The Animal Matters Hearing Board
The Animal Matters Hearing Board consists of five volunteer members representing veterinarians, breeders, humane society members, and the public. The Board conducts hearings and issues Orders to abate animal nuisances and to protect the community from dangerous animals. The Board also makes recommendations to the County Executive and County Council concerning animal issues, including animal-related legislation, animal regulations, operation of animal control facilities, and the animal shelter budget.
Members serve three-year terms, and are appointed by the County Executive and confirmed by the County Council.
The Board is not part of the Animal Services Division, but is an independent body created by Chapter 5 of the Montgomery County Code.
All hearings before the Board are open to the public. The Montgomery County law which establishes the Board and defines the scope of its responsibilities can be found in Chapter 5 of the Montgomery County Code, Sections 5-104 et. seq.
To read the code, click here.
For more information, contact the Division at 240-773-5925.
Types of Cases Heard by the Board
- Animal public nuisance cases
- Animal cruelty cases
- Vicious or dangerous animal cases
- Appeals from certain actions by the Director of the Animal Services Division
- Violations of the animal control shelter adoption contract
How to File a Case
To file a case, fill out a Request for Hearing application and submit it to the Board. To obtain an application, call the Animal Services Division at 240-773-5925. (Although the Board is a separate entity from the Animal Services Division, the Division provides administrative support for the Board.)
When the Board receives a Request for Hearing application, a hearing date and time are assigned for the hearing. Hearings are held during evening hours.
Each party may have a lawyer represent and speak for him/her if desired. The object is to give both the Complainant and the Respondent a fair chance to be heard. Each side may present witnesses or evidence to support their case. The proceedings are recorded on tape and all witnesses must be sworn.
After the hearing is adjourned, the Board meets in executive session to deliberate and reach a finding on the matter it heard. A written Finding of Fact and Order is prepared which is reviewed by the County Attorney's office for proper form and legality. Once approved, usually within 45 days, both parties are served copies of the order. Either party may appeal the Order issued. Appeals are made to the Circuit Court for Montgomery County.
Failure to comply with an order of the Board is a class A violation of the Montgomery County Code which carries a $500 fine for the first offense and a $750 fine for subsequent offenses. Citations are issued by the Animal Services Division. The Division or the complainant may also request a hearing on the violation in front of the Board. If a violation is proven before the Board, it may order new stipulations or require removal of the animal by the Division.
Tips on Presenting an Effective Case Before the Board
- Arrive a few minutes before the scheduled time for your hearing to ensure that the hearing can begin on time.
- If your witnesses are unable to be present they can submit written statements. Supply enough copies (eight copies are sufficient). Understand that the Board may not give as much weight to written statements as to in-person testimony.
- Avoid any repetition in witness statements or evidence.
- Witness statements or evidence presented must be relevant to the particular charges made in the case being heard.
- Remember that the entire hearing is recorded and a transcript will be made. Be polite and respectful -- personal attacks on the other parties or witnesses are inappropriate.
- If you wish to present videotape evidence, please submit a written request to the Animal Services Division at least 1 week prior to the hearing to ensure that video equipment will be available at the hearing.
- Prepare your case ahead of time. It is often helpful to write a brief outline of the points you want to bring to the Board's attention and to prepare a brief chronology of the events leading up to the hearing. Bring all supporting documentation, including medical or veterinary records, licensing or vaccination records for the animals that are the subjects of the hearing, and any other relevant information.