Animal Control Officers Gain Protections as Governor Signs Bill For Access to Criminal-History Information

| by Phyllis M Daugherty

Assemblywoman Beth Gaines (R-Roseville) announced on September 22 that Governor Brown has signed into law her legislation (A. B. 1511) to provide greater protections for animal control officers in California.

Prior to AB 1511, animal control officers who were called to assist animals have often been placed in a situation of  grave danger because a dog owner or other person known to be on the premises has a criminal history of violence or a vengeance toward law-enforcement officers.  They have had no legal mechanism by which to obtain a criminal-background summary which would alert them that they should have police officers or sheriff’s deputies accompany them for their personal safety and the safety of the animals or other humans in the immediate vicinity. 

AB 1511 arose out of the tragic death of Sacramento County Animal Control Officer Roy Curtis Marcum in 2012. Officer Marcum responded to a call at a supposedly vacant property to retrieve abandoned animals after the eviction of the owner.

As Officer Marcum approached the house, he was tragically shot and killed allegedly by the owner, who had returned to the property and was inside, unbeknownst to the bank which had foreclosed on the property.  The former owner was subsequently arrested and is awaiting trial for murder. 

Charlotte Marcum-Rush, mother of Officer Marcum was determined that her son’s death would not be in vain.   “AB 1511 will hopefully help prevent future tragedies like the one that took the life of my son,” she said.


AB 1511 allows animal control officers, who do not usually carry firearms, to request criminal history information upon showing a compelling need to the Department of Justice and to local law enforcement. This tool will help prioritize law enforcement resources to be made available for animal control officers to help keep them safe when they are called out to suspected dangerous situations.

Attorney Harold  Holmes, who served as a police officer for 20 years before entering the field of animal control,  had a key role in working with Assemblywoman Gaines and her staff to develop language for AB 1511.   

He provided the following perspective on the need for and important benefits of AB 1511: 

“California’s ACOs are no longer mere “dog catchers” chasing strays. They enforce State and local laws pertaining to animals, protecting both public safety and animal welfare.  In 2012, the tragic on-duty death of an ACO was the impetus for this effort and one which we hope will not be repeated.

“Officer Marcum was an experienced officer.  Had he been able to check the background of the former resident, he might have been forewarned that the owner was known to have firearms and he could have requested a police officer for backup and assistance.  

“Most ACOs don’t carry firearms, stun guns, or other personal protection devices.  As law enforcement officers ACOs urgently need this criminal background information to safely and properly serve the public.

“AB 1511 will not give unfettered access to confidential information to unqualified individuals. ACOs will still need to meet all of DOJ’s requirements for access to confidential criminal history information. 

"I am grateful to Assemblywoman Gaines for her support of animal control officers and their transition to becoming recognized as law enforcement professionals.

“While it does not remove any of the need for constant awareness and personal concern for an officer’s safety, AB 1511 is a vital tool for animal control officers who frequently risk their personal welfare to stop the suffering and save the lives of voiceless animals unable to protect themselves from harm."

A.B. 1511 will become effective on January 1, 2015.  The entire bill can be viewed at


Media Release - Office of Assemblywoman Beth Gaines (Release Date: 9/22/14) GAINES' BILL TO PROTECT ANIMAL CONTROL OFFICERS SIGNED INTO LAW BY GOVERNOR

Personal Interview and Approval for Submission by Attorney Harold Holmes  (9/22/14)

Sources: CBS, LegInfo