There are additional technical difficulties with the interpretation and implementation of A-3303, that should be addressed to prevent further confusion.

The bill requires the Commissioner of Health: to establish a list of all employees of all animal-related enterprises, whether full or part-time, paid or volunteers; to track the records of employees of animal-related enterprises for criminal or civil liability for any animal cruelty statute in New Jersey or any other state; and to investigate all criminal or civil complaints of animal cruelty involving anyone employed at animal-related enterprises in New Jersey.  Employers of animal-related enterprises must provide the Commissioner of Health with lists of all employees, must provide additional supervision to an employee accused of any civil or criminal animal cruelty offense for 90 days before dismissing that employee, even if judgment has not been rendered by 90 days. 

What about self-employed, unlicensed persons working with animals, like the animal trainer at the center of Mooses Law?

It is unclear how A-3303 would impact employers or businesses found guilty of animal cruelty offenses, particularly when the business does not require a state or municipal license to operate.  For example, animal trainers are not required to obtain a license to operate inNew Jersey.  If self-employed, that trainer could continue to work.

The Wrongly Accused

Further, while the bill specifies that “[a]ny person who is disqualified from employment pursuant to this act shall be entitled to reapply for employment at an animal-related enterprise if the disqualifying conviction or finding of civil liability is reversed,” what happens to a business that is wrongly accused, once it is shut down? 

The Department of Health Lacks Authority Over Animal-Related Enterprises

The bill should be amended to be consistent with existing statutory authority granted to the Department of Health (DOH) by the legislature.  That would limit “animal-related enterprises” to any “animal rescue organization,” “animal rescue organization facility,” “kennel,” “pet shop,” “pound,” and “shelter,” as already defined by statute.  Even with these limitations, based on existing statutory authority, it is unlikely that the DOH has sufficient resources to perform the mandated tasks.

Definitions Should Be Consistent With Those Already in the Animal Cruelty Statute

The definition of “domestic companion animal” should be amended to be consistent with the existing statutory definition “domestic livestock,” to eliminate the inconsistencies the proposed definition creates, and to insure that the protection to livestock mandated by the provision of humane standards of care to domestic livestock is maintained.  An amendment of the term “domestic companion animal,” excluding domestic livestock is necessary to prevent confusion and ensure adequate protection of livestock species, owned for any purpose.

  These issues of concern should be considered before A-3303 is adopted.  While animal cruelty should not be tolerated, this bill proposes a complete overhaul of the penalties resulting from criminal convictions or civil liability for violations of the current animal cruelty statute, without regard to the severity of the violation.  In addition to the technical issues highlighted, judicial discretion should be permitted instead of mandating the proposed penalties.