Assemblyman Daniel R. Benson introduced a bill (A4298) that would amend “animal cruelty offenses and penalties concerning animal abandonment and failure to report injuring certain animals with a motor vehicle; increases civil penalties for certain other animal cruelty offenses.”  Like so many bills in New Jersey related to animal issues, including another misguided, S2820 to be discussed later, A4298 would subject many livestock owners, including horse owners, to liability under the law, even though their animals are properly cared for.  Many of these proposed amendments are not consistent with the requirements in the “Humane Treatment of Domestic Livestock,” (the “Humane Standards”), N.J.A.C. §§2:8-1.1 et seq. which the legislature mandated for “domestic livestock,” defined as “cattle, horses, donkeys, swine, sheep, goats, rabbits, poultry, fowl, and any other domesticated animal deemed by the State Board of Agriculture and the Department of Agriculture, in consultation with the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station, to be domestic livestock for such purposes.”  N.J.S.A. 4:22-16.1 (c).

The Humane Standards provide for feeding, watering, keeping, marketing and sale, and care and treatment of livestock, based on animal science and veterinary medicine.  There is a rebuttable presumption that “the raising, keeping, care, treatment, marketing, and sale of domestic livestock in accordance with the standards . . . shall not constitute a violation of any provision of this title involving alleged cruelty to, or inhumane care or treatment of, domestic livestock.”  N.J.S.A. 4:22-16.1 (b)(1).  However, when both the statute and regulations were enacted, the Humane Standards were consistent with the statutory provisions, including the definition and provisions related to “necessary care.”  If the statutory provisions of “necessary care” require care inconsistent with and in excess of those required by the Humane Standards (which would occur if A4298 became law), the rebuttable presumption may not be applicable.

This issue is compounded by three major factors:

  1. Those enforcing animal cruelty statutes often believe (erroneously) that any time an animal is injured or becomes sick, the owner or caretaker is at fault and liable under the animal cruelty statutes;
  2. Those enforcing animal cruelty statutes are often inadequately trained in animal care, particularly care involving livestock;
  3. Animal activist groups, opposed to animal use by humans, increasingly target law makers and enforcers, providing them with biased, non-scientifically sound, misleading and inaccurate information and proposed statutory language intended to ban the breeding, sale, and use of animals.

Concerns about A4298 relate largely to the amendments of the definition of “necessary care” described below:

The bill would amend the definition of “necessary care” to provide for “care sufficient to preserve the health and well-being of an animal . . . including:

(2)          open or adequate access to drinkable water of an appropriate temperature* in sufficient quantity and quality to satisfy the animal’s needs;

(3)          access to adequate protection from the weather, including access to an enclosed non-hazardous structure sufficient to protect the animal from the weather that has adequate bedding to protect against cold and dampness, and adequate protection from extreme or excessive sunlight and from overexposure to the sun, heat and other weather conditions;

(4)          veterinary care deemed necessary by a reasonably prudent person to prevent or relieve injury, neglect or disease, alleviate suffering, and maintain health; and

(5)          reasonable access to a clean and adequate exercise area.

Taken one by one, here are the concerns:

  1. What does “open” access to drinkable water mean?

Livestock, including horses, must be provided “daily access to water in sufficient quantity and quality to satisfy the animal’s physiologic needs as evidenced by the animal’s hydration status.”  N.J.A.C. 2:8-2.3.  However, animals do not require access to water 24/7, if that is what the definition of “open” access to water means.

  1. The requirement to provide water “of an appropriate temperature” is unnecessary and can lead to unfounded charges of animal cruelty.

The Humane Standards already require the provision of water of sufficient quality which “refers to the acceptability of water sources for animal consumption with response to the presence of contaminants, accessibility and quantity.  Acceptable water quality means that the water is provided in ways that minimize contamination by urine, feces and other material but is accessible to the animals.  It may be provided from natural sources or manmade containers and must be sufficient quantities to prevent dehydration.  Signs of dehydration include sunken eyes, increased capillary refill time of the gums, and/or skin that tents when pinched.  Human standards for potability are not required but there should not be contaminants present in amounts that discourage the animals from drinking adequate amounts.”  N.J.A.C. 2:8-1.2.

Adding a requirement related to the temperature of the water is unnecessary, vague and ambiguous.  Prior attempts to check water temperature have placed livestock in harm’s way.  Agents or officers of the NJSPCA used to attend 4-H fairs regularly and, going livestock pen to livestock pen, would dip their hands in water buckets to “test” the temperature.  Not only was this a completely unscientific method to measure the adequacy of hydration of animals, it presented a huge biosecurity risk through the intentional introduction of potential pathogens from bucket to bucket.

  1. The bill would also require “access to an enclosed non-hazardous structure sufficient to protect the animal from the weather that has adequate bedding to protect against cold and dampness,” a provision that is inconsistent with the Humane Standards.

Each species-based section of the Humane Standards includes provisions relating to housing requirements, which expressly does not require housing in a “non-hazardous structure.”  It does require:

(a) The animal’s environment must provide relief from the elements, such as excessive wind, excessive temperature and excessive precipitation, that result in hyperthermia or hypothermia detrimental to the animal’s health.

(b) Relief under (a) above can be accomplished with natural features of the environment including, but not limited to, trees, land windbreaks, overhangs, or other natural weather barriers or constructed shelters.  N.J.A.C. 2:8-2.4.

  1. The bill would also require animal owners to provide veterinary care deemed necessary by a reasonably prudent person to prevent or relieve injury, neglect or disease, alleviate suffering, and maintain health.

Such provisions could expose any animal owner to liability if they failed to prevent diseases for which vaccines or other preventive treatments are available, but were not administered.  This is not consistent with the basic tenors of veterinary medicine, which requires consideration of the needs of each animal, based on their risk exposure.  The American Animal Hospital Association’s Canine Vaccination Guidelines, for example, states:

Not all dogs need every vaccine. Your veterinarian will ask you questions about your dog’s lifestyle, environment, and travel to help tailor the perfect vaccination plan for him. AAHA’s Lifestyle-Based Vaccine Calculator uses factors such as whether your dog visits dog parks, groomers, competes in dog shows, swims in freshwater lakes, or lives on converted farmland to help you and your veterinarian develop your dog’s individualized vaccination plan.

There are “core” and “noncore” vaccines. Vaccinations are designated as either core, meaning they are recommended for every dog, or noncore, which means they are recommended for dogs at risk for contracting a specific disease. However, your veterinarian may reclassify a “noncore” vaccine as “core” depending on your dog’s age, lifestyle, and where you live—for instance, in a region like New England where Lyme disease is prevalent, that vaccine may be considered “core.”

  1. The bill would also require reasonable access to a clean and adequate exercise area.

This is inconsistent with provisions in the Humane Standards that permits housing in caged systems, stabling of horses, etc.

Significant amendments to A4298 and sister bill S2159 are required to allow for the continued existence of animal agriculture and other animal businesses in the State of New Jersey.

 

*Underlined text are proposed amendments.

Recent amendments governing the transportation of agricultural commodities, including livestock, aquaculture and insects, have elicited concerns from cattle, hog, sheep, horse, bee and aquaculture producers, since the time restrictions on transport without rest for the truck drivers would literally stop livestock haulers in their tracks, creating hazards for their live cargo.

These concerns were described on the webpage of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association:

The ELD enforcement date and existing hours of service (HOS) regulations pose significant consequences for the livestock industry. Current federal law limits on-duty time to 14 hours, with a maximum drive time of 11 consecutive hours. The driver must then rest for 10 consecutive hours before returning to duty.  For the great majority of the trips made by our livestock haulers, this is simply not enough drive time to accommodate the realities of hauling live animals across the country. Research also demonstrates that repeated loading and unloading of animals creates stress, harming the livestock as well as endangering the hauler.  Unfortunately, the impending December 18, 2017 electronic logging device (ELD) enforcement date and existing hours of service (HOS) rules may force small business owners out of the marketplace while also having the unintended impact of decreasing driver safety, and jeopardizing the wellbeing of hauled animals if they can no longer be hauled by highly skilled and trained drivers/stockmen.

To address some of these “unintended consequences” the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) recently announced the publication of a guidance document, also published as a rule (83 FR 26374, pp 26374-26377) to:

clarify the applicability of the ‘Agricultural commodity’ exception in the ‘Hours of Service (HOS) of Drivers’ regulations.  This regulatory guidance clarifies the exception with regard to: drivers operating unladen vehicles traveling either to pick up an agricultural commodity or returning from a delivery point; drivers engaged in trips beyond 150 air-miles from the source of the agricultural commodity; determining the ‘source’ of agricultural commodities under the exemptions; and how the exception applies when agricultural commodities are loaded at multiple sources during a trip.

This is the latest of several attempts to clarify the rule as it relates to the transportation of agricultural commodities, including livestock and insects, since its adoption.  Notably, the Electronic Logging Devices are not required for livestock transporters until September 2018.

FMCSA previously published guidance documents at the end of May 2018, including Agricultural Exceptions and Exemptions to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Hours of Service (HOS) and Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) Rules and Regulatory Guidance: Transportation of Agricultural Commodities including Livestock. 

“This regulatory guidance clarifies that the following operations are not subject to the Hours-of-Service Regulations while operating within 150 air-mile radius of the source of the commodity:”

Drivers operating unladen vehicles traveling either to pick up an agricultural commodity, as defined in 395.2, or returning from a delivery point; and

Drivers engaged in trips beyond 150 air-miles from the source of the agricultural commodity are not subject to the hours of service regulations until they exit the 150 air-mile radius.

The guidance also clarifies that when agricultural commodities are loaded at multiple sources during a trip only the first loading point can be considered a source, which results in an ongoing concern about how these regulations restrict livestock haulers from loading and delivering livestock without interruption.

To fix some of the unaddressed issues with the law, on June 26, 2018, as reported in a press release on Senator Deb Fischer’s (R-Neb.) website, “[a] bipartisan group of 24 senators . . . filed an amendment to the farm bill that would provide an hours of service exemption for certain agriculture transporters, including livestock haulers, which would provide greater flexibility to operators throughout the country.”

The amendment ‘would ensure that the exemption for operations within a 150 air-mile radius from the source of an agricultural commodity applies year-round and does not vary from one state to another for certain months of the year.  The exemption currently applies to the planting and harvesting period, as determined by each state.  It would also provide an additional 150 air-mile exemption on the back end of a trip, as it currently exists on the front end.’

Before time runs out, it will be important for these issues to be ironed out so livestock can be safely transported without unnecessary and stressful stops.

 

The impact of USDA’s newly adopted final rule to certain exhibitors of farm animals remains unclear.

A positive result of the rule is the definition of “domesticated farm-type animals.”  Farm-type animals are defined as “animals that have historically been kept and raised on farms in the United States.”  Except for the use of the term “domesticated” this definition should be adopted by states to insure that livestock and poultry remain regulated by state and local laws even if owned as “pets” or for “companionship.”

However, the term “domesticated” should be replaced by “domestic,” since courts have held that certain dangerous and exotic animals can be “domesticated” based on the case-specific facts.  See City of Rolling Meadows v. Kyle, 494 N.E.2d 766 (Ill. App. Ct. 1986) (reversing holding that owners 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.”).  Unfortunately the term “domesticated” instead of “domestic” is used in existing and the amended rule.

Certain exhibitors of ‘domesticated farm-type animals’ are exempt from licensure, including: (1) those who “have a de minimis size of business based on the number of animals maintained, capability of providing adequate care and treatment of such animals, and public oversight . . .”; (2) “country fairs, livestock shows, rodeos, field trials, coursing events . . . and any other fairs or exhibitions intended to advance agricultural arts and sciences, as may be determined by the Secretary”; and (3) owners of “livestock or poultry used or intended for use as food or fiber, or livestock or poultry used or intended for use for improving animal nutrition, breeding, management, or production efficiency, or for improving the quality of food or fiber.”

The amendments exclude from licensure “[a]ny person who maintains a total of eight or fewer pet animals as defined in part 1 of this subchapter, small exotic or wild mammals (such as hedgehogs, degus, spiny mice, prairie dogs, flying squirrels, jerboas, domesticated ferrets, chinchillas, and gerbils), and/or domesticated farm-type animals (such as cows, goats, pigs, sheep, llamas, and alpacas) for exhibition, and is not otherwise required to obtain a license.”

For those who maintain more than eight domesticated farm-type animals, they can also be exempt from licensure if: the animals are used or intended for use as food or fiber; for improving animal nutrition, breeding, management, or production efficiency; or for improving the quality of food or fiber,  even if those animals are exhibited.  However, that was not the holding in In re: Daniel J. Hill and Montrose Orchards, Inc., AWA Docket No. 06-0006, Chief ALJ Hillson (USDA April 18, 2007).

In this case, a Complaint was issued on January 13, 2006, by Kevin Shea, Administrator of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) of the United States Department of Agriculture to “Respondents, Daniel J. Hill and Montrose Orchard, Inc., for operating as exhibitors under the Animal Welfare Act without obtaining the requisite license.”

The Findings of Fact, included, in relevant part:

Respondents operate a business which offers the public an opportunity to purchase apples, blueberries, Christmas trees, asparagus, pumpkins and other products. Most products are sold in the Orchard’s gift shop, and some products are also offered to the public on a self-pick basis.

Respondents display to the public a number of animals including, at various times, a pig, a cow, English fallow deer, Barbados sheep and goats. These animals were displayed in large pens. There were signs directing the public to these pens.  There were signs on some of the pens identifying the animal(s) inside.  There were food dispensing machines where members of the public could insert some money and buy food to feed the animals, and a hand washing station near the pens available for public use.

The Court rejected Respondents’ argument that it was exempt from licensure because it made less than $500 from its animal operations.  It also rejected the argument that Respondents were exempt from licensure because “the animals on display at Montrose Orchards were ultimately raised for food.”

Instead the Court held,

Respondents did operate as an exhibitor under the Animal Welfare Act.  I find that Respondents’ operations were in interstate commerce or at least affected commerce, and that the display of animals as part of an inducement to visit a commercial operation constituted the charging of compensation.  I find that the exemption for those who make less than $500 from animal operations applies to dealers, and is inapplicable to Respondents.  I find that while the animals on display at Montrose Orchards were ultimately raised for food, the fact that they were on display for extended periods of time still requires an exhibitor’s license. Finally, I impose a civil penalty of $1,000 against Respondents jointly.

Whether and to the extent that similar “exhibitors” would be considered exempt pursuant to the newly adopted rules, remains to be seen.

Perhaps further clarity from USDA-APHIS would be instructive.

On May 17, 2018 a plethora bills were reported out of the New Jersey Assembly Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee, some with amendments that will benefit animals and their owners if they become law, and others with sorely needed amendments.

Here is a summary of what occurred (as reported on the New Jersey Legislative website):

A781 is a bill that would establish processes for recovering the cost of caring for domestic companion animals involved in animal cruelty violations.  This bill was reported favorably with some amendments, but more should be adopted before further action.

This bill, as amended, provides for the cost of care for animals involved in animal cruelty violations, and establishes a procedure, when the owner of the animal is the alleged violator, for the owner of the animal to pay for the cost of care of the animal. The bill, as amended, specifies that ‘animal’ includes the whole brute creation, but does not include agricultural livestock or domestic livestock.

This amendment protects farmers from the overreaching practices of law enforcement supported by animal activist groups that assist in seizures of animals before the owner(s) has a hearing or opportunity to prove they have not committed alleged acts of animal cruelty.

The groups that house the seized animals charge owners millions of dollars for the “care” of these animals, even though, in some instances, they do not have adequate, if any, training in providing such care. The seized animals suffer from negligent care and sometimes die.  Many animal owners, particularly farmers, would be unable to pay for such costs and therefore forfeit ownership-all before they are actually found guilty of anything.

A1334 is a bill which would add the theft or release of an animal during burglary to the ever-expanding list of provisions that constitute animal cruelty. This amendment is not necessary and makes the cruelty statute even more cumbersome than it currently is.   If someone steals an animal that constitutes theft, for which there are existing legal remedies.  If the thief does not properly care for the animal while in their possession, then the cruelty statute already provides for remedies.  If an animal is released during a burglary and is injured there are also existing provisions in the law that would apply.

A1923, a.k.a. Nosey’s law, was amended before it was reported out of committee, but still requires amendments.  The original intent of this bill was to ban the exhibition of elephants in circuses and traveling zoos.  The amendments to the current version (which is much better than prior versions) largely address concerns of those who humanely exhibit exotic animals.  However, a glaring error remains. The bill defines “[w]ild or exotic animal” as any live animal that is classified into any of the following scientific classifications: (1) Artiodactyla, excluding domestic cattle, bison, water buffalo, yak, zebu, gayal, bali cattle, suidae, sheep, goats, llamas, vicunas, or alpacas; (2) Camelidae . . .”

This effectively excludes llama, vicunas and alpacas from the definition of wild or exotic animals on the one hand, but then includes them since they are members of the Camelidae family.

Additional amendments are clearly required.

A2318 , a bill that would permit any person to break into a vehicle to “rescue” an animal, if they believed that an animal was in danger, was also reported out of committee.  The bill should require any animal so “rescued” to be immediately examined by a licensed veterinarian.  If the rescuer has a good faith belief that the animal is in need of help, then examination by a veterinarian should be mandated.  The owner should pay for that examination if the veterinarian determines the animal’s health was in jeopardy, but if not, the rescuer should have to pay for the veterinary examination.  Adding those provisions may help decrease unnecessary rescues.

Another issue with this bill is that the wording “other circumstances likely to endanger or cause bodily injury or death to the animal” is vague and essentially meaningless.

A3218, a bill that “permits municipalities to contract with animal and humane societies which engage in animal foster care,” was also reported out of committee.  This bill would expose animals and people to unnecessary harm because animal foster care organizations are not regulated in New Jersey.

Finally, A4385, a bill that would require “institutions of higher education, and related research facilities, to offer cats and dogs no longer used for educational, research, or scientific purposes to animal rescue organizations for adoption prior to euthanizing the animals,” was also voted out of committee.  Not only is this bill unnecessary since successful adoption programs from these institutions have been in existence for years, reliance on unregulated animal rescue operations, as above, places animals and people at risk.

It looks like Animal Agriculture Alliance had another stellar stakeholder summit held on May 3-4 in Arlington, Va.

As reported on its website

The future of food, consumer choice, sustainability and the connection farmers and ranchers have with consumers were all topics of discussion on the first day of the Animal Agriculture Alliance’s 2018 Stakeholders Summit, themed “Protect Your Roots,” at the Renaissance Capital View Hotel in Arlington, Va.

“The conversations are changing about food to include agriculture and the message of farmers,” said Tyne Morgan, host of U.S. Farm Report and Summit moderator. “There are a lot of companies taking notice of the positive side of agriculture and they are starting to tell that story too.”

Speakers explored the increasing importance of food labels to consumers, trends in the food industry, and the future of animal agriculture, a topic commonly discussed amongst farmers and supporting industries who wonder if sufficient numbers from younger generations will take on the huge task of feeding the nation and the world, while providing for the humane care of their stock.

Other speakers presented scientific advances in the field that benefit animals and the environment, but may not always address consumer misconceptions about agricultural practices.  The agriculture community recognizes the increasing importance of educating consumers about the truth and dispelling the myths relating to animal agriculture, broadcasted by animal rights organizations .

The Animal Agriculture Alliance, “an industry-united, nonprofit organization that helps bridge the communication gap between farm and fork” brings these issues front and center on its website. Commonly misunderstood issues about Animal Care, Antibiotics, and Sustainability are discussed along with a number of resources.

The Alliance drafted comprehensive graphics depicting the interactions between animal rights activist groups, who commonly work together to mislead the public and animal welfare-related issues.

Animal Rights Activist Web by Animal Agriculture Alliance

Radical activist organizations are leading the fight to grant animals the same legal rights as humans and eliminate the consumption of food and all other products derived from animals. The ideology of the animal rights movement- that animals are not ours to own, enjoy, or use in any way- is a direct assault on farmers and pet owners. Activists often hide their true agenda in order to gain the support of unknowing pet lovers. Here, you will find current updates from the world of animal rights. The Alliance monitors the activities of these activist groups and seeks to proactively engage in the same areas they target to correct misinformation and tell the true story of agriculture.

Farmers and ranchers have a lot on their plates.  In addition to raising and caring for the animals that feed the world, they must learn how to address attacks by animal rights organizations intent on their demise, and more importantly learn to connect with consumers who have been mislead by activists.

Organizations like the Animal Agriculture Alliance, and others like Protect the Harvest, should be commended for work they do to dispel those myths.

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.

This is the time of the year than many consider donating to a worthy cause.  Here are a few organizations that exist to help unwanted, aged and retired horses find homes and veterinary care.

The Unwanted Horse Coalition “is a broad alliance of equine organizations that have joined together under the American Horse Council to educate the horse industry about the problem of the unwanted horse.”

The Unwanted Horse Colaition:

grew out of the Unwanted Horse Summit, which was organized by the American Association of Equine Practitioners and held in conjunction with the American Horse Council’s annual meeting in Washington, D.C. in April 2005. The summit was held to bring key stakeholders together to start a dialogue on the plight of the unwanted horse in America. Its purpose was to develop consensus on the most effective way to work together to address this issue. In June 2006, the Unwanted Horse Coalition was folded into the American Horse Council and now operates under its auspices.

Another nonprofit, A Home for Every Horse,

created in 2011, is the result of a partnership between the Equine Network, the nation’s leading publisher of equine-related content, and the Unwanted Horse Coalition. The AHFEH program helps connect rescue horses in need of homes with people looking for horses. Registered 501(c)(3) rescue organizations can list their horses for free on Equine.com, the world’s largest horse marketplace, where they can be seen by 300,000 visitors each month.If that is the case for you, I invite you to consider donating to the Ryerss Farm for Aged Equines, a nonprofit that has been dedicated to providing a home to horses that have no other home.

Ryerss Farm for Aged Equines “is the oldest non-profit horse sanctuary in United States and provides a haven for horses of all breeds, sizes, and walks of life. The residents of the 300-acre farm are primarily retired horses—aged 20 or older—many with chronic health issues. Upon arrival, all veterinary care, farrier care, dental care, food, bedding, and shelter is provided for the rest of the horse’s life.

Ryerss Farm’s mission includes:

caring for aged, abused or injured horses, providing a home where they can spend their golden years out to pasture.  The horses at Ryerss are never worked, go to auction or are used for experiments.  They simply spend their days grazing and enjoying life with their friends, as part of the herd.

Ryerss Farm received the 2017 Lavin Cup, an award “[k]nown as the American Association of Equine Practitioner [AAEP]’s equine welfare award . . . [which] recognizes a non-veterinary organization or individual that has distinguished itself through service to improve the welfare of horses.”

As AAEP noted:

Ryerss’ legacy began in Philadelphia in 1888, established by Anne Waln-Ryerss who was a passionate advocate for the city’s abused and neglected horses. The first horse arrived on the farm in 1889 and Ryerss’ early residents were old hunters, ponies, workhorses, and retired horses that used to pull Philadelphia’s fire engines. Ryerss is open to the public daily and receives approximately 5,000 visitors each calendar year.

The Unwanted Horse Veterinary Relief Campaign was established by Merck Animal Health and the American Association of Equine Practitioners Homes “to help the overburdened equine rescues and retirement facilities provide healthcare so they can rehabilitate, revitalize and, ultimately, re-home America’s unwanted horses.”

Through the Unwanted Horse Veterinary Relief Campaign ” qualifying equine rescue and retirement facilities can receive complimentary equine vaccines for horses in their care, protecting the horses’ health and making them more adoptable.”

For veterinarians and equine rescue organizations who want more information about this program, please visit The Unwanted Horse website.

For the third time, New Jersey state agencies have concluded that the New Jersey Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (NJSPCA), described as “wannabe cops,” by the New Jersey State Commission of Investigation report aptly titled “ Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing: New Jersey’s SPCAs 17 years later.”

Some of the highlights of the report, available here, include a summary of the report previously completed in 2000:

Nearly two decades ago, the State Commission of investigation conducted an inquiry into the activities and financial practices of the various Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in New Jersey.  The investigation’s final report, completed in 2000, exposed a range of waste, abuse and malfeasance so widespread as to render many of these entities incapable of fulfilling their primary statutory obligation: the enforcement of state laws designed to prevent cruelty to animals.

Along with uncovering substantial – in some cases criminal – wrongdoing, the investigation also revealed that New Jersey remained mired in an archaic legislative scheme allowing unsupervised groups of private citizens to enforce animal cruelty laws.  These volunteers are empowered to carry weapons, investigate complaints of criminal and civil misconduct, issue summonses and effect arrests.  The Commission further found that some of these SPCAs became havens for gun-carrying wannabe cops motivated by personal gains, or the private domain of a select few who discarded rules on a whim.

The Commission concluded that the delegation of such broad power to private citizens may have been understandable, indeed, a necessity in the 1800s when the laws creating the New Jersey and county SCPAs were written.  That arrangement, however, is not workable in the highly stratified and professionalized law enforcement system of the 21st Century, and the Commission recommended turning over the enforcement role to government.

Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing: New Jersey’s SPCAs 17 Years Later, SCI, October 2017.

As the State Commission on Investigation recently found:

[t]he NJSPCA  – even though operating as a not-for-profit organization – is also supposed to be the steward of substantial amounts of public monies in the form of fines collected through animal cruelty violations and donations from citizens . . . Unfortunately, the Commission found that the altruistic mission of the organization became secondary to those who controlled the NJSPCA and subverted it for their own selfish ends and self-aggrandizement. The findings of this inquiry make plain that permitting a part-time policing unit staffed by private citizens to serve as the primary enforcers of New Jersey’s animal cruelty laws is illogical, ineffective and makes the entire system vulnerable to abuse.  Moreover, the government apparatus to perform this function is already in place-in the form of municipal and county animal control officers working in coordination with local police.

Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing: New Jersey’s SPCAs 17 Years Later, SCI, October 2017.

The Commission concluded that the NJSPCA is an organization that:

  • Fails to consistently respond to serious allegation of animal cruelty complaints-its core mission-in a timely manner and keeps records that are so sloppy it was often impossible to determine specific action taken on cases.

  • Spends more money on legal bills – racking up more than $775,000 over the past five years – than for any other expense, including funds that directly support animal care.

  • Circumvents the spirit of a 2006 law to establish effective and transparent governance at the NJSPCA by adopting bylaws that exclude the board of trustees – which has three members appointed by the Governor – from having any supervision of its law enforcement activities.

  • Remains a haven for wannabe cops, some of whom believe they may exercise police powers beyond enforcement of the animal cruelty statutes, such as conducting traffic stops.

  • Allows nearly a third of its approximately 20 humane officers to carry firearms despite the fact that those individuals do not hop up-to-date authorization to do so from the New Jersey State Police, which by law, must be renewed every two years. They are also exempt from the requirement to obtain a firearms permit.

  • Lacks the ability to estimate how much revenue it is entitled to receive from animal cruelty fines – a major source of its funding – and has no apparatus to collect these monies.

  • Allows top-ranking members access to certain questionable perks, such as care for personal use, and other beneficial benefits – at the expense of unwitting donors, and tolerates blatant conflicts of interest that profit its key officials.

Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing: New Jersey’s SPCAs 17 Years Later, SCI, October 2017.

Unfortunately, the report did not comment on NJSPCAs presumed failure to notify the New Jersey Department of Agriculture when complaints regarding livestock or poultry are received, as required by law, in order to ensure that infectious, contagious diseases in animals that may appear to have been treated cruelly, are properly handled to protect human and animal health.

For those interested in testifying about this report and potential legislation to make a real change in the State’s enforcement of its animal cruelty law, on Monday, November 13, 2017 at 10:30 am:

The Senate Economic Growth Committee will take testimony on the recent report released by the State Commission of Investigation regarding the New Jersey Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.  In addition, the committee will discuss legislative reform to strengthen the enforcement of New Jersey’s animal cruelty laws. Individuals presenting written testimony are asked to provide 10 copies to the committee aide at the public hearing.

On October 12, 2017 Nestlé USA announced that by 2024 they would

“strive to source all of the broiler chickens we use as ingredients for our U.S. food portfolio from sources meeting a higher standard of animal welfare, building on our global Commitment on Farm Animal Welfare.”

More specifically, Nestlé has committed to sourcing from farmers who raise chicken with slower growth rates, good leg health, reduced stocking rates, and further compliance with standards approved by the Global Animal Partnership (GAP), a non-profit “registered as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and brings together a diverse group with the common goal of improving farm animal farm animal welfare standards around the world.”

Nestlé acknowledges that this commitment is “complex,” “require[s] investment and time, and the transition over the next seven years must be done in a sustainable and cost-effective way.”

There are six different levels or steps in GAP standards, that increasingly require significant investments by farmers who must modify their existing housing facilities and decrease the number of animals that can be raised in the existing space.

One of the concerns about laws that require changes to husbandry standards for farm animals are the related costs.  For example, California’s 2008 ballot initiative, Prevention of Farmed Animal Cruelty Act (“Prop 2”), funded in large part by the Human Society of the United States, requires egg-laying hens, veal calves and hogs to have sufficient room to lie down, stand up, fully extend their limbs, and turn around freely in their enclosures.

Despite the passage of Prop 2, HSUS is once again leading the effort to require additional changes to the law in California.  The recently proposed initiative would prohibit all sales of veal or pork in California unless produced in a manner that complies with California’s law.

The proposed initiative would also require that all eggs produced and sold in California must come from cage-free birds as of December 21, 2021.  The farmers in or outside of California who had modified their former housing systems to be in compliance with Prop 2 will now have to make additional significant investments in their housing systems again.  Such required continual modifications of animal housing facilities are not cost-effective nor sustainable.

Perhaps this is the point, since the goals of HSUS and many other animal rights organizations are to eliminate animal agriculture entirely.