HB 688, introduced on January 3, 2019, would

I. Makes changes to the definition of pet vendor and defines hobby breeder.

II. Establishes the companion animal welfare division in the department of agriculture, markets, and food.

III.  Establishes the animal transfer database in the department of agriculture, markets, and food.

IV. Creates a license for animal shelters and modifies the license for pet vendors.

V. Allows hobby breeders to register with the department of agriculture, markets, and food.

The bill would “REQUIRE” not “ALLOW” hobby breeders to register with the department, despite the language in the summary described above.

A “hobby breeder” means “A person who transfers animals for a fee and transfers 30 or fewer animals in a year.”  Notably, the term “animals” is not limited to dogs, cats, or other animals commonly owned as pets.

At least some of the requirements for “hobby breeders” appear to be draconian and overly burdensome.  See, e.g., inspection and record keeping requirements:

A hobby breeder registered under this subdivision shall:

I. Maintain in a clean and sanitary condition all premises, buildings, and other enclosures used in the business of dealing in live animals customarily used as household pets.

II. Submit premises, buildings, and other enclosures to scheduled inspections by department employees or local animal control, law enforcement, or health officials at reasonable times.

III.  Maintain, subject to inspection by the commissioner, his or her agent, local officials, law enforcement, or any member of the public, a proper record in which all live animals customarily used as household pets obtained or transferred shall be listed, including the breed, date the animal was obtained and transferred, and from whom the animal or bird was obtained and to whom the animal was transferred.  Such record shall also show the microchip, leg band, or tattoo number of each animal or bird, where applicable.  Animals that do not bear such identification shall be identified by recording markings, a physical description and any other information as the commissioner deems necessary to identify such animals.

IV. Keep records of all animals intended for transfer indicating identification, point of origin, and recipient, and shall submit said records to the commissioner upon request.

V. Provide a health certificate in accordance with RSA 437:10-d to the transferee.

VI. Shall not transfer animals to pet vendors.

VII.  Comply with such other rules as the commissioner may adopt to control disease.

The Fiscal Note, submitted with the bill as introduced, describes the expenditures required by New Hampshire related to the establishment of the Companion Animal Welfare Division within the Department of Agriculture, Markets and Foods, excluding expenses pertaining to operating the office which will house the new Division.  A wopping $3,896,000 are the estimated expenditures from 2020-2023.  The program is not expected to be operational until 2022.

The projected number, type and cost of new positions needed for the new Division includes:

Position Number of Positions FY 2022 Salary and Benefit Costs FY 2023 Salary and Benefit Costs

Inspectors

(LG 18, Step 1)

8

 

$544,000 $560,000

Administrative Secretary

(LG 14, Step 1)

2 $122,000 $128,000

Administrator II

(LG 29, Step 1)

1 $94,000 $99,000

Technical Support Specialist VI

(LG 32, Step 1)

1 $104,000 $109,000

Veterinarian

(LG EE, Step 1)

1 $101,000 $107,000

Attorney III

(LG 30, Step 5)

1

 

$111,000 $113,000
Hearing Officer Contractor 0.5 $37,000 $37,000
Total  14.5  $1,224,000 $1,266.000

 

The new Division has been purportedly modeled after the Animal Welfare Program in Maine.

However, there appear to be striking differences between the laws in Maine and those proposed in HB 688.  For example,  NH would require licensure of anyone who transfers as few as one animal for a fee.  In Maine, “a person may not advertise for sale, sell or exchange for value more than one cat or dog under the age of 6 months in a 12-month period unless that person has a valid animal shelter, kennel, breeding kennel or pet shop license or a valid vendor’s license issued under this section.”  MRS §4163 (emphasis added).

Maine also exempts hobby dog breeders from licensure as a kennel if they sell or exchange one litter of puppies within a 12-month period.  MRS §3907 (17).

While HB 688 would help the state regulate the transfer of animals through animal rescue organizations, it’s required licensure of all hobby breeders appears to be overreaching and likely not necessary to obtain the laudible goals of “put[ting] the humane treatment of animals on par with the existing mission priorities of the Department . . .”

Bill A-4840 in the New Jersey Assembly, as currently drafted would interfere with the veterinarian-client-patient relationship and a pet owners ability to determine the proper care for their pets, and would provide animals greater access to free legal representation than people accused of criminal animal cruelty misdemeanors in the State.  It should not be passed unless amended.

The bill, as proposed states,

In any criminal court proceeding pursuant to R.S.4:22-17 et seq. or pursuant to P.L.2015, c.85 (C.2C:33-31), or any other criminal proceeding that affects the welfare or care of a cat or dog, the court may order, upon its own initiative or upon request of a party or counsel for a party, that a separate advocate be appointed to represent the best interests of the animal.  If a court orders an advocate to be appointed, the advocate shall be appointed from a list provided to the court by the Administrative Director of the Courts.  A decision by the court denying a request to appoint a separate advocate to represent the best interests of the animal shall not be subject to appeal.  A-4840 (emphasis added).

The “separate advocate . . . appointed to represent the best interests of the animal” would be in a similar legal position as a guardian ad litem appointed by the court, upon request, to represent the best interests of a child or incapacitated adult.

As the American Veterinary Medical Association’s position on guardianship of animals states, such changes in terminology and its effect would not protect animals, but would instead be harmful.

The American Veterinary Medical Association promotes the optimal health and welfare of animals.  Further, the AVMA recognizes the role of responsible owners in providing for their animals’ care.  Any change in terminology describing the relationship between animals and owners, including ‘guardian,’ does not strengthen this relationship and may, in fact, harm it.  Such changes in terminology may adversely affect the ability of society to obtain and deliver animal services and, ultimately, result in animal suffering.

When a similar bill was introduced in the Connecticut legislature, the Connecticut Veterinary Medical Association opposed the bill on similar grounds.  Before it was passed, it was amended to permit an animal advocate to represent the interest of justice, not the animal in certain criminal proceedings.

Animal cruelty is never acceptable, but the rights of animals to legal representation in court should not exceed the rights afforded to those accused of such acts.  If animals are to receive the benefit of legal representation, so too should the accused.  Since many animal cruelty offenses are considered non-indictable offenses, a defendant would not have access to a public defender, and would instead have to pay for legal representations.  If animals in these cases would be represented by attorneys appointed by the State or worse, from animal rights organizations, a gross misapplication of justice would result.

Even more concerning, is the escalation of the rights of animals as similar to the rights of children or incapacitated adults requiring representation by guardians ad litem.  The escalation of animal rights to those provided to humans, should be a concern to all except those who believe animals and humans should be afforded the same legal rights and that animal ownership is unconscionable and unethical.

Therefore, the bill should be amended to include representation of the accused in the same manner that the interests of the animals would be represented and should limit appointment of an advocate only by the court, and not upon the request of a party or counsel for a party.

NOTE: The Senate companion bill is S-3322.  A-4840 is scheduled for the Assembly Judiciary Committee on January 24.

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.

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.

S1093 and A1923, the latest versions of Nosey’s law, a bill that originally would have prohibited the use of elephants in traveling animal acts, has now expanded its reach to “prohibit the use of [all] wild or exotic animal traveling animal acts.”

Why is this a concern?  There are many legitimate animal exhibitions that inform and educate the public about exotic and wild animals that would be prohibited if this bill were to become law.

The current version of this bill, originally introduced in 2016, attempts to but fails to address the flaws in its prior iteration, which Governor Christie vetoed as one of his last official functions.

The definitions and provisions in the proposed bill, described here in relevant part, demonstrate the problems with the law:

“Performance” means any animal . . .  display, exhibition, exposition, fair . . . petting zoo, presentation, public showing . . .  trade show, or similar undertaking in which animals . . . participate as accompaniments for the entertainment, amusement, or benefit of a live audience.

“Wild or exotic animal” means any non-domesticated species of mammal, bird, reptile, or amphibian.

In previous versions of this bill, the terms “wild” and “exotic” were not defined.  The proposed definition above does not correct the prior deficiencies.  First, there is a problem with the term “domesticated.”

The terms “domestic” and “domesticated” have been interpreted by courts where those terms were not defined in statutes or regulations in suit.  See, e.g., Commonwealth v. Comella, 735 A.2d 738 (Pa. Commw. Ct. 1999) (questioning whether a “dog” is a “domestic animal,” based on statutory analysis); Bueckner v. Hamel, 886 S.W.2d 368 (Tex. Ct. Appl. 1994) (affirming judgment based, in relevant part, on the exclusion of “deer” as “domestic animals”); City of Rolling Meadows v. Kyle, 494 N.E.2d 766 (Ill. App. Ct. 1986) (reversing holding that owner’s monkey was not a domesticated house pet); Turudic v. Stephens, 31 P.3d 465, 471 (Or. Ct. App. 2001) (concluding that “although the cougar may be more exotic than goldfish or hamsters, they are, nevertheless, indisputably family pets.”)

Instead of using the term “domesticated” the term “domestic” should be used.

“Domestic” should be defined as “domestic livestock” and “domestic companion animal” and “pet” should be defined as “domestic animal.”  Since these terms have been subject to court interpretation (see, e.g. People v. Garcia, 777 N.Y.S.2d 846 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. 2004) (asserting that the statutory definition of “companion animal” was unconstitutionally vague); Levine v. Connor, 540 F.Supp.2d 1113(N.D. Cal. 2008) (addressing the exclusion of poultry from the definition of “livestock” in the Humane Slaughter Act); State v. Nelson, 499 N.W.2d 512 (Minn. Ct. App. 1993) (reversing conviction for cruelty to a rooster, based on the definition of “livestock”), “domestic livestock” should be further defined pursuant to section 1 of P.L. 1995, c. 311 (C.4:22-16.1); “domestic companion animal” should be further defined pursuant to subsection u. of section 1 of 14 P.L. 1978 (C.2C:20-1).

It would be problematic to incorporate NJDEP’s definition of exotic mammal, bird, reptile or amphibian which means “any nongame species or mammal, bird, reptile or amphibian not indigenous to New Jersey,” since that would prohibit many animal exhibitions and fairs.  For example, domestic cattle are not indigenous to New Jersey.

Then, there is the issue with ferrets, which New York City has ruled are “wild” animals.

In addition to these issues with defined (or undefined terms) the proposed exemptions in the bill, presented below, do nothing to right size the problems with this bill.

This section shall not apply to:

(1)   exhibitions at a non-mobile, permanent institution or facility certified by the United States Department of Agriculture and accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries, the American Sanctuary Association, or a similar organization as determined by the Department of Environmental Protection;

(2)   outreach programs for educational or conservation purposes conducted by a facility accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries, the American Sanctuary Association, or a similar organization as determined by the Department of Environmental Protection;

(3)   an institution of higher education exhibiting wild or exotic animals for research or education purposes; or

(4)   outreach programs for educational or conservation purposes conducted by governmental entities.

First, there is a concern about the arbitrary deference to accreditation by third parties, without reference to any specific animal care standards required.

Second, there are a number of non-governmental entities that are not institutional of higher education that conduct educational and outreach programs that help the public understand the importance and beauty of certain species.

As others have suggested, the language of the originally proposed bill, which would have prohibited the use of elephants in traveling animal acts, was much more preferable than these current versions.

 

A set of bills introduced in the New Jersey legislature would dilute funds from the decades-long spay neuter program overseen by the Department of Health, to the detriment of pets and their owners.

New Jersey bill S883 and sister bill A 2197 would authorize the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission “to issue special Humane State license plates . . . [and] [a]fter the deduction of the cost of designing, producing, issuing, renewing, and publicizing the plates and of any computer programming changes that are necessary to implement the license plate program, in an amount not to exceed $150,000, the additional fees will be deposited into a special non-lapsing fund known as the ‘Humane State License Plate Fund”’ that will be appropriately annually to the Animal Welfare Federation of New Jersey (AWFNJ).  http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/2018/Bills/S1000/883_S2.HTM

The funds are mandated “to be used to provide grants to county societies for the prevention of cruelty to animals for the shelter and care of animals.”

While the bill was reported from the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee, Senator Sarlo, Chair of that committee voted no, saying that he is opposed to this bill, like all others establishing a special license plate, because they all cost the taxpayers money.

Here, there is additional concern because New Jersey has a pre-existing special license described above, established during the Florio administration.  I remember attending the bill signing at Drumthwacket, the official residence of the governor of the State of New Jersey.  The “Animal Friendly” license plate, which debuted in 1994, helps fund “the animal population control program. . . [which] provides low cost spaying and neutering for thousands of pets and encourages the adoption of thousands more each year in New Jersey.”

If enacted into law, this new special plate will dilute the existing animal population program, which had, as of 2012, aided in the spaying and neutering of more than 192,000 cats and dogs, according to then Commissioner of Health, Mary E. O’Dowd.

The funds raised through the [program] support[s] the spay or neutering of dogs and cats adopted from New Jersey shelters, pounds and rescue groups, as well as those owned by persons on public assistance programs.

This fund has been historically popular but runs out of money quickly-many needy families are unable to benefit from the program.

An added benefit of the spay-neuter program, is that it introduces new pet owners to their local veterinarian (who performs the surgery at a greatly reduced fee) and establishes a veterinarian-client-patient relationship that serves as a basis for lifelong veterinary care.

If the State is interested in providing additional funding for animal welfare concerns, this pre-existing program could benefit from additional funds, or perhaps be expanded to assist pet owners without sufficient means provide veterinary care to their pets throughout their lives.

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.

S2508, Nosey’s Law, which “prohibits use of elephants and other wild or exotic animals in traveling animal acts” was passed by both houses in the N.J. legislature on January 8, 2017 and is headed to the Governor’s desk.

The bill, if signed, would put many of the state’s zoos and other businesses that include educating the public about amazing exotic species, out of business.  Therefore, hopefully, it will be vetoed by the Governor as one of his last official acts.

The bill was amended before the final vote to include banning “other wild or exotic animals” in addition to “elephants” from use in traveling animal acts.

The definitions of “Mobile or traveling housing facility.” “Performance,” and “Traveling animal act” make this bill extremely problematic and would have devastating and unreasonable results:

  1. As used in this section:

     “Mobile or traveling housing facility” means a vehicle, including a truck, trailer, or railway car, used to transport or house an animal used for performance.

“Performance” means any animal act, carnival, circus, display, exhibition, exposition, fair, parade, petting zoo, presentation, public showing, race, ride, trade show, or similar undertaking in which animals perform tricks, give rides, or participate as accompaniments for the entertainment, amusement, or benefit of a live audience.

“Traveling animal act” means any performance which requires an animal to be transported to or from the location of the performance in a mobile or traveling housing facility.

 

Based on these definitions, any wild or exotic animals transported to one of the state’s zoo’s or exotic animal exhibits would be banned.

This includes the Cape May Zoo, the Camden Aquarium, and Great Adventures, to name a few.

And the type of animals to be banned, based on the definitions promulgated by NJ DEP include:

          ‘Exotic mammal, bird, reptile or amphibian,’ [which] means any nongame species or mammal, bird, reptile or amphibian not indigenous to New Jersey.

‘Wild bird” means any bird other than a native, introduced, or feral game bird as defined in N.J.S.A 23:4-49 and other than a domesticated bird such as a chicken, turkey, guinea fowl, goose, duck, pigeon, or peafowl. ‘Wild bird’ also means the egg of a wild bird.

N.J.A.C. 7.25-4.1, et seq.

DEP requires permits for owners of exotic mammals including ferrets, llama, and exotic sheep or goats (undefined).  While llama, sheep and goats (and ratites) are also considered livestock, they would still be banned from exhibitions, including state and county fairs under the provisions of this bill.

Wild and exotic bird eggs, transported for incubation, even if to preserve endangered species would also be banned.

 

Such unintended consequences of this bill can only be addressed if it is vetoed.