By Scott M. Badami originally posted on January 22, 2018.

Many times the cases with what look like the most egregious set of facts are the ones that get the most publicity. To that end, a fair housing case in California just settled with the owner of several apartment complexes and rental homes agreeing to pay $100,000 to conclude a disability discrimination action involving emotional support animals.

The complaint (which started as an administrative action with HUD filed by a local fair housing advocacy group) asserted that the apartment owner sent a letter to his residents stating he did “not like to deal with pets of any kind.” The letter contained no exceptions for assistance animals. Next, the defendant sent letters to the residents asserting that a flea problem existed and his solution was to ensure all pets were gone.  Or that the residents had to send letters from a veterinarian certifying that their animals did not have fleas. He then sent eviction notices to a handful of residents with pets and ultimately evicted two residents with emotional support animals.

In addition to the $100,000, the defendant agreed to participate in fair housing training, adopt policies for reviewing reasonable accommodation requests, and provide three years of semi-annual reports to the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing detailing reasonable accommodation requests and the resolution of the requests. The money includes damages to the former residents as well as investigatory costs and attorney’s fees.

The takeaway: Yes, you can prohibit pets at your apartment community. No, you cannot prohibit appropriately medically verified service and/or emotional support animals. If you are uncertain over this provision in the law, I suggest you reach out to a lawyer like me for some fair housing training.

Just A Thought.

The lawsuit filed against SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment, Inc. (SeaWorld) in the Northern District of California, styled Marc Anderson, et al. v. SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment, Inc. has been ongoing since May 14, 2015.

The Court recently ruled on SeaWorld’s Motion for Summary Judgment, which it granted in part and denied in part.  Marc Anderson, et al. v. SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment, Inc., No. 15-02172, slip op. (N.D. Cal. Feb. 20, 2018).

As a reminder, three plaintiffs brought individual and putative class claims for various alleged violations of California’s False Advertising Law and California’s Unfair Competition Law based on allegations that Plaintiffs relied on statements from SeaWorld about their care of animals before making certain purchases.

The Court denied SeaWorld’s Motion on the issue of standing which would have put an end to the litigation (unless the decision was appealed).  The Court stated, “[i]n a class action, standing is satisfied if at least one named plaintiff meets the requirements.”  Id. (citing Bates v. United Parcel Service, Inc., 511 F.3d 974, 985 (9th Cir. 2007).  The Court found that SeaWorld “failed to meet its burden on the question of whether [Plaintiff] Anderson has standing to seek injunctive relief . . . because the testimony . . .presented on this issue relates to whether Anderson would purchase tickets to SeaWorld in the future; not whether he would purchase SeaWorld merchandize if he could rely on its advertising.”  Id. (citations omitted).  Since Anderson purchased merchandize, the Court held the argument was faulty.  As to the other two Plaintiffs, the Court held that it “cannot make credibility determinations at this stage of the proceedings” which was the basis of SeaWorld’s evidence.

However, the Court granted, in part, SeaWorld’s Motion on [Plaintiff] Anderson’s claims, stating

[i]n order to survive SeaWorld’s motion, Anderson ‘must point to specific facts indicating that [he] actually saw the misrepresentations about which’ he complains, ‘and that those misrepresentations were ‘substantial factor[s]’ in’ his decision to purchase the Shamu toy.  Id. (citations omitted).

The Court concludes that, like the plaintiffs in In re iphone, Anderson has not met his burden to overcome Sea World’s motion to the extent his claims are premised on the mother-calf separation statement . . . Anderson has not shown that he saw the mother-calf separation statement and, therefore, he could not have relied on that statement when he purchased the Shamu toy.  Id. (citations omitted).

However, the Court held that, when considering the entirety of Anderson’s testimony, “the record is sufficient for a reasonable juror to find that if Anderson had known what he contends to be the truth about orca lifespans in captivity, in all reasonable probability he would not have purchased the Shamu toy,” thereby granting in part and denying in part SeaWorld’s motion on Anderson’s claims.

As to Plaintiff Nelson, the Court concluded that “Nelson has put forth sufficient evidence to create a triable issue of fact about whether she suffered an economic injury.”  The Court was “not willing to find as a matter of law that Nelson lacks standing simply because her husband turned over the funds that were used to purchase the tickets” and that therefore Nelson did not suffer an economic injury.

The Court found sufficient evidence, at this point, to deny SeaWorld’s motion claiming that Nelson did not rely on SeaWorld’s statements before her husband purchased tickets to SeaWorld, despite Nelson being unable to identify where or when she actually saw those statements.

Finally, the Court denied the motion claiming that Plaintiff Morizur had “abandoned her claim for restitution because she testified that she does not ‘care about the money’; is not ‘in this for the money’; and is asking the Court to give her ‘0.00 dollars.’”  Id.

The Court did invite SeaWorld to ‘“attempt to impeach [Plaintiffs] . . . at trial with prior statements’ it believes ‘are inconsistent . . .”  Id.

I am sure SeaWorld will do just that.

Journey on.

In the wake of mass shootings, legislators across the country have been introducing bills to address the tragic and needless loss of life-some good, others not so much.

In New Jersey, a set of sister bills (S2239 and A3693) have been introduced that would prohibit possession of a firearm by any person convicted of “any crime or offense constituting animal cruelty enumerated under chapter 22 of Title 4 of the Revised Statutes [the Statute].”

While there are certainly some offenders that should be considered dangerous felons, proposed amendments like these that impact all found liable under the Statute sweep too broadly.

For example, some shelter managers and staff have been accused of animal cruelty for violations of the Department of Health’s shelter regulations.  Arguably, a violation of such a regulation falls outside the cruelty statute, but it is common practice in the State to issue summons citing the animal cruelty statute for alleged violations of other statutes.

Historically, the New Jersey Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals issued citations to horse owners after stopping them when traveling on State roads without a Coggins test report, which is a violation of the State agriculture laws, and has nothing to do with animal cruelty.  Fortunately, the enforcement authority of the NJSPCA has since been rescinded.

The individuals accused of animal cruelty described above often pleaded guilty to a single count of animal cruelty, which to date, has few negative long lasting consequences.  Notably these are not the type of individuals who intentionally harmed animals and do not pose a risk that would warrant a lifelong ban on gun ownership.  So these proposed gun bans, like animal cruelty registries that are similarly overly broad should not be applied to all animal cruelty offenders.

This is yet another reason why the outdated, antiquated Statute, N.J.S.A. §§4:22.1 – 4:22-56, first enacted in 1868, rife with undefined terms and provisions, should be revamped.  As described in the State Commission of Investigation’s Report (SCI-2000) about the NJSPCA, published in 2000.  “Some statutory provisions are archaic and nonsensical.  Some of the provisions that were enacted over 100 years ago have not been implemented for most, if any of the 20th Century.”  SCI-2000, at p. 11.

At the same time, we need a much greater understanding about people who knowingly and intentionally harm, torture and/or kill animals and those who exhibit hoarding behavior.  The former, include some who go on to inflict violent acts against other people.  These offenders are dangerous.  The latter-hoarders-often believe they are helping the animals who, never the less, suffer under their care.  Much more research is needed to study “hoarding” to help identify the initial signs of this disorder and hopefully intercede before animals are harmed.

The FBI’s new data collecting and tracking program that now includes some acts of animal cruelty will help quantify, for the first time, how many acts of animal cruelty have been committed.

On January 1, the Bureau’s National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) began collecting detailed data from participating law enforcement agencies on acts of animal cruelty, including gross neglect, torture, organized abuse, and sexual abuse. Before this year, crimes that involved animals were lumped into an “All Other Offenses” category in the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program’s annual Crime in the United States report, a survey of crime data provided by about 18,000 city, county, state, tribal, and federal law enforcement agencies.  Tracking Animal Cruelty FBI Collecting Data on Crimes.

Clearly, more has to be done to protect animals and humans.

By Scott M. Badami originally posted on February 27, 2018.

It is clear that just about all (if not all) of the federal, state, and local fair housing agencies are dealing with the exponential growth of online medical verifications for emotional support animals (ESA’s). I have addressed any number of ESA issues in this space. Professional apartment management companies continue to look for the appropriate sweet spot of ensuring that everyone with a legitimate disability is granted the accommodation they need, while at the same time raising appropriate questions about medical verifications that appear to have been purchased online after a few clicks of a computer mouse (or now just on a smart phone) and a $69.99 charge on a credit card (or perhaps $125 if you need the letter overnight).

Many of my clients now seek supplemental information whey they receive what appear to be the online ESA form letters. I have a drawer full of the same letter, signed by some of the same online providers. In return, I get nasty grams from the online providers concluding my clients are violating the fair housing laws because they did not simply accept their verification as presented. I don’t mind taking the heat, but it is always good when a governmental entity blesses our efforts to confirm that medical verifications are legitimate.

To that end, the Virginia Real Estate Board and Fair Housing Board issued a Guidance Document evaluating Reasonable Accommodation Requests for Assistance Animals. Addressing the reliable medical verification concern, the guidance provides that professional apartment management “should not be daunted by the prospect of potential litigation into accepting dubious verifications limited to vague statements of how an assistance animal would benefit the requester, but rather should insist on supplemental credible confirmation of [an] underlying disability. As with any other reasonable accommodation request, housing providers are absolutely within their rights to focus first on establishing the legitimacy of the requesting party’s disability status as defined by fair housing law.” That is all we want.

The Guidance further confirms that housing providers “may request that verifiers authenticate all or some of the following information to help evaluate their reliability and knowledge of the requester’s disability.” As such, I continue to believe we are well within our rights to continue to seek information concerning the:

  • General location of where the care was provided as well as the duration of the care (such as the number of in-person sessions within the preceding year);
  • Whether the verifier is accountable to or subject to any regulatory body or professional entity for acts of misconduct;
  • Whether the verifier is trained in any field or specialty related to persons with disabilities or the particular impairment cited; and/or
  • Whether the verifier is recognized by consumers, peers, or the public as a credible provider of therapeutic care.

Will guidance like this stop the highly questionable ESA medical verifications? No. But let’s hope our efforts to seek supplemental information when something looks like it has been purchased online continue to be validated.

Just A Thought.

Equine herpes virus-1, a sometimes deadly virus that can cause myeloencephalopathy in some infected horses (Equine Herpesvirus Myeloencephalopathy or EHM), has surfaced at one horse farm in Union County, NJ, as reported by the New Jersey Department of Agriculture on March 20, 2018 and in theHORSE on March 21, 2018.

The second horse had an elevated temperature and was showing respiratory signs, but no neurological signs were noted by the attending veterinarian.

The first horse was moved into the isolation barn on the property last week and the property was placed under quarantine. The finding of another positive horse has reset the quarantine clock and will delay the release date another three days. These are the first reported EHV-1 cases in New Jersey in 2018.

As reported by the UK Gluck Equine Research Center, designated as a World Reference Center for EHV-1 and EHV-4:

Over the past decade there has been an unexpected increase in equine herpesvirus neurologic disease (equine herpesvirus myeloencephalopathy [EHM]) incidence. Previous research by other scientists suggests a significant percentage of EHM or paralytic herpes outbreaks are caused by a mutant strain. A single mutation has been identified in the gene encoding of the viral replication enzyme, which seems to confer the power of enhanced pathogenicity (a pathogen’s ability to cause disease in an organism) or neurovirulence to such strains.

New Jersey is not a novice in managing EHM outbreaks.  As previously described, New Jersey Department of Agriculture in partnership with the New Jersey Racing Commission, private practitioners, horse trainers, and with assistance from USDA, issued and supervised a quarantine of horses boarding at Monmouth Race Track in October 2006 which lasted two months. See, Equine Herpes Virus Myeloencephalopathy-A Guide to Effective Response; and Infectious Diseases In Animals And Humans – What Is Your Legal Risk?

USDA publishes “A Guide to Understanding the Neurologic Form of EHV Infection” equine_herpesvirus_brochure_2009,  and explains  that “Equine Herpes Virus (EHV-1) infection in horses can cause respiratory disease, abortion in mares, neonatal foal death, and/or neurologic disease. The neurologic form of EHV-1 is called Equine Herpes Virus Myeloencephalopathy (EHM). The virus can spread through the air, contaminated equipment, clothing and hands.”

In USDA’s Equine Herpesvirus Myeloencephalopathy: Mitigation Experiences, Lessons Learned, and Future Needs, in which responders to the Monmouth Race Park quarantine were interviewed (including me):

Dr. Peter Timoney, Professor, University of Kentucky, Gluck Equine Research Center and Chair of the Infectious Diseases of Horses Committee of the United States Animal Health Association (USAHA), pointed out that ‘. . . within the past few years, a mutant of the wild-type of EHV-1 has been identified which evidence would indicate is very frequently associated with outbreaks of EHM. Also, this mutant has been identified among isolates of EHV-1 made prior to 2000. As the distribution of this virus mutant becomes more widespread in the equine population, the frequency and severity of outbreaks of EHM is likely to increase further unless measures to control its spread and occurrence of the disease can be developed.’

In addition to animal health issues, EHM outbreaks can result in lawsuits, as evidenced by the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Ass’n v. Alpen House U.L.C., 942 F.Supp.2d 497 (D.N.J. 2013), in which

Racehorse owners and association to which they belonged brought action for strict liability and negligence against owner of training facility that allegedly was source of outbreak of Equine Herpes Virus—Type 1 (EHV–1) that caused racehorses to be quarantined, which prevented them from racing.

Id.  After Alpen House lost its motion for summary judgment, the parties likely settled, but this has not been confirmed.

Research is still underway to develop a vaccine that will protect horses against the neurological form of EHV, and until completed, more outbreaks should be expected.

We have previously published blogs about the increasing impacts to businesses and people from misrepresentations about service and emotion support dogs.  See, e.g., New York Makes it Unlawful to Misrepresent Dogs as Service Animals.  We are pleased to post several blogs from partner Scott M. Badami who advises companies, private institutions and individuals on compliance with various federal and state laws, including the Fair Housing Act, Americans with Disabilities Act.  Scott is the founder and editor of the firm’s Fair Housing Defense Blog, which offers discussion and insight on fair housing compliance and other areas of interests to apartment owners and management companies as well as professional management employees.

By Scott M. Badami,  originally posted on March 16, 2018

When evaluating assistance animal requests from our residents, one of the issues faced by apartment leasing offices across the country is what to do if the animal is believed to be a “direct threat.” The law is absolutely clear that an animal (usually a dog) cannot be categorized as a “direct threat” unless there is evidence that the specific animal in question presents a legitimate danger to other residents, to property management employees, or to the property itself. To illustrate, we cannot simply deny an assistance animal because he or she is a particular breed, a particular size, or because of the animal’s weight.

Applying applicable standards concerning the “direct threat” analysis, last year the Vermont state Supreme Court issued an opinion, affirming the trial court below, concluding a landlord was correct in denying a reasonable accommodation request for a specific dog as the evidence demonstrated that the animal posed a direct threat. Even though the dog never attacked another resident, the evidence relied on by the court included:

  • that the dog regularly reared up on her back legs, lunged, or bared her teeth at people and other dogs when outside;
  • that the dog often went “crazy” [the court’s word, not mine] when other resident or dog passed the resident’s apartment home;
  • that the resident informed others that the dog had been trained as a “guard dog” and was “people and dog aggressive”;
  • that the resident asked another resident to walk their dogs at different times to avoid conflict with the purported assistance animal;
  • that there was evidence in the record that the resident may not have been able to control the dog; and
  • efforts by the resident to reduce or control the potential threat (such as limiting the time the dog was outdoors) would not sufficiently reduce the potential for aggression and/or were not appropriately raised or were thought not to be potentially successful.

While every reasonable accommodation request must be evaluated on a case by case basis, the court here provided some concrete examples of the types of behavior that it found disqualifying in an assistance animal. In my experience, even when we see an animal which may be a direct threat, management must always engage in the interactive process with the resident to determine if there are ways to control the animal. If you don’t, there is a decent chance that you might need to speak with a lawyer like me.

Just A Thought.

An interesting study about ordinances governing backyard poultry ownership in Colorado was recently published, titled “A Method for Guarding Animal Welfare and Public Health: Tracking the Rise of Backyard Poultry Ordinances” (the “Report”).

The Report “tracks the development of municipal ordinances, with attention to provisions for animal health and welfare and significant concerns for public health.”

Public and animal health officials, as well as large commercial poultry operations, have been concerned about the spread of infectious, contagious diseases, such as avian influenza virus from small backyard flocks where owners are unaware of and not familiar with the typical biosecurity measures that are generally recommended in animal agriculture.

USDA has published a number of guidance documents for people interested in raising poultry for their personal consumption of eggs.

In “Biosecurity for Birds,” USDA explains:

Raising backyard poultry is a growing trend across the United States. It is very important for all backyard poultry owners to know the signs of two deadly poultry diseases, as well as the basic ‘biosecurity’ steps you can take to protect your birds. APHIS runs the Biosecurity for Birds campaign to help raise awareness among backyard, hobby and pet bird owners.

On the other hand, animal rights activists often blame commercial agriculture for the spread of avian influenza.  See, e.g., An HSUS Report: Human Health Implications of Intensive Poultry Production and Avian Influenza, and Avian Influenza Just One Marker of Sickness in Industrial Agriculture .

The fact is that avian influenza is most often spread from wildlife to privately owned domestic flocks, regardless of the size of the flock.  Therefore, for animal and public health concerns, statutes and regulations̶̶-federal, state, or local-should provide for the health and welfare of laying hens as well as ensuring quality standards for eggs.

Federal and state laws govern standards of egg quality relating to the prevention of contamination with Salmonella.  As the Report discusses:

The federal regulations include requirements related to egg handling and storage prior to point of purchase by consumers, as well as testing for Salmonella on farms that have more than 3000 hens and implementation of biosecurity programs on those farms to control egg safety risks. For poultry meat safety, USDA inspects live birds and carcasses at federally inspected slaughter plants (i.e., plants that process meat for export or interstate commerce) to ensure that they are free of disease, and also evaluates conditions at those plants to ensure that they are sanitary and following ‘good commercial practices.’

However, as the Report states, local ordinances that permit ownership of backyard poultry usually do not include provisions related to either the health or safety of the hens.

[B]ackyard birds may pose significant risks to the general public. The outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI, H5N1) in Egypt offers a shocking example. The majority (107/112) of Egypt’s clinically confirmed HPAI cases of human infection from 2006 to 2009 are linked to close contact with diseased backyard birds resulting in 36 deaths and human-to-human spread. In addition, the 2002 California outbreak of Exotic Newcastle Disease (END) originated in backyard flocks. The outbreak spread into commercial operations and resulted in depopulation of over 3 million birds, costing taxpayers $161 million. (citations omitted).

The Report, analyzing backyard poultry ordinances in Colorado, found, in part:

  1. The most common guidelines for poultry ordinances pertain to housing design and placement, the sex of birds, and total number of birds allowed, including specific space requirements for birds, in come cases.
  2. Ordinances commonly required housing to be predator resistant, easily cleaned, and maintained regularly to prevent the development of pests, rodents, or odors that would cause nuisances.
  3. In urban locations, the number of birds permitted was often limited to between 4 and 6 birds per lot.
  4. Ventilation requirements were often not included in ordinances.
  5. Roosters were commonly prohibited.

Notably, the Report stated that “[r]egulations pertaining directly to animal health and welfare were rare.”

The Report concluded that ordinances should include these provisions.

[O]ur study indicates that there are fewer guidelines for the health and welfare of backyard poultry than their commercial counterparts. Regulation is important in disease prevention. Fragmented oversight of animal welfare and health creates policy blind spots critical to shared human and animal health.

I concur.

New Jersey proposed bills S2037 and A1050 would revise the State’s “equine animal activities law in accordance with recommendations of New Jersey Law Revision Commission to clarify responsibility and liability issues.”

The New Jersey Law Revision Commission issued its final report on May 22, 2014 in which it:

[r]ecommend[ed] . . . modification of current statute to address an issue raised by the 2010 New Jersey Supreme Court in Hubner v. Spring Valley Equestrian Center[, 203 N.J. 184 (2010)]. The Court found that the Act’s assumption of risk provisions conflicted with the exceptions to limitations on operator liability. Accordingly, the Act’s assumption of risk provisions have been consolidated and new language emphasizes affirmative duties and responsibilities of equestrian activities operators and participants.

The bills incorporate the Commission’s recommendations which clarifies the responsibility of both the equine operator and participants, similar to sections in sister laws governing skiing and rollerskating.

It looks like this is the second legislative session these bills have been introduced to the New Jersey Legislators.

Historically the equine industry in New Jersey has had a significant economic impact in the State. The Commission, citing reports from Rutgers Equine Science Center stated

[t]he New Jersey equine industry, which is home to 42,500 horses, is valued at $4 billion…producing an annual economic impact of approximately $1.1 billion…and 13,000 jobs. Horses are found on 7,200 facilities in every county statewide which maintain open space of 176,000 acres, which in turn provides an enhanced quality of life for New Jersey residents. Horse operations tend to be more sustainable than other types of agricultural businesses, making the horse industry critical to the growth and land-use strategy of the state.

These statistics were reported in a comprehensive report published by the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station in 2007.

The report included the direct and indirect economic impact related to equine activities.

It would be helpful to receive an update from that now decade-old report, but that should not hinder the movement of these bills through the legislative process until they are hopefully passed and enacted.

S1093 and A1923, the latest versions of Nosey’s law, a bill that originally would have prohibited the use of elephants in traveling animal acts, has now expanded its reach to “prohibit the use of [all] wild or exotic animal traveling animal acts.”

Why is this a concern?  There are many legitimate animal exhibitions that inform and educate the public about exotic and wild animals that would be prohibited if this bill were to become law.

The current version of this bill, originally introduced in 2016, attempts to but fails to address the flaws in its prior iteration, which Governor Christie vetoed as one of his last official functions.

The definitions and provisions in the proposed bill, described here in relevant part, demonstrate the problems with the law:

“Performance” means any animal . . .  display, exhibition, exposition, fair . . . petting zoo, presentation, public showing . . .  trade show, or similar undertaking in which animals . . . participate as accompaniments for the entertainment, amusement, or benefit of a live audience.

“Wild or exotic animal” means any non-domesticated species of mammal, bird, reptile, or amphibian.

In previous versions of this bill, the terms “wild” and “exotic” were not defined.  The proposed definition above does not correct the prior deficiencies.  First, there is a problem with the term “domesticated.”

The terms “domestic” and “domesticated” have been interpreted by courts where those terms were not defined in statutes or regulations in suit.  See, e.g., Commonwealth v. Comella, 735 A.2d 738 (Pa. Commw. Ct. 1999) (questioning whether a “dog” is a “domestic animal,” based on statutory analysis); Bueckner v. Hamel, 886 S.W.2d 368 (Tex. Ct. Appl. 1994) (affirming judgment based, in relevant part, on the exclusion of “deer” as “domestic animals”); City of Rolling Meadows v. Kyle, 494 N.E.2d 766 (Ill. App. Ct. 1986) (reversing holding that owner’s monkey was not a domesticated house pet); Turudic v. Stephens, 31 P.3d 465, 471 (Or. Ct. App. 2001) (concluding that “although the cougar may be more exotic than goldfish or hamsters, they are, nevertheless, indisputably family pets.”)

Instead of using the term “domesticated” the term “domestic” should be used.

“Domestic” should be defined as “domestic livestock” and “domestic companion animal” and “pet” should be defined as “domestic animal.”  Since these terms have been subject to court interpretation (see, e.g. People v. Garcia, 777 N.Y.S.2d 846 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. 2004) (asserting that the statutory definition of “companion animal” was unconstitutionally vague); Levine v. Connor, 540 F.Supp.2d 1113(N.D. Cal. 2008) (addressing the exclusion of poultry from the definition of “livestock” in the Humane Slaughter Act); State v. Nelson, 499 N.W.2d 512 (Minn. Ct. App. 1993) (reversing conviction for cruelty to a rooster, based on the definition of “livestock”), “domestic livestock” should be further defined pursuant to section 1 of P.L. 1995, c. 311 (C.4:22-16.1); “domestic companion animal” should be further defined pursuant to subsection u. of section 1 of 14 P.L. 1978 (C.2C:20-1).

It would be problematic to incorporate NJDEP’s definition of exotic mammal, bird, reptile or amphibian which means “any nongame species or mammal, bird, reptile or amphibian not indigenous to New Jersey,” since that would prohibit many animal exhibitions and fairs.  For example, domestic cattle are not indigenous to New Jersey.

Then, there is the issue with ferrets, which New York City has ruled are “wild” animals.

In addition to these issues with defined (or undefined terms) the proposed exemptions in the bill, presented below, do nothing to right size the problems with this bill.

This section shall not apply to:

(1)   exhibitions at a non-mobile, permanent institution or facility certified by the United States Department of Agriculture and accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries, the American Sanctuary Association, or a similar organization as determined by the Department of Environmental Protection;

(2)   outreach programs for educational or conservation purposes conducted by a facility accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries, the American Sanctuary Association, or a similar organization as determined by the Department of Environmental Protection;

(3)   an institution of higher education exhibiting wild or exotic animals for research or education purposes; or

(4)   outreach programs for educational or conservation purposes conducted by governmental entities.

First, there is a concern about the arbitrary deference to accreditation by third parties, without reference to any specific animal care standards required.

Second, there are a number of non-governmental entities that are not institutional of higher education that conduct educational and outreach programs that help the public understand the importance and beauty of certain species.

As others have suggested, the language of the originally proposed bill, which would have prohibited the use of elephants in traveling animal acts, was much more preferable than these current versions.

 

A set of bills introduced in the New Jersey legislature would dilute funds from the decades-long spay neuter program overseen by the Department of Health, to the detriment of pets and their owners.

New Jersey bill S883 and sister bill A 2197 would authorize the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission “to issue special Humane State license plates . . . [and] [a]fter the deduction of the cost of designing, producing, issuing, renewing, and publicizing the plates and of any computer programming changes that are necessary to implement the license plate program, in an amount not to exceed $150,000, the additional fees will be deposited into a special non-lapsing fund known as the ‘Humane State License Plate Fund”’ that will be appropriately annually to the Animal Welfare Federation of New Jersey (AWFNJ).  http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/2018/Bills/S1000/883_S2.HTM

The funds are mandated “to be used to provide grants to county societies for the prevention of cruelty to animals for the shelter and care of animals.”

While the bill was reported from the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee, Senator Sarlo, Chair of that committee voted no, saying that he is opposed to this bill, like all others establishing a special license plate, because they all cost the taxpayers money.

Here, there is additional concern because New Jersey has a pre-existing special license described above, established during the Florio administration.  I remember attending the bill signing at Drumthwacket, the official residence of the governor of the State of New Jersey.  The “Animal Friendly” license plate, which debuted in 1994, helps fund “the animal population control program. . . [which] provides low cost spaying and neutering for thousands of pets and encourages the adoption of thousands more each year in New Jersey.”

If enacted into law, this new special plate will dilute the existing animal population program, which had, as of 2012, aided in the spaying and neutering of more than 192,000 cats and dogs, according to then Commissioner of Health, Mary E. O’Dowd.

The funds raised through the [program] support[s] the spay or neutering of dogs and cats adopted from New Jersey shelters, pounds and rescue groups, as well as those owned by persons on public assistance programs.

This fund has been historically popular but runs out of money quickly-many needy families are unable to benefit from the program.

An added benefit of the spay-neuter program, is that it introduces new pet owners to their local veterinarian (who performs the surgery at a greatly reduced fee) and establishes a veterinarian-client-patient relationship that serves as a basis for lifelong veterinary care.

If the State is interested in providing additional funding for animal welfare concerns, this pre-existing program could benefit from additional funds, or perhaps be expanded to assist pet owners without sufficient means provide veterinary care to their pets throughout their lives.