A recent review by Jeffrey W. Pompeo of New Jersey’s pet trust law was published in the New Jersey Law Journal, describing some of the deficiencies of the existing law.  Amendments to that law were introduced by Assemblyman Burzichelli amending the New Jersey Pet Trust Statute, A-3860.

The pet trust statute is being amended to clarify and add additional provisions.

  1. The amendments remove the 21 year limit for the term of the trust.  As Mr. Pompeo pointed out, many domestic and legally-owned exotic animals live longer than 21 years, so this limitation should be removed to allow a trust to provide for the entire life of the named animal.
  2. The amendments expressly permit intervivos trusts.  Currently, the law does not specifically permit such trusts, and at least one court found that New York’s pet trust law (similar to the existing law in New Jersey) did not include provisions for intervivos trusts.  The amendments limit an intervivos trust to one drafted for the animal’s owner.  A third party would not be able to draft a intervivos trust for someone else’s animal.
  3. The term “domesticated” is replaced by the term “domestic,” the term “exotic animal” is added and the terms “domestic animal,” “domestic companion animal,” “domestic livestock,” and “exotic animal” are defined consistent with existing New Jersey law.  These amendments clarify the type of animals a trust can be established for.  For example, an owner would not be able to draft a valid trust for a wild, exotic, or dangerous animal, even if the owner thought that animal was “domesticated.”  In some cases, the State prohibits ownership of certain exotic and dangerous animals.  In other cases, ownership is allowed by permit only, with specific housing and safety requirements.   These amendments help inform attorneys and animal owners about such requirements so that appropriate care can be provided by future caretakers.
  4. The amendments also provide for the offspring of a trust beneficiary who is pregnant (in gestation) when the trust becomes effective. “Offspring” from other reproductive methods, such as by cloning, should not be included as beneficiaries.

The bill was originally introduced and referred to the Assembly Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee on 10/23/2014.  Additional amendments were added, the bill was approved and was reported out of the Assembly Comm. with amendments, 2nd Reading on 3/23/2015.