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.