In a prior blog I discussed proposed amendments to Oregon’s animal cruelty statute that would provide for statutory standing to any plaintiff who files a complaint against any animal owner for alleged violations of the state’s animal cruelty statute.  Below, are summaries of several Oregon cases litigated pursuant to the current or in effect at that time.

In State v. Branstetter, 45 P.3d 137 (Or. Ct. App. 2002) review denied 54 P.3d 1042, 334 Or. 632, a horse and donkey owner was charged with 12 counts of animal neglect in the first degree, which was a Class A misdemeanor.  Id., at 138 (citing ORS 167.330).  Defendants’ animals were seized and were cared for by the pioneer Humane society of Umatilla County, who filed a petition for the animals before Defendant’s trial.  The Court ordered the forfeiture of animals if Defendant did not post a $2,700 bond within 72 hours, which he failed to do.

After being acquitted on all counts, Defendant filed an appeal with the following issue.

“Was defendant denied constitutional due process and right to a remedy as a consequence of the forfeiture statute that did not provide for setting aside the forfeiture(s) subsequent to the acquittal(s)?”  Id.

The Court denied the appeal, “reject[ing] defendant’s due process and remedies clause arguments without discussion.”  The Court also rejected Defendant’s that “any forfeiture to cover the costs of his animals’ care during the pendency of the criminal prosecution violates the excessive fines provisions of Article I, section 16, of the Oregon Constitution, and the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution.”  Id., at 139.

In Stirton v. Trump, 121 P.3d 714 (Or. Ct. App. 2005), a dog owner, charged with 31 counts of animal neglect in the second degree and the county impounded the 31 dogs, and a justice of the peace ordered forfeiture of the dogs following a petition filed by the impounding county.  The County Circuit Court, hearing a petition for a writ of review filed by the Defendant over jurisdictional matters, entered judgment awarding the county the cost of boarding the 31 dogs and dismissing Defendant’s petition.

On appeal, the Court affirmed the trial court’s holding that the justice of the peace court had subject matter jurisdiction, but reversed the award, finding that the county was not a party to the petition.

In State v. Marsh, 66 P.3d 541 (Or. Ct. App. 2003), the Court limited the amount in restitution the defendant must pay to the care of providing for only the ten animals he was convicted of neglecting, and not for the 69 animals that were seized from his property.

In City of Lebanon v. Milburn (2017) 398 P.3d 486 (Or. Ct. App. 2017), the Court, on appeal, rejected the City’s argument that the forfeiture of Defendant’s dog in this case was irreversible, even after the Defendant had been acquitted of criminal charges of animal cruelty.  The Court’s holding in this case, is notable:

The issue on appeal turns on whether the circuit court erred in ordering the city to return defendant’s property upon acquittal after the municipal court had ordered the property forfeited under ORS 167.350 as part of defendant’s sentence.  A court is permitted to order forfeiture, but it is contingent upon a court having determined that defendant is guilty of the offense charged. ORS 167.350(1).  Necessarily, we have recognized that ‘[t]here can be no sentence, probation or other sanction after an acquittal’ . . . We have characterized a forfeiture that is part of sentencing under ORS 167.350 as a punitive forfeiture . . . In this case, although the forfeiture was authorized under ORS 167.350 as part of the sentence in municipal court, defendant cannot continue to be subject to a punitive sanction after she has been acquitted. An acquittal is an acquittal. That outcome necessarily implicates the forfeiture that is part of the judgment in municipal court . . . Because defendant was acquitted in the circuit court, property taken from her as a result of the municipal court judgment must be returned.  Id., at 487-488 (citations omitted).

Based on these cases, Oregon already has sufficient state laws to protect animals from owners who fail to care for them humanely, such that the proposed amendment discussed here, that would permit anyone, to file a civil suit against an animal owner because of public policy concerns, is unnecessary.  Such an amendment would lead to a flood of lawsuits filed by plaintiffs who object to the use of animals in agriculture, biomedical research, breeding and other animal-related businesses.

An untitled proposal to amend Oregon’s Animal Cruelty statute was posted by the Oregon Secretary of State on November 14, 2018 and is available on its website.

The proposed amendment does not appear to have been formally introduced as a bill in the Oregon legislature.  The amendments, if enacted would permit anyone to file a civil action “for the protection and humane treatment of animals.”  By anyone, as the amendment provides, “plaintiff shall include any person even if the person does not have any legal interest or possessory lights in an animal.”  As another Oregon court recently observed, the state legislature might determine that the state could permit an unrelated party to file a complaint against an animal’s owner based on public policy and concerns about the humane care of animals.  See Justice v. Gwendolyn Vercher, Case No. 18CV17601 (Oregon Judicial Department, Washington County Circuit Court, Twentieth Judicial District, Sept. 17, 2018) previously discussed here.

The amendment also provides for temporary restraining order or preliminary injunction upon the filing of a verified complaint, and if the plaintiff requests it and plaintiff’s agent could be permitted “unrestricted access to the premises where the animal is located to evaluate, monitor, and provide minimum care to the animal.”

And “if it appears on the face of the complaint that the condition giving rise to the violation of O.R.S. §167.305-390 requires the animal to be removed from the defendant, then it shall be proper for the court in the order or injunction to allow the plaintiff to take possession of the animal and provide minimum care.”

Keep in mind that this is all without any evidentiary hearing of any sort, but simply based on the face of the complaint, in a suit filed by someone who, until after the complaint was filed may have had possession or first-hand knowledge of the conditions in which the animal was housed or its physical status.

But the amendment does not stop there.

It would require a defendant to post bond within ten days after a court allowed a plaintiff to take possession of the animal, and if not posted, “the court shall deem the animal to have been abandoned.”

Yikes!!

Oregon already permits a peace officer, based on probable cause, to obtain a search warrant and enter the premises or vehicle where an animal, believed to being treated inhumanely, “to provide the animal with food, water and emergency medical treatment and may impound the animal.”  Or. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 167.345 (West).

Oregon defines “peace officer” as:

(a) A member of the Oregon State Police;

(b) A sheriff, constable, marshal, municipal police officer or reserve officer as defined in ORS 133.005, or a police officer commissioned by a university under ORS 352.121 or 353.125;

(c) An investigator of the Criminal Justice Division of the Department of Justice or investigator of a district attorney’s office;

(d) A humane special agent as defined in ORS 181A.345;

(e) A regulatory specialist exercising authority described in ORS 471.775 (2);

(f) An authorized tribal police officer as defined in ORS 181A.680; and

(g) Any other person designated by law as a peace officer.

Or. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 161.015 (West).

The entirety of the proposed amendment is available here.

A discussion of several cases decided on the basis of Oregon’s animal cruelty statute to follow shortly.

 

Stuart Goldman, the former chief humane law enforcement officer for the Monmouth County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to animals, filed a qui tam complaint against Critter Control of New Jersey, Kewin, Inc. d/b/a Critter Control of New Jersey, Robert McDonough and Evan Windholz (Critter Control defendants), “seeking ‘damages and civil penalties’ for violations of N.J.S.A. 4:22–26 for ‘animal cruelty, animal abuse, negligence, recklessness, [and] negligent infliction of emotional distress, 454 N.J.Super. 418, 421 (N.J.A.D. 2018).  Goldman alleged that the Critter Control defendants violated the animal cruelty statute when they removed a raccoon from a client’s roof and did not see baby raccoons that were allegedly present and “had gone without sustenance for a week.”

The court granted the Critter Control defendants’ motion to dismiss the case, with prejudice, because the animal cruelty statute does not authorize private citizens to sue, and Plaintiff Goldman therefore lacked standing.  The court denied Goldman’s motion for reconsideration and he thereafter appealed.  The appeal was consolidated with another appeal based on a case Goldman filed against Carlstrom, Hill, and Simplicity Farms alleging the farm mistreated horses violating the state animal cruelty statute.  The court granted defendants’ unopposed motion to dismiss which was later vacated when Goldman filed a motion for reconsideration, before finally dismissing the case for lack of standing.

Plaintiff-Appellant argues that his qui tam lawsuits were authorized by N.J.S.A. 4:22-26 which states ‘“any person in the name of the New Jersey [SPCA]’ or county SPCA can sue for civil penalties.”  Goldman v. Critter Control of New Jersey, 454 N.J. Super. at 425.

The appellate court carefully reviewed the history of the statute and other relevant statutes governing penalties and fines, including the Penalty Enforcement Law (PEL), N.J.S.A. 2A:58-10, to determine whether this clause Goldman relied upon provides legal standing for his qui tam-styled actions..

The Court held:

The PCAA authorized enforcement of the animal cruelty laws by the New Jersey or county SPCAs; authorized the SPCA to promulgate uniform bylaws and guidelines; required humane officers to be trained in these “mandatory uniform standards, guidelines and procedures”; authorized the imposition of civil penalties; dedicated all of the penalties to the SPCAs; allowed collection of the penalties pursuant a law that allows administrative agencies to collect penalties; and long ago, removed language referencing qui tam actions or informers. Given the many amendments of this legislation, we decline to interpret the PCAA as authorizing qui tam lawsuits.  Goldman v. Critter Control of New Jersey, 454 N.J. Super. at 429.

Notably, although the Court rightfully analyzed the appeal in light of the law existing at the time the civil actions were filed, the noted the most recent amendments to the animal cruelty statute which “shift[s] enforcement responsibilities to the county prosecutor task forces and militate against plaintiff’s contention that the law allows for private enforcement actions.”  Id. at 431.

This opinion provides an interesting analysis of the history of the penalty and enforcement provisions of State’s animal cruelty statute.

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.

Sister bills S2689 and A4225 have been introduced and reported out of the Senate Committee with amendments and the Assembly Committee, respectively.  The bills would change the effective dates of some of the provisions of the law that Governor Christie signed just before leaving office that stripped law enforcement authority from the New Jersey Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and transferred it to county prosecutors.  The law also required each municipality to designate a municipal law enforcement officer within each existing police department.

As described in the bill statement:

the revised effective dates for the various sections of P.L.2017, c.331 would be as follows, listed in chronological order of when they already took effect or will take effect in the future because of this bill:

  • Section 33 (which prohibits the NJSPCA from taking certain actions with regard to the charters of county societies for the prevention of cruelty to animals, and provides that the act should not be construed to require county societies to surrender any of their assets) took effect on January 16, 2018, and would remain in effect under the bill.
  • Section 34 (which pertains to certain responsibilities of the Attorney General under the act) of P.L.2017, c.331 took effect on January 16, 2018, and would remain in effect under the bill.
  • Sections 25 (which pertains to municipal responsibilities under the act), 26 (which pertains to applications for designation as a municipal humane law enforcement officer), 27 (which pertains to continuing eligibility of former humane law enforcement officers or agents), and 28 (which pertains to county prosecutor responsibilities under the act) of P.L.2017, c.331 took effect on May 1, 2018, and would remain in effect under the bill.
  • Section 29 (which pertains to applications for designation as a humane law enforcement officer of a county society for the prevention of cruelty to animals) of P.L.2017, c.331 would take effect on August 1, 2018.
  • Section 35 (which repeals certain sections of existing law concerning the NJSPCA) of P.L.2017, c.331 would continue under this bill to take effect on August 1, 2018.
  • Sections 1 through 5 and sections 7 through 24, 30, and 31 of P.L.2017, c.331 would continue under this bill to take effect on August 1, 2018.
  • Section 6 (which pertains to the appointment of certified animal control officers) of P.L.2017, c.331 and section 32 (which pertains to county societies for the prevention of cruelty to animals) of P.L.2017, c.331 would take effect on February 1, 2019.
  • Finally, the bill, would change the date of the repeal of section 8 of P.L.1997, c.247 (C.4:19-15.16c) from August 1, 2018 to February 1, 2019.

Tim Martin, lobbyist for the NJSPCA, testified at the Senate Environment and Energy Committee on Monday, June 18, 2018, in support of the proposed extensions in the law.  The NJ Association of Counties and County Prosecutors Association were also supportive of the bill since it permits counties and municipalities to work out kinks related to training, funding, and sheltering.  All 21 counties have already named municipal humane law enforcement officers and assistant prosecutors have been named in all counties to deal with animal cruelty cases.  Curriculum has been adopted for official state law enforcement training by the New Jersey Police Training Commission, based on pre-existing training used for Animal Cruelty Investigators and NJSPCA officers.

 

In Naruto v. Slater, 2018 WL 1902414 (9th Cir. April 23, 2018)-the case in which Naruto, a crested macaque by and through his alleged “next friends,” People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, sued a photographer and his publishers for copyright infringement-the Court, citing an earlier case, Cetacean Cmty. v. Bush, 386 F.3d 1169, 1175 (9th Cir. 2004) stated that at least part of the requirements for standing-the existence of a case or controversy-was not impossible simply because the plaintiffs were animals.

While in both cases, the Ninth Circuit held that the plaintiffs did not have standing under the relevant statutes-in-suit, the fact that animals may have standing has been disputed by some and seems inconsistent with this court’s reasoning.

In Cetacean Cmty. the Court stated “we see no reason why Article III prevents Congress from authorizing a suit in the name of an animal, any more than it prevents suits brought in the name of artificial persons such as corporations, partnerships or trusts, and even ships, or of juridically incompetent persons such as infants, juveniles, and mental incompetents.”  Cetacean Cmty., 386 F.3d at 1176.

But what the courts seem to overlook is that Article III is one of several articles to the Constitution of the United States which begins:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.  (Emphasis added).

I find Circuit Judge Smith’s concurring opinion in Naruto v. Slater, explaining the restrictions on “next friend” or “third party” standing, instructive.

The limitations on the ‘next friend’ doctrine are driven by the recognition that ‘it was not intended that the writ of habeas corpus should be availed of, as matter of course, by intruders or uninvited meddlers, styling themselves as next friends.’

NOTE-isn’t this essentially what the Nonhuman rights project has done in its various, non-winning petitions for writs of habeas corpus.

And Judge Smith added:

Indeed, if there were no restrictions on ‘next friend’ standing in federal courts, the litigant asserting only a generalized interest in constitutional governance could circumvent the jurisdictional limits of Art. III simply by assuming the mantle of ‘next friend.’

Judge Smith disagreed with the majority finding that lack of next friend standing removes jurisdiction of the court, while the majority held that next-friend standing is nonjurisdictional.

Both Judge Smith and the majority agreed that “animals cannot be represented by a next friend.”

And Judge Smith explains that “[t]here is no textual support in either the habeas corpus statute or Rule 17 for animal next friends,” providing additional legal support for courts’ rejections of the Nonhuman Rights Projects’ petitions that claimed that animals were legal persons.

However, because of these holdings over standing via Article III’s case and controversy provision by the 9th Circuit we expect to see more cases brought under the guise of the next friend.

Of note, in Oregon, a lawsuit was filed by a horse (Justice) “by and through his Guardian, Kim Mosiman” against his former owner, who had already pleaded guilty to neglect of the horse.  The suit includes a single claim for relief of negligence, allegedly based on Justice’s owner’s requirement to comply with Oregon’s anti-cruelty statute, which the owner had previously pleaded guilty to.  Justice requests relief for economic damages of not less than $100,000, non-economic damages in an amount to be determined at trial, reasonable attorneys’ fees, costs and disbursements, and other relief the court deems proper.

We should expect similar lawsuits to be filed in many jurisdictions.

 

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.

In the wake of mass shootings, legislators across the country have been introducing bills to address the tragic and needless loss of life-some good, others not so much.

In New Jersey, a set of sister bills (S2239 and A3693) have been introduced that would prohibit possession of a firearm by any person convicted of “any crime or offense constituting animal cruelty enumerated under chapter 22 of Title 4 of the Revised Statutes [the Statute].”

While there are certainly some offenders that should be considered dangerous felons, proposed amendments like these that impact all found liable under the Statute sweep too broadly.

For example, some shelter managers and staff have been accused of animal cruelty for violations of the Department of Health’s shelter regulations.  Arguably, a violation of such a regulation falls outside the cruelty statute, but it is common practice in the State to issue summons citing the animal cruelty statute for alleged violations of other statutes.

Historically, the New Jersey Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals issued citations to horse owners after stopping them when traveling on State roads without a Coggins test report, which is a violation of the State agriculture laws, and has nothing to do with animal cruelty.  Fortunately, the enforcement authority of the NJSPCA has since been rescinded.

The individuals accused of animal cruelty described above often pleaded guilty to a single count of animal cruelty, which to date, has few negative long lasting consequences.  Notably these are not the type of individuals who intentionally harmed animals and do not pose a risk that would warrant a lifelong ban on gun ownership.  So these proposed gun bans, like animal cruelty registries that are similarly overly broad should not be applied to all animal cruelty offenders.

This is yet another reason why the outdated, antiquated Statute, N.J.S.A. §§4:22.1 – 4:22-56, first enacted in 1868, rife with undefined terms and provisions, should be revamped.  As described in the State Commission of Investigation’s Report (SCI-2000) about the NJSPCA, published in 2000.  “Some statutory provisions are archaic and nonsensical.  Some of the provisions that were enacted over 100 years ago have not been implemented for most, if any of the 20th Century.”  SCI-2000, at p. 11.

At the same time, we need a much greater understanding about people who knowingly and intentionally harm, torture and/or kill animals and those who exhibit hoarding behavior.  The former, include some who go on to inflict violent acts against other people.  These offenders are dangerous.  The latter-hoarders-often believe they are helping the animals who, never the less, suffer under their care.  Much more research is needed to study “hoarding” to help identify the initial signs of this disorder and hopefully intercede before animals are harmed.

The FBI’s new data collecting and tracking program that now includes some acts of animal cruelty will help quantify, for the first time, how many acts of animal cruelty have been committed.

On January 1, the Bureau’s National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) began collecting detailed data from participating law enforcement agencies on acts of animal cruelty, including gross neglect, torture, organized abuse, and sexual abuse. Before this year, crimes that involved animals were lumped into an “All Other Offenses” category in the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program’s annual Crime in the United States report, a survey of crime data provided by about 18,000 city, county, state, tribal, and federal law enforcement agencies.  Tracking Animal Cruelty FBI Collecting Data on Crimes.

Clearly, more has to be done to protect animals and humans.

Just a quick update about some recent blogs describing proposed bills in New Jersey.

Governor Christie pulled the plug on the NJSPCA signing S3558 into law which removes the association’s law enforcement authority.

Nosey’s bill (S2508), which would have threatened the continued existence of zoos and  other educational  facilities in New Jersey, based on its overly broad definitions, was pocket vetoed, as was Sweeney’s Animal Abuse Registry bill-S2295 substituted by A3421.  

Nosey’s bill was prefiled for the current legislative session (A1923) and was Introduced and Referred to Assembly Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee.

At least 2 animal abuse registry bills have been prefiled as well (A376 and AA719).

There were more than 200 animal-related bills introduced last session in the New Jersey legislature according to Tom Leach who tracks bills as the Executive Director of the New Jersey Association of Biomedical Research.

There is no reason to expect this to change.

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.