At the request of New Jersey Department of Agriculture (NJDA), New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station (NJAES), and New Jersey Farm Bureau, State legislators adopted a law in 1996 “which directs the Department of Agriculture—in consultation with the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station—to adopt ‘standards for the humane raising, keeping, care, treatment, marketing, and sale of domestic livestock,’ as well as ‘rules and regulations governing the enforcement of those standards.’” 35 NJR 1873(a) 2003. At the time, livestock owners were increasingly concerned about the uneven-handed enforcement of the State’s animal cruelty statutes by state and county societies for the protection of animals (SPCA), who often had minimal, if any, knowledge about the proper care of livestock and horses. As the State Commission of Investigation reported, there were “no standards, rules or guidelines governing [SPCA’s] composition, operation, training or activities, there is no consistency or uniformity in their make-up, functioning or enforcement of the laws.” NJSCI Report 2000.
The law was adopted to “[p]rotect. . . the health and well-being of New Jersey’s livestock . . . to ensure farm animals are humanely treated. This includes livestock farmers whose livelihood depends on raising healthy animals and who, therefore, have an added financial incentive to properly care for their animals.” 35 NJR 1873(a) 2003To ensure that experts qualified to investigate complaints of cruelty involving livestock the law also requires notification of NJDA of complaints received by investigating authorities.
The NJSPCA, county SPCAs or other State or local government authority receiving a complaint shall immediately notify the New Jersey Department of Agriculture and, if the complaint is in writing, provide a copy to the NJDA at the address provided in N.J.A.C. 2:8–8.3(c).
Unfortunately, while the standards mandate humane care, the enforcement of those standards remains problematic. It is not clear if NJDA has been notified immediately upon receipt of complaints to SPCA’s, as required by law. This notification is critical to ensure that only the approved standards are used as guidelines, and to ensure that all inspections are conducted in accordance with accepted biosecurity protocols referenced herein to prevent the spread of infectious or contagious agents on or off farm premises.
I recently discussed these ongoing issues at the 2017 New Jersey State Agricultural Convention, where the delegates adopted a resolution to address “continued concerns from stakeholders because of humane-law enforcement personnel’s inconsistent and inappropriate enforcement of animal cruelty statutes against the owners of livestock and poultry in New Jersey, by largely ignoring the Humane Standards, even when they are being followed by the livestock owner, have not changed since the adoption of the law, despite the clear rules to guide the investigation of complaints. See Resolution No. 6, Humane Treatment of Livestock.
The delegates “urge that New Jersey’s agricultural community evaluate the consistency and appropriateness of the implementation of the Humane Standards by the SPCA and other humane-law enforcement personnel who are tasked to respect and follow them with enforcing animal-cruelty statutes.”
They also encourage the Legislature to adequately fund the implementation and enforcement of the Humane Standards and to require SPCA agents to comply with the provisions set forth therein.