NJ Bill S3558, which strips the NJ Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (NJSPCA) of law enforcement authority, passed both legislative houses and only awaits the Governor’s signature or his failure to veto before becoming law.  As previously discussed, this measure is long overdue, as animal rights advocates, animal welfare organizations, animal-related businesses and animal owners all agree.

Two NJ State Commission Reports concluded that the “gun-carrying wannabe cops” who serve as agents of the NJSPCA, are running a dysfunctional organization that fails to enforce the animal cruelty laws the agency was established to enforce more than a decade ago.

Based on my experience, first as a private veterinary practitioner, then as the Director, Division of Animal Health, New Jersey Department of Agriculture and the N.J. State Veterinarian, and currently as an animal law attorney, the NJSPCA fails to adequately and promptly investigate animal cruelty cases, and instead abuses its law enforcement authority by impermissibly intimidating and victimizing animal owners and welfare organizations to advance its own interests and not for any legitimate animal protective purpose.

That is why it is long past time to amend and update the State’s animal cruelty laws and place law enforcement authority solely within local and county law enforcement agencies.

For those agents and members of the NJSPCA who are dedicated to preventing animal cruelty, there will be opportunities to provide assistance under the new legal scheme.

Hopefully, the Governor will end his term with the historic and long-awaited act of advancing the protection the State provides to animals by requiring professional law enforcement agencies to enforce the animal cruelty laws instead of the ineffective volunteer organization that has failed to do so for years.

It looks like sister bills in New Jersey that would provide “immunity from civil and criminal liability for rescue of [an] animal from motor vehicle under inhumane conditions” are moving through the lame duck session of the state legislature.

The senate version, S2899, a senate substitution, was passed on Dec. 7, 2017 during a session vote.  The assembly version, A3636 passed last year.  According to Tom Leach, the Executive Director of both the New Jersey Association for Biomedical Research and the Pennsylvania Society for Biomedical Research, since “the bills were amended on the floor of the Senate, it will need to pass the full Senate then go back to the Assembly for concurrence with the Senate amendments.  The assembly vote that is needed is a floor vote.  There is no need for further committee activity.  Both houses still have multiple voting sessions scheduled before the end of the legislative session on January 9th.”

Of concern is the fact that the bills do not provide sufficient guidance to the public about what constitutes “inhumane conditions adverse to the health or welfare of the animal.”  The “inhumane conditions adverse conditions to the health or welfare of the animal” enumerated in the bill, include “heat, cold, inadequate ventilation, or other circumstances likely to endanger or cause bodily injury or death the animal.”

If those “inhumane conditions” exists,

any person who, without license or privilege to otherwise enter the motor vehicle, may in good faith enter the vehicle in order to remove, or render emergency care to, the animal if the person reasonably believes that the health or welfare of the animal may be at risk under such circumstances, provided that prior to entering the motor vehicle the person contacted appropriate rescue personnel to report the circumstances and made a reasonable attempt to locate the owner or operator of the motor vehicle or other person responsible for the animal unless exigent circumstances warrant foregoing such actions.

See A3636  (emphasis added).

Since anyone would be able to break into a vehicle and rescue an animal if these bills become law, these vague and ambiguous provisions could result in unneeded “rescues” that could end up injuring animals and unnecessarily destroying property.  As long as a person acts in “good faith,” they will be immune from criminal or civil liability.

Some pets would suffer if not rescued when locked in cars when the ambient temperature is high with the windows closed and no air conditioning on.  Those pets may suffer from heatstroke, but if so, immediate veterinary treatment is imperative, not optional as permitted in the current bills.  If someone in good faith believes an animal must be rescued due to inhumane conditions harmful to their health, then each rescued animals should receive immediate veterinary care.

Since no one in New Jersey other than licensed veterinarians are permitted to diagnose or treat conditions in animals, there should be provisions for mandatory veterinary treatment as soon as animals, suffering from any inhumane conditions, are rescued from vehicles.

As described on Consultant, A Diagnostic Support System for Veterinary Medicine, developed by one of my former mentors, Dr. Maurice E. White at Cornell University, “heatstroke is a multisystemic disorder usually associated with forced confinement of animals in a hot environment such as a locked car.”

The associated clinical signs of heatstroke include:

Abnormal behavior, aggression, changing habits, Abnormal upper airway breathing sounds, Anorexia, Arrhythmia, Ataxia, Blindness, Bloody stools, feces, hematochezia, Cold skin, Coma, Congestion oral mucous membranes, Constant or increased vocalization, Cyanosis, Dehydration, Diarrhea, Dryness of skin or hair, Dryness oral mucosa, Dullness, Dysmetria, Dyspnea, Epistaxis, Excessive salivation, Fever, Generalized weakness, Inability to stand, Increased respiratory rate, Mydriasis, Oral cavity, tongue swelling, Pale, Paraparesis, Petechiae, ecchymoses, purpura, Red or brown urine, Seizures or syncope, Sudden death, Tachycardia, Tetraparesis, Tremor, Vomiting or regurgitation, Warm skin, Weak pulse.

In a study titled “Hemostatic abnormalities in dogs with naturally occurring heatstroke” abnormalities in hemostatic tests run (platelet count, prothrombin and activated partial thromboplastin times (PT and aPTT, respectively), antithrombin activity (ATA), total protein C activity (tPCA), fibrinogen, and D-dimer concentrations) on 30 dogs with naturally occurring heatstroke were identified.  18 of the 30 dogs survived.  The study found:

[h]emostatic derangements are common in dogs with naturally occurring heatstroke. Alterations in PT, aPTT, tPCA, and fibrinogen concentrations appear to be associated with the outcome at 12–24 hours PP, exemplifying the need for serial measurement of multiple laboratory hemostatic tests during hospitalization, even when within reference interval on presentation. The development of disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC), as defined in this cohort, was not associated with mortality; however, nonsurvivors had significantly more coagulation abnormalities during the first 24 hours PP.

Good Samaritans and law enforcement officials, including animal control and humane officers or agents, assisting pets experiencing inhumane conditions in locked vehicles, should be required to bring that pet immediately to a veterinarian, once rescued.  It should not be optional.

Senator Lesniak introduced S3558 to address deficiencies in the enforcement of New Jersey’s animal cruelty laws by state and county societies for the prevention of cruelty to animals.  Several state reports had concluded that the centuries-old law granting law enforcement authority of animal cruelty investigations to part time volunteers was overdue for a drastic change.  Lesniak, having sponsored a 2006 law that was supposed to address deficiencies in governmental oversight of these volunteer groups, admitted that those measures had not worked sufficiently.  Therefore, the current amendments were necessary.

The bill, which “revises the enforcement of animal cruelty laws in the State by transferring the power of humane law enforcement from the New Jersey Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (NJSPCA) and county societies for the prevention of cruelty to animals (county societies) to a county prosecutor animal cruelty task force in each county, and a municipal humane law enforcement officer appointed in each municipality” received widespread support from those testifying before the Senate Economic Growth Committee where it passed out of committee with nearly unanimous support.

However, it has not yet been approved by the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee or the Assembly.

I have been critical of the conduct of the NJSPCA for some time, based on my experience trying to work with them as a private large animal clinician, then as the Director of the Division of Animal Health at New Jersey Department of Agriculture, and currently as an attorney representing clients impermissibly harmed by NJSPCA’s conduct.  In each role, I have concluded that, while some agents or officers are well-meaning, the agency is ineffective at performing their fundamental role-protecting animals in the state.

For those in the state who own, raise, breed and sell horses, cattle, swine, rabbits, poultry, small ruminants and other agricultural species, this proposed change should be welcome.

At the 102nd State Agricultural Convention, held in Atlantic City on February 8-9, 2017, Resolution #6 was passed urging the agricultural community to “evaluate the consistency and appropriateness of the implementation of the Humane Standards [of care for NJ’s agricultural animals] by the SPCA and other humane-law enforcement personnel who are tasked to respect and follow them when enforcing animal-cruelty statutes,” and encouraging the legislature to fund NJDA’s animal cruelty investigations, which are necessary to ensure that the state laws are properly enforced.

Among other deficiencies, NJSPCA routinely fails to notify the NJDA when it receives complaints about the care of agricultural animals.  Such notification is required pursuant to N.J.A.C. 2:8-8.3 (f) which states:

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).

The regulation requires notification of the NJDA for 2 main reasons:  1) to make sure that animal health officials could immediately investigate to determine whether contagious, infectious diseases were present, and if so, prevent their spread to other facilities; and 2) to make sure that a qualified animal health official was investigating the case (a certified livestock inspector-someone who has been certified by the State Veterinarian as a veterinarian or veterinary technician familiar with the species under investigation).  It will be critical for NJDA to properly train all municipal, county and state agencies that will be responsible for enforcing the animal cruelty statutes, if the bill is adopted, about the provisions governing humane care of agricultural animals in the state.

There has been widespread support of these proposed amendments to the state’s animal cruelty statutes.  Like in NYC, where the ASPCA voluntarily relinquished enforcement of the City’s animal cruelty statutes to the NYPD, it is long past time that New Jersey followed suit.

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.

In New Jersey, yet another bill amending the animal cruelty statute (S1640) was recently passed into law.  The amendments “[e]stablish . . . requirements concerning necessary care of dogs, domestic companion animals, and service animals, and for tethering of dogs.”

Many of the other provisions requiring “necessary care” to a companion animal are reasonable if the laws are appropriately enforced by professional law officers, who have sought guidance from individuals with expertise in animal health, care, and handling.  Unfortunately this is not the case in New Jersey, where the animal cruelty statute is improperly enforced.

This makes the following provision extremely problematic and of concern to companion animal owners and their attorneys in the State:

any humane law enforcement officer or agent of the New Jersey Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals or county society for the prevention of cruelty to animals, certified animal control officer, or other State or local law enforcement officer may immediately enter onto private property where a dog, domestic companion animal, or service animal is located and take physical custody of the animal, if the officer or agent has reasonable suspicion to believe that the animal is at risk of imminent harm due to a violation of this act.

While an earlier provision requires a showing of probable cause before a court of competent jurisdiction could issue a subpoena permitting law enforcement to enter private property and seize an animal, this latter provision impermissibly violates the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution.

A district court case provides clarity of rights under the Fourth Amendment:

In Badillo v. Amato, Case No. 13-1553, slip op. (D.N.J. Jan. 28, 2014) the Court denied then Monmouth County SPCA Chief Amato’s motion to dismiss, in relevant part, Badillo’s allegation that Amato violated his right to be free from illegal search and seizure under the Fourth Amendment.  In this case, Badillo, a priest of the Santeria religion was issued nine municipal court summons for animal animal abuse and neglect after Amato “went around to the back of . . . [Badillo’s’ house, opened the gate and let himself in the fenced backyard without permission or a warrant and began taking pictures . . . “  Case No. 13-1553, slip op., at p. 3 (D.N.J. Jan. 28, 2014).

As the Court explained, finding that the Complaint sufficiently pleaded Fourth Amendment violations by Amato to survive a motion to dismiss, the Fourth Amendment provides:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and persons or things to be seized.  Id., at p. 8 (quoting U.S. Const. amend. IV.)

The Court reaffirmed that not only is the home “sacrosanct” but that “protections afforded by the Fourth Amendment extend not only to a person’s home, but also to the curtilage surrounding the property.”  Id., at p. 8-9 (citing Estate of Smith v. Maraso, 318 F.3d 497, 518-519 (3d Cir. 2003).

It appears that the foregoing provision of the newly amended animal cruelty statute, permitting entry to private property based on merely reasonable suspicion and in the absence of a court order would violate the Fourth Amendment.

Additional concerns about these amendments, previously discussed, remain included in the final adopted law.

For example, a person may not keep a dog (or other domestic companion animal) in an animal crate or carrier for transport, exhibition, show, contest, training or similar event if the top of the head of the dog touches the ceiling of the animal carrier or crate when the dog is in a normal standing position.  There are many acceptable, safe dog carriers that permit dogs to stand, turn around and lie down comfortably, but the top of their head would touch the ceiling of the crate.

The public must be adequately informed about this new requirement―that does nothing to provide for the welfare of dogs transported in dog carriers―so they are not victims of animal cruelty citations issued by over zealous agents and officers of the NJ or County SPCA’s.  As noted in the State of New Jersey Commission of Investigation 2000 report on Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals,  at least one County society (Warren) routinely stopped vehicles with horse trailers for proof that a Coggins test certificate was available as required by the NJ Department of Agriculture.  As the report concluded:

Not only is the absence of a certificate not cruelty, but SPCA personnel lack the expertise to know whether the horse described in the certificate, such as a Bay or Chestnut [which are specific horse colors and patterns], is in fact the horse being transported.

It would not be unprecedented if humane officers decided to target people traveling with dogs throughout the state, and started pulling over and issuing summons related to the size the their dog carriers.

 

Dog owners beware!

Horses in New Jersey are highly regarded.  When designating the horse as New Jersey’s state animal in 1977 Governor Bryne said: “The founding fathers of our state thought so highly of the horse that they included it in our state seal.”

In New Jersey, as specified in the Humane Standards, equine rescue operations must provide care “consistent with the “AAEP Care Guidelines for Equine Rescue and Retirement Facilities” or “Equine Rescue and Facility Guidelines, UC Davis.”  N.J.A.C. §2:8-3.6.

Both resources provide comprehensive

guidelines to help ensure that horses maintained within equine sanctuaries and rescue farms receive adequate and proper care.  The guidelines . . . address all issues related to sanctuary management and operations.  They provide information on proper facility design construction and maintenance, suggestions for management and financial organization and instructions on the proper husbandry practices and health care necessary to ensure the successful operations of all types of sanctuary and rescue facilities.

The first section of the UC Davis Guidelines is titled “Operation Business and Financial Plan” emphasizing the importance proper planning and financial support, noting:

The failure rate among animal sanctuaries of all types within the United States is known to be very high, with an average lifespan estimated to be around 3 years and a failure rate in excess of 70% for those facilities that do not own the land being utilized for their operation.  Most of these failures can be attributed to one of two causes; the financial collapse of the entity due to poor business planning and/or practices, or the lack of a defined plan of succession for key management personnel.

AAEP’s Guidelines include the following chapters:

Chapter I: Basic Health Management

Chapter II: Nutrition

Chapter III: Basic Hoof Care

Chapter IV: Caring for the Geriatric Horse

Chapter V: Shelter, Stalls & Horse Facilities

Chapter VI: Pastures, Paddocks & Fencing

Chapter VII: Euthanasia

Chapter VIII: The Bottom Line: Welfare of the Horse.

The importance of caring for new horses entering a rescue facility should include a complete physical examination, a method of identification, the establishment of a medical record, proper nutritional assessments and preventive medical care.  Special attention to the nutritional needs of previously starving horses is critical, and recommendations include oversight by veterinarians and veterinary nutritionists to ensure that the appropriate type, amount and frequency of feeding is provided.

If horses are provided too much feed too quickly after starvation, death can ensue.  According to UC Davis “[t]he ‘refeeding syndrome’ has been reported in horses with abrupt refeeding of concentrated calories causing death in 3 days.”

Despite these requirements, there is no indication that there is sufficient oversight in New Jersey over equine rescue facilities.

The State permits but does not require registration of animal rescue organizations and facilities.

4:19-15.33  Registry of animal rescue organizations, facilities
a. The Department of Health shall establish a registry of animal rescue organizations and their facilities in the State.  Any animal rescue organization may voluntarily participate in the registry.

b.The department, pursuant to the “Administrative Procedure Act,” P.L.1968, c.410 (C.52:14B-1 et seq.), may adopt any rules and regulations determined necessary to implement the voluntary registry and coordinate its use with the provisions of P.L.2011, c.142 (C.4:19-15.30 et al.) and section 16 of P.L.1941, c.151 (C.4:19-15.16).

Of the 74 registered rescues as of March 16, 2017, none appear to be equine rescue facilities.

Historically, when large numbers of horses in the state have been the subject of animal cruelty investigations, their care has been improperly supervised.

Recent events reveal that nothing has changed.

It is time that the State, with its depth of talented, experienced equine practitioners, animal scientists and veterinary nutritionists at Rutgers University and Centenary College, and the Certified Livestock Inspectors at the NJDA-Division of Animal Health, take a hard look at the current state of affairs for horses in need of care in the Garden State.

With little fanfare, Connecticut adopted a law authorizing a “separate advocate be appointed to represent the interests of justice” in certain animal cruelty cases involving the “welfare or custody of a cat or dog.”  While there was some concern raised by AKC and other associations before its adoption, the potential impact of this law did not hit home until recently, when a Connecticut court first heard from advocates appointed in a case involving alleged dog fighting, as reported by NPR.

According to Laurel Wamsley, NPR, the law “provide[s] animals with court-appointed advocates to represent them in abuse and cruelty cases, similar to laws that provide for victim’s or children’s advocates.”

Despite that representation, the law is not similar to others providing for representation of children.  In fact, the “Animal Advocat”e law provides only for advocates to “represent the interests of justice” not animals.

In stark contrast, Connecticut’s laws providing for representation of children includes specific language related thereto.

For example, the terms “Guardian ad Litem” and “Attorney for the Child” include specific language directing the advocate to “ensure that the child’s best interests are represented” or to “argue on behalf of his or her client,” respectively.  See In Representing Minors in Connecticut, Judicial Branch, State of Connecticut, 2016,

Guardian ad Litem (GAL) · ‘A guardian ad litem, often referred to as a GAL, is an individual the court appoints, either upon motion of a party or when the court determines a GAL is necessary. The court will consider the appointment of a GAL if the parties are unable to resolve a parenting or child related dispute. In such event, the court appoints a GAL to ensure the child’s best interests are represented during the course of the parties’ dispute. The GAL’s role is different from that of an Attorney for a Minor Child (AMC). The GAL represents the child’s best interests while the AMC represents the child’s legal interests and supports the child’s best interests.’ ‘Guardian Ad Litem or Attorney for Minor Child in Family Matters,’ Judicial Branch publication JDP-FM-224 (New 6/14). · ‘Typically, the child’s attorney is an advocate for the child, while the guardian ad litem is the representative of the child’s best interests.’ Newman v. Newman, 235 Conn. 82, 96, 663 A.2d 980 (1995).

Attorney for the Child  ‘… the attorney for the child is just that, an attorney arguing on behalf of his or her client, based on the evidence in the case and the applicable law.’ Ireland v. Ireland, 246 Conn. 413, 438, 717 A.2d 986 (1998).  ‘The primary role of any counsel for the child shall be to advocate for the child in accordance with the Rules of Professional Conduct, except that if the child is incapable of expressing the child’s wishes to the child’s counsel because of age or other incapacity, the counsel for the child shall advocate for the best interests of the child.’  Conn. Gen. Stat. § 46b-129a(2)(C).

Legislators in Connecticut could have adopted similar language for cats and dogs but chose not to.

Connecticut’s law is therefore apparently significantly different from a law in Zurich, Switzerland, where an attorney was appointed for four years to represent animals in court, according to Leo Hickman of theguardian.

A referendum to extend that law throughout Switzerland was soundly defeated.

Protecting animals from cruelty has been a long-standing commitment in this country as reflected in the animal cruelty statutes passed in every state.  Animal cruelty cases can benefit from expert review, reporting and testimony, which should include veterinary review.  To the extent that the Connecticut law can provide that expertise, it can be a benefit all parties-seeking truth and justice.

Today, lawmakers in Trenton, New Jersey did not have the opportunity to reject an attempted override to Governor Christie’s condition veto of Senator Lesniak’s so-called “puppy mill bill,” one of more than 200 similar laws nationwide orchestrated by the Humane Society of the United States and other animal rights groups opposed to anyone who makes money breeding, raising and selling animals.  The bill, as previously discussed, was chock-full of constitutional violations, that were mostly―but not completely ―cured by the Governor’s veto.

Lesniak, without sufficient votes to override the veto, pulled the bill before the vote.  In a tweet Lesniak published afterward, he said “I held the bill so I can attempt another override at any future Senate meeting until January 10, 2018.” He also posted the names of the Senators who did not support his effort.

Around the same time, ordinances in Morristown and Jersey City to ban USDA licensed breeders from sales to pet stores were considered.  Jersey City voted to reject the ordinance, Morristown did not take action.  Brian Hackett, the Human Society of the United States’s New Jersey Director told the Jersey City Council that all pet stores in New Jersey are purchasing all their puppies from puppy mills since the state limits their sources to USDA licensed breeders.  All USDA licensed breeders, according to Hackett, are puppy mills.  But not according to Lesniak, as previously reported, who, on June 23, 2016 said that sales from USDA licensees to pet stores should be allowed to continue, because these breeders were not the “puppy mills” his original bill had been targeting to eliminate.  (See testimony on June 23, 2016 at the Senate Budget and Appropriations committee starting at 3 hours 3 minutes 24 seconds (3:3:24)).

Perhaps Lesniak should consider a bill that would actually help animals without hurting the people and businesses that treat them humanely.

For example, this state desperately needs an overhaul of the law granting law enforcement authority to volunteer nonprofit groups (New Jersey and County Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals).  Walt Kane, of “Kane in Your Corner,” has been spearheading an investigation about the NJSPCA, published on New 12 New Jersey.  The latest installment, in which I was interviewed, aired May 24, 2017, “NJSPCA law enforcement practices questioned.”

Walt obtained records of complaints that had either not been investigated or had no written description of any investigation performed or results achieved.

As I said after reviewing those records, it is long past time that the state shift enforcement of its animal cruelty statutes to professional law enforcement agencies.  Those dedicated and expert in animal health and welfare should be able to assist officers at police and sheriff’s departments by providing that expertise as a special investigator in relevant animal cruelty investigations.  If we are serious about animal welfare, it is time to make that change.

As recently reported, the NJSPCA has hefty legal fees, averaging nearly a quarter of a million dollars a year, as reported by Kane In Your Corner: NJSPCA refusing to show invoices for legal fees.

But, following an OPRA request for the invoices requested by Kane In Your Corner (“Kane”), NJSPCA first refused to produce the requested documents and later stated that they did not exist-they were allegedly discarded by “the organization’s former treasurer, Frank Rizzo.”

This latest incident followed the agency’s failure to file its required IRS 990 forms for 2013, 2014, and 2015 which resulted in the termination of its non-profit status, as least temporarily.

In addition to these federal requirements, the NJSPCA is required to provide financial (and enforcement) information to the NJ Attorney General and legislature, which it apparently has not provided as required,

Interestingly, Governor-appointed NJSPCA board member David Gaier resigned from the Board, “calling the organization ‘dysfunctional’ and citing its lack of transparency,” as previously reported by Kane In Your Corner.

Gaier resigned after learning from Kane about the organization’s failure to file the IRS financial reports, several months after the fact.  Gaier’s observations about the NJSPCA are remarkably similar to those identified in the 2000 State of New Jersey Commission of Investigation (“SCI”) report-Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

According to Kane, Gaier noted:

the NJSPCA ‘lacks proper public oversight and accountability,’ adding, ‘the very concept of a non-profit law enforcement agency is unworkable, even absurd, and the result is an organization mired in controversies and lawsuits.’ Gaier says he believes the NJSPCA needs to be ‘reconstituted as a proper state agency with genuine government oversight, transparency, and new leadership, or it should be dissolved.’

The SCI report found:

[d]espite its reputation for advancing innovative animal welfare and control programs, New Jersey remains mired in an archaic legislative scheme that places the enforcement of animal cruelty laws in the hands of unsupervised, volunteer groups of private citizens. The 1868 and 1873 laws that created the New Jersey and county Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals arose at a time when law enforcement agencies were in their infancy and the enforcement of laws was entrusted frequently to private citizens. Today, the SPCAs represent a rudimentary system that has not kept pace with the state’s advancements in law enforcement or its interest in the welfare of animals. Against the backdrop of a highly stratified and professional law  enforcement system, it is an anomaly that the state continues to empower organizations of private citizens to carry weapons, investigate criminal and civil conduct, enforce laws, issue summonses, effect arrests and obtain and execute search warrants. The issue is no longer whether or how to fix this errant group of self-appointed, self-directed and uncontrolled entities, but whether to eliminate the archaic system entirely. The Commission concludes that the time has come to repeal the government authority vested in the SPCAs and place the function of enforcing the cruelty laws within the government’s stratified hierarchy of law enforcement. Those who are truly devoted to animal welfare may continue that effort by forming humane  organizations or participating in the numerous groups already in existence.

Currently there are several proposed bills that would provide for greater accountability of the NJSPCA to government entities.

  • A706/S1429 would require accountability of the NJSPCA and county societies for the prevention of cruelty to animals to the NJ Attorney General and county prosecutors; and
  • A707/S1427 would change the membership of, and election process for NJSPCA board of trustees.

Notably, in Bergen County the county prosecutor already requires accountability and reporting for all SPCA-related activities.  Expanding that requirement throughout the State is attainable and would enhance the role that professional law enforcement agencies have in protecting the animals throughout New Jersey.

 

 

 

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.