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.

Moose’s Law, currently A308, prohibits persons convicted of criminal animal cruelty offenses from owning domestic companion animals and from working or volunteering at animal related enterprises, continues to suffer flaws that must be corrected to avoid constitutional violations and unintended consequences.

The amendments to this bill attempt to limit its provisions to conduct constituting criminal violations of New Jersey’s animal cruelty statutes, but actually fails to do so.

While new section 2 applies only to individuals who is convicted of an animal cruelty offense (an improvement over former versions, but still not appropriate), Section 3 of P.L.1983, c.525 (C.4:19-15.16a) is amended to 39 read as follows:

(1) The commissioner shall establish a list of all persons : (a) for whom a certificate , issued pursuant to subsection b. of this section, has been revoked, or (b) who have been convicted of, or found civilly liable for, a violation of any provision of chapter 22 of Title 4 of the Revised Statutes. The commissioner shall provide each municipality in the State with a copy of this list within 30 days after the list is established and not less often than annually thereafter if no revised list required pursuant to paragraph (2) of this subsection has been issued in the interim. The commissioner shall also post the list, together with a statement identifying the list’s proper use and purpose, at a publicly accessible and readily identifiable location on the Department of Health’s Internet website. (emphasis added).

Therefore, anyone found civilly liable pursuant to a provision of the animal cruelty statute will be included on this list and the long-term negative impact to those individuals listed will continue.

Animal cruelty registries can serve the public and the animals they intend to protect if limited to the inclusion of certain criminal offenders of the animal cruelty statutes, so long and the terms of inclusion on such lists are sufficiently limited and can be corrected for those found to be improperly convicted.

A308 does not include such provisions.

Additionally, A308’s pre-employment requirements effectively preclude the ability of pre-veterinary students and others interested in animal-related careers to obtain employment (voluntary or otherwise) at veterinary hospitals, zoos, aquaria, and other animal-related industries who have historically employed such students.

Assembly bill No. 2052 includes the following definition of “necessary care: in the definition section of New Jersey’s animal cruelty statute that could be problematic for farmers raising livestock and poultry in the state, if it were to apply to them:

“Necessary care” means care sufficient to preserve the health and well-being of an animal, and except for emergencies or circumstances beyond the reasonable control of the person responsible for the care of the animal, providing the following: (1) food of sufficient quantity and quality to allow for normal growth or maintenance of body weight; (2) open or adequate access to drinkable water of an appropriate temperature in sufficient quantity and quality to satisfy the needs of the animal; (3) access to adequate protection from the weather, including an enclosed non-hazardous structure sufficient to protect the animal in which there is adequate bedding to protect the animal against cold and dampness; (4) adequate protection for the animal from extreme or excessive sunlight and from overexposure to the sun, heat and other weather conditions; (5) veterinary care to alleviate suffering and maintain health; and (6) reasonable access to a clean and adequate exercise area.

The reason for concern is that provisions (3), (5), and (6) are inconsistent with the provisions set forth in the Humane Treatment of Domestic Livestock (N.J.A.C. 2:8-1.1 et seq.) as provided for in N.J.S.A. 4:22-16.1. which provides:

Rules and regulations; standards for humane treatment of domestic livestock-

  1. The State Board of Agriculture and the Department of Agriculture, in consultation with the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station and within six months of the date of enactment of this act, shall develop and adopt, pursuant to the “Administrative Procedure Act,” P.L.1968, c. 410 (C. 52:14B-1 et seq.): (1) standards for the humane raising, keeping, care, treatment, marketing, and sale of domestic livestock; and (2) rules and regulations governing the enforcement of those standards.
  2. Notwithstanding any provision in this title to the contrary:

(1) there shall exist a presumption that the raising, keeping, care, treatment, marketing, and sale of domestic livestock in accordance with the standards developed and adopted therefor pursuant to subsection a. of this section shall not constitute a violation of any provision of this title involving alleged cruelty to, or inhumane care or treatment of, domestic livestock;

(2) no person may be cited or arrested for a first offense involving a minor or incidental violation, as defined by rules and regulations adopted pursuant to subsection a. of this section, of any provision of this title involving alleged cruelty to, or inhumane care or treatment of, domestic livestock, unless that person has first been issued a written warning.

  1. For the purposes of this act, “domestic livestock” means 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, according to rules and regulations adopted by the department and the board pursuant to the “Administrative Procedure Act.”

CREDIT(S) L.1995, c. 311, § 1, eff. Jan. 5, 1996.

The bill statement for A2052 states:

This bill amends the definition for “necessary care,” established 43 by P.L.2013, c.88 (designated as Patrick’s Law), to provide for 44 additional specific care requirements.

Before consideration by the senate, since the bill statement clearly indicates its intention was to provide for domestic companion animals and not domestic livestock, the definition of “necessary care” should be amended to exclude provisions regarding domestic livestock which are prescribed in N.J.A.C. 2:8-1.1 et seq. as the legislature previously mandated.

A2052 was passed by the Assembly on December 19, 2016.

A bill (A3899) prohibiting veterinary declawing procedures in New Jersey will be considered by the Assembly Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee on Monday, November 14, 2016.

This bill would create civil and criminal liabilities for any person who shall:

Perform, or cause to be performed, an onychectomy (declawing) or flexor tendonectomy procedure on a cat or other animal in violation of section 1 of P.L. , c. (C. ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill).

As summarized in the bill statement:

This bill would prohibit a person from performing, or causing to be performed, an onychectomy (declawing) or flexor tendonectomy procedure by any means on a cat or other animal, unless the procedure is deemed necessary for a therapeutic purpose by a licensed veterinarian. Any person who violates this provision would be guilty of a disorderly persons offense, which is punishable by a fine of up to $1,000, a term of imprisonment of up to six months, or both. A violator would also be subject to a civil penalty of between $500 and $2,000.

Section 1(a) contains the same language that was included in an ordinance banning this procedure that passed in West Hollywood on April 21, 2003.

1.    (New section) a. No person shall perform, or cause to be performed, an onychectomy (declawing) or flexor tendonectomy procedure by any means on a cat or other animal, unless the procedure is deemed necessary for a therapeutic purpose by a licensed veterinarian.  A person who violates this provision shall be guilty of a disorderly persons offense.

This ordinance was upheld in court as constitutional when challenged by veterinary associations. Veterinary Med. Ass’n v. City of W. Hollywood, 61 Cal. Rptr. 3d 318 (Cal. Ct. App. 2007).

Section 1(b) requiring veterinarians to “prepare and file a written statement with the Department of Health setting forth the purpose for performing the procedure and providing the name and address of the owner or keeper of the animal, and provide a copy of that statement to the owner of the animal” impermissibly restricts the veterinary license that is granted by the Division of Consumer Affairs, not the Department of Health.  Furthermore, the disclosure of the names and addresses of pet owners and their veterinarian present a public safety and privacy concern, and violates the state law mandating that veterinarians provide for the confidentiality of all medical records. N.J.A.C. 13:44-4.9(b).

The sad fact is that there are cat owners who will give up their cats because they are destroying furniture who would otherwise keep them as pets if they had this procedure.  Unlike dogs, there are too many cats in shelters, and living in feral populations, and this will only contribute to those numbers.

As reported in a literature review prepared by the AVMA’s Animal Welfare Division, “Welfare Implications of Declawing of Domestic Cats,” published on Feb. 16, 2016, the benefits of the procedure were discussed.

In some cases declawing may be an alternative to relinquishment, outdoor housing or euthanasia. For example, in a 1991 survey of Ontario veterinarians, respondents indicated that approximately 50% of their clients would no longer own their cat if it had not been declawed. Following aggression, a survey of veterinarians reported scratching as the behavioral problem most frequently associated with abandonment of cats in Brazil. Unacceptable behaviors such as daily scratching increase the risk of relinquishment of an animal to a shelter, and declawing decreased the risk of relinquishment. As approximately 72% of cats relinquished to animal shelters are euthanatized, owners may feel they are faced with the choice of declawing their pet cat or potentially condemning it to death. Because outdoor cats are exposed to predators, street traffic, inclement weather, and diseases (e.g., feline leukemia, feline infectious peritonitis), owners may not consider keeping a scratching cat outside to be a viable alternative. Thus declawing may sometimes be necessary to ensure that a pet cat keeps its home. (Citations omitted).

The article also reviews the risks, including welfare concerns related to this veterinary procedure.

Veterinarians cannot perform this surgery, or any other, without obtaining informed consent from their patient’s owner.

The AVMA explains, in its position statement on this topic:

The decision to declaw a cat should be made by the owners in consultation with their veterinarian. Declawing of domestic cats should be considered only after attempts have been made to prevent the cat from using its claws destructively or when its clawing presents an above normal health risk for its owner(s).

Anyone interested in testifying on Monday should attend the hearing at 2:00 pm in Committee Room 15, 4th floor, State House Annex in Trenton.

New Jersey Assemblyman Troy Singleton, sponsor of “Moose’s Law,” an animal abuse registry law which I have discussed several times, has proposed another animal cruelty-related bill.  This time, in Assembly Bill No. 4313, Singleton proposes to add to the list of possible civil animal cruelty offenses conduct that “[p]uts a domestic companion animal in danger of injury or imminent harm.”

Notably, the amendment is not based on actual injury or imminent harm, but conduct that “puts a domestic animal” in such danger.  If a professional, government-authorized agency were responsible for making such determination, with the requisite training and background to do so, this amendment might be reasonable and warranted .  Unfortunately, in New Jersey, the animal cruelty statutes are enforced by quasi-governmental agencies (State and/or County Societies for the Protection of Cruelty to Animals) which have been repeatedly criticized in statewide public investigations as being corrupt, ineffective, self-interested, and unable to fulfill their duties without violating the state and federal constitutional rights of New Jersey citizens.  (See, e.g., SCI and Animal Welfare Task Force Reports).

Even if the problem of law enforcement were resolved, for example, as has occurred in New York City, since the ASPCA relinquished its law enforcement authority to the NYCPD,

Singleton’s proposed amendment suffers from the quintessential issue that a law is void for vagueness and therefore unenforceable.

What conduct would constitute placing a domestic animal in “actual injury or imminent harm” that is not already included in the statutory provisions of the State’s animal cruelty statutes?

How does this proposed amendment provide any additional protection to animals that are not already specified in the existing statute related to civil violations, provided below?

Before additional enforcement authority is provided to enforcers of the animal cruelty statutes in New Jersey, measures must be taken to ensure that the enforcing agencies are properly trained law enforcement professionals—not State and County SPCA’s.

The following conduct is currently prohibited by the State’s animal cruelty civil statutes:

4:22-26. Acts constituting cruelty in general; penalty:

A person who shall:

Overdrive, Overdrive, overload, drive when overloaded, overwork, deprive of necessary sustenance, abuse, or needlessly kill a living animal or creature, or cause or procure any such acts to be done;

Torment, torture, maim, hang, poison, unnecessarily or cruelly beat or needessly mutilate a living animal or creature; or cause or procure any such acts to be done-

Cruelly kill, or cause or procure the cruel killing of, a living animal or creature, or otherwise cause or procure the death of a living animal or creature from commission of any act described in paragraph (2) of this subsection;

Inflict unnecessary cruelty upon a living animal or creature, or unnecessarily fail to provide a living animal or creature of which the person has charge either as an owner or otherwise with proper food, drink, shelter or protection from the weather, or leave it unattended in a vehicle under inhumane conditions adverse to the health or welfare of the living animal or creature-

Receive or offer for sale a horse that is suffering from abuse or neglect, or which by reason of disability, disease, abuse or lameness, or any other cause, could not be worked, ridden or otherwise used for show, exhibition or recreational purposes, or kept as a domestic pet without violating the provisions of this article;

Keep, use, be connected with or interested in the management of, or receive money or other consideration for the admission of a person to a place kept or used for the purpose of fighting or baiting a living animal or creature;

Be present and witness, pay admission to, encourage, aid or assist in an activity enumerated in subsection e. of this section;

Permit or suffer a place owned or controlled by him to be used as provided in subsection e. of this section;

Carry, or cause to be carried, a living animal or creature in or upon a vehicle or otherwise, in a cruel or inhumane manner;

Use a dog or dogs for the purpose of drawing or helping to draw a vehicle for business purposes;

Impound or confine or cause to be impounded or confined in a pound or other place a living animal or creature, and shall fail to supply it during such confinement with a sufficient quantity of good and wholesome food and water;

Abandon a maimed, sick, infirm or disabled animal or creature to die in a public place;

Willfully sell, or offer to sell, use, expose, or cause or permit to be sold or offered for sale, used or exposed, a horse or other animal having the disease known as glanders or farcy, or other contagious or infectious disease dangerous to the health or life of human beings or animals, or who shall, when any such disease is beyond recovery, refuse, upon demand, to deprive the animal of life;

Own, operate, manage or conduct a roadside stand or market for the sale of merchandise along a public street or highway; or a shopping mall, or a part of the premises thereof, and keep a living animal or creature confined, or allowed to roam in an area whether or not the area is enclosed, on these premises as an exhibit; except that this subsection shall not be applicable to: a pet shop licensed pursuant to P.L.1941, c.151 (C.4:19-15.1 et. seq.); a person who keeps an animal , in a humane manner, for the purpose of the protection of the premises; or a recognized breeders association, a 4-H club, an educational agricultural program, an equestrian team, a humane society or other similar charitable or nonprofit organization conducting an exhibition, show or performance;

Keep or exhibit a wild animal at a roadside stand or market located along a public street or highway of this State; a gasoline station; or a shopping mall, or a part of the premises thereof;

Sell, offer for sale, barter or give away or display live baby chicks, ducklings or other fowl or rabbits, turtles or chameleons which have been dyed or artificially colored or otherwise treated so as to impart to them an artificial color.

Use any animal, reptile or fowl for the purpose of soliciting any alms, collections, contributions, subscriptions, donations, or payment of money except in connection with exhibitions, shows or performances conducted in a bona fide manner by recognized breeders’ associations, 4-H clubs or other similar bona fide organizations;

Sell or offer for sale, barter or give away living rabbits, turtles, baby chicks, ducklings or other fowl under two months of age, for use as household or domestic pets;

Sell, offer for sale, barter or give away living baby chicks, duckling or other fowl, or rabbits, turtles or chameleons under two months of age for any purpose not prohibited by subsection q. of this section and who shall fail to provide proper facilities for the care of such animals;

Artificially mark sheep or cattle, or cause them to be marked, by cropping or cutting off both ears, cropping or cutting either ear more than one inch from the tip enf thereof, or half cropping or cutting both ears or either ear more than one inch from the tip end thereof, or who shall have or keep in the person’s possession sheep or cattle, which the person claims to own, marked contrary to this subsection unless they were bought in market or of a stranger;

Abandon a domesticated animal;

For amusement or gain, cause, allow, or permit the fighting or baiting of a living animal or creature;

Own, possess, keep, train, promote, purchase or knowingly sell a living animal or creature for the purpose of fighting or baiting that animal or creature;

Gamble on the outcome of a fight involving a living animal or creature;

Knowingly sell or barter or offer for sale or barter, at wholesale or retail, the fur or hair of a domestic dog or cat or any product made in whole or in part from the fur or hair of a domestic dog or cat, unless such fur or hair for sale or barter is from a commercial grooming establishment or a veterinary office or clinic or is for use for scientific research;

Knowingly sell or barter or offer for sale or barter, at wholesale or retail, for human consumption, the flesh of a domestic dog or cat or any product made in whole or in part from the flesh of a domestic dog or cat;

Surgically debark or silence a dog in violation of section 1 or 2 of P.L.2002, c. 102 (C:4:19-38 or C.4:19-39);

Use a live pigeon, fowl or other bird for the purpose of a target, or to be shot at either for amusement or as a test of skill in marksmanship, except that this subsection and subsections bb. And cc. shall not apply to the shooting of game;

Shoot as a bird used as described in subsection aa. of this section, or is a party to such shooting; or cc. Lease a building, room, field or premises, or knowingly permit the use thereof for the purposes of subsection aa. Or bb. Of this section- Shall forfeit and pay a sum according to the following schedule, to be sued for and discovered, with costs, in a civil action by any person in the name of the New Jersey Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals;

In New Jersey, Senate Bill 2454 would “[p]rovide for confiscation and forfeiture of animals involved in animal cruelty violations, and for [the] cost of their care while being held,” all without a Court review of any evidence that would demonstrate such action was warranted.  While we have previously discussed that laws should provide for swift confiscation in situations where the animals are in imminent danger and/or require medical care that has been withheld, such measures can be accomplished pursuant to existing law that permits

“[a]n officer or agent of the New Jersey Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, or a certified animal control officer, may petition a court of competent jurisdiction to have any animal confiscated and forfeited that is owned or possession by a person at the time the person is found to be guilty of violating . . .  [animal cruelty laws].”

However, S2454 puts the proverbial cart before the horse by permitting law enforcement officers, the New Jersey State and local SPCA agents, or animal control officers to “immediately take physical custody of any animal injured or at risk of imminent harm due to the [alleged] violation and any other animals that the officer or agent believes are in danger of imminent harm” without court oversight and approval.  The proposed bill requires review by a court after confiscation has already occurred.

In fact, the law prohibits a court review “no sooner than 10 days” for no discernible reason.   The court is limited to a review of the enforcing agency’s assessment of existing and projected costs for the care of the animals confiscated and must assess the alleged violator those costs plus a security deposit.  The accused must request a separate hearing to prove that it is unable to pay those costs.

Essentially, the concept of innocent until proven guilty would be entirely irrelevant if this bill passes.

But that is not all.

The burden of establishing probable cause of an animal cruelty violation by a petitioning enforcement agency is eliminated if the accused previously had a prior finding of probable cause of an animal cruelty offense, even if those charges were unfounded.

Even worse, if the accused is acquitted of all charges, “the court may return the animal to the owner . . . upon a determination that the owner . . . is able to adequately care for the animal.”  So even if not guilty, the owner will have to undergo some kind of assessment that they are able to care for their animal.

Sounds like double jeopardy (or worse) to me.

And the enforcement agencies are protected against inquiries about the motivation for their actions and cannot be held liable for their conduct, even if based on invidious animus.

Other states have adopted some provisions that permit confiscation of animals before conviction, similar to New Jersey’s existing laws, but none appear as draconian as in S2454.