose specified in the Penal Code section 1203.1.

The reasonableness of a particular condition depends upon all of the circumstances being considered. The Supreme Court has interpreted Penal Code section 1203.1 to require that probation conditions which regulate conduct not itself criminal be reasonably related to the crime of which the defendant was convicted or to future criminality. In this case the condition in question relates to ownership of pets, a matter which is in itself not criminal. Thus, such a condition must satisfy the requirement that it be reasonably related to the crime of which the defendant was convicted or to future criminality.

Defendant’s ownership or contact with a pet of any kind had nothing to do with the crime of which he was convicted. Defendant had drugs in his car, but there was no animal present and there was no reason to think that any animal had anything to do with defendant’s possession of the drugs. Having a pet is not in itself a crime and the harboring of pets has been recognized as an important part of our way of life.
Pet ownership, of itself, is not indicative and its not related to future criminality. There was no reason to think that defendant had committed, would commit, or was likely to commit any crime relating to ownership of or access to any animals whatsoever.

The People never explain how knowledge about defendant’s pets, if any, could improve the probation officer’s ability to supervise defendant. There is no logical connection between the probationer’s, or a coresident’s, possession or ownership of a pet which could lead to future criminality in the same way that human interpersonal relationships might. The reference to officer safety, that the concern apparently addressed is whether there might be a dangerous animal, such as a vicious attack dog, at defendant’s residence.

The purpose of officer safety is to permit the probation officer to reasonably supervise defendant so as to prevent future crimes. Prevent injury to the officer from a dangerous animals, is not met by the condition imposed. First, the keeping of harmless animals, such as a goldfish or a hamster, has nothing to do with officer safety. Second, as written, the probation condition impinges on defendant’s liberty, privacy, and associational interests. Defendant could be imprisoned for violation of his probation if he fails to inform the probation officer of the presence of any pet, including, again, such innocuous animals as a goldfish or a hamster. Defendant’s probation could be violated if he fails to give written notice 24 hours in advance of any changes. Defendant could be subjected to violation proceedings for such conduct as failing to predict a pet’s death, or if he is unaware that a resident has a pet. Third, assuming that a dangerous animal was present in the residence, giving 24 hours written notice of any changes regarding pets would not do anything to enhance officer safety.

Virtually all the cases of pet probation conditions involve convictions of animal cruelty, harboring a vicious pet, or some other offense in which an animal was actually involved. The genuine concern to be addressed by the probation condition, is whether a probation officer making a home visit or conducting a probation search will be able to do so without being at risk from a dangerous animal, such as a vicious dog. The probation condition here is not tailored to meet that objective. A probation condition is constitutionally overbroad when it substantially limits a person’s rights and those limitations are not closely tailored to the purpose of the condition. To the extent that the generic pet condition here is not tailored to meet that legitimate objective, it is not related to defendant’s offense or to his future criminality. It therefore fails to meet the test of reasonableness and is invalid.

Here no one had any reason to think that defendant here owned a pit bull or a tiger, or for that matter a goldfish, a golden retriever, a tadpole, or a tabby cat. If facts could have been brought to show that a defendant is likely to have, or to live on premises that have, a dangerous animal, then there might be some justification for a probation condition narrowly tailored to avoiding the anticipated danger. But the condition imposed, which related to all pets without limitation, was overbroad and unreasonable.
The trial court is directed to strike the reference to “pets” in probation condition
The trial court may modify the terms of probation to include a condition narrowly tailored to address concerns about dangerous animals when probation officers conduct home visits.