Rescue Road Trips, inc. (the Rescue), as previously described, transports dogs from the south to the northeastern states for sale/adoption.  The Rescue states that

No exchange of payment may occur within the boarders [sic] of the State of Connecticut.

Connecticut, in an attempt to protect consumers and pets, requires animal importers to register with the Commissioner of Agriculture, which the Rescue has done. Connecticut also requires:

“[a]ny animal importer who intends to offer for sale, adoption or transfer any dog or cat at a venue or location that is open to the public or at an outdoor location, including, but not limited to, a parking lot or shopping center, shall provide notice to the Department of Agriculture and the municipal zoning enforcement officer of the town where any such sale, adoption or transfer will occur, not later than ten days prior to such event. Such notice shall state the date for such sale, adoption or transfer event, the exact location of such event and the anticipated number of animals for sale, adoption or transfer at such event. Any person who fails to provide notice as required pursuant to this subdivision shall be fined not more than one hundred dollars per animal that is offered for sale, adoption or transfer at such event.” CT. ST. §22-344(e)(2)

The statute defines “animal importer” as a person who brings any dog or cat into this state from any other sovereign entity for the purpose of offering such dog or cat to any person for sale, adoption or transfer in exchange for any fee, sale, voluntary contribution, service or any other consideration.” CT. ST. §22-344(e)(3).

Is the Rescue attempted to avoid these requirements by arranging for the sale to occur before entering Connecticut?

The Rescue seems to be relying on a fact sheet written by CT Votes for Animals, dated 7/1/2015, titled CT Importation Law Fact Sheet (the Factsheet).

That Factsheet states:

An adopter who intends to keep a cat or dog as a personal companion is not an animal importer if the adopter owns the cat or dog at the time the animal is brought into Connecticut (e.g., the cat or dog is offered on Petfinder and adopted prior to arriving in Connecticut).

It is not clear whether the Rescue, assuming that notification to the State of Connecticut is not required if the transfer of ownership occurs online, before the Rescue enters the State.

But, if the sale/adoption occurs through Petfinder, before entry into the State, that transfer should be considered a non-face-to-face sale by USDA, in which case the Rescue would have to apply for and be approved as a licensee under the Animal Welfare Act. Currently, they describe themselves as an USDA Class T registrant, not as a licensee.

The Factsheet also appears to have other inaccuracies.

For example, it describes importation laws for dogs or cats pursuant to CT. ST. §22-354(a) as “Prior law.” However, currently, CT. ST. §22-354(a) remains in effect.

In addition to these importation provision, CT. ST. §22-344(f), “Veterinary examination of cat or dog imported into state by animal importer,” also requires:

“Any animal importer, as defined in section 22-344, shall, not later than forty-eight hours after importing any dog or cat into this state and prior to the sale, adoption or transfer of such dog or cat to any person, provide for the examination of such dog or cat by a veterinarian licensed under chapter 384. Thereafter, such animal importer shall provide for the examination of such dog or cat by a veterinarian licensed under chapter 384 every ninety days until such dog or cat is sold, adopted or transferred, provided no such dog or cat shall be sold, adopted or transferred to another person by an animal importer unless (1) such dog or cat was examined by a veterinarian licensed under chapter 384 not more than fifteen days prior to the sale, adoption or transfer of such dog or cat, and (2) such veterinarian provides such animal importer with a written certificate stating that such dog or cat is free of any symptoms of any illness, infectious, contagious or communicable disease. Such certificate shall list the name, address and contact information of such animal importer. Any animal importer who violates the provisions of this subsection shall be fined not more than five hundred dollars for each animal that is the subject of such violation.”

The Factsheet, however, replacing the term “provide” with “arrange” states that “the examination itself may occur after the 48 hour period [or] . . . after the 90 day period,” respectively.

That does not appear to be consistent with the statutory language or the legislative history.

The purpose of this provision, adopted in 2011, as summarized in the legislative history, was to, in relevant part, “(1) require a veterinarian to examine a cat or dog within 48 hours of the animal being imported and within 15 days before the sale, adoption, or transfer of the animal.” (emphasis added).

As further described:

“Veterinarian Services and Records Required

The bill requires an animal importer, within 48 hours of importing a cat or dog into Connecticut and before offering it for sale, adoption, or transfer, and every 90 days until the sale, adoption, or transfer is complete, to have a state-licensed veterinarian examine the animal. Each animal must be examined by a state-licensed veterinarian within 15 days before a sale, adoption, or transfer and the veterinarian must provide the animal importer a written health certificate for the animal. An animal importer who violates these provisions is subject to a find of up to $500 for each unexamined or uncertified animal.”

Since the laws in Connecticut were passed to protect human and animal health, at least in part, it is critical that dog sales and/or adoptions are conducted as these provisions require.

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Dog owners beware!

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.

Governor Christie issued a conditional veto on May 1, 2017, amending S 3041 significantly and correcting some constitutional deficiencies in the existing law (New Jersey’s Pet Purchase Protection Act) as well as glaring constitutional violations in S 3041 that ended up on the Governor’s desk.

Explaining his support of efforts to protect New Jersey pet purchasers and require “responsible conduct among pet breeders and brokers” the Governor rejected much of the newly proposed amendments finding that “aspects of this bill go too far.”  S3041 Conditional Veto, May 1, 2017.

[T]his bill would require the Division of Consumer Affairs (“DCA”) to engage in costly, and potentially unconstitutional, regulation of pet dealers, breeders, and brokers throughout the country. This bill would also have the unintended consequence of restricting consumer access to pets, even from responsible breeders.

This bill would expand the Act’s burdensome sourcing requirements on New Jersey pet shops to all pet dealers; impose onerous record keeping and reporting requirements on pet dealers; require DCA to post on its web-site United States Department of Agriculture (“USDA”) inspection reports for breeders and brokers, even though the USDA removed these inspection reports from its own website shortly after being sued in part over privacy concerns; and expose pet shops and pet dealers to a severe “three strikes and you’re out” penalty that could permanently close them for something as innocuous as unknowingly obtaining pets from a source that was cited, but not fully adjudicated, for technical violations in a USDA inspection report which they no longer publish on their own website.

Some of the changes in the Conditional Veto include:

  1. The inflammatory, pejorative language in the preamble has been deleted in its entirety.
  2. The definition of “broker” would be consistent with that term as defined in the Animal Welfare Act and related regulations.
  3. For the most part, the law would apply to those conducting business within the State of New Jersey.
  4. Pet shops and pet dealers within New Jersey remain banned from purchasing from USDA exempt breeders but exempt or hobby breeders are no longer included in the definition of pet dealer.
  5. Most of the draconian provisions and fines for pet stores have been eliminated or significantly amended.
  6. Documentation of and about the dogs and cats sold by pet stores is still required, but those documents no longer have to be plastered on cages. They can either be on the cage or “in a display that is visible and accessible to consumers and is immediately adjacent to the cage or enclosure.”

Importantly, the Conditional Veto requires final adjudications that a source has violated the Animal Welfare Act before banned from selling to pet shops or pet dealers in N.J.  Apparently recognizing that the existing and proposed language impermissibly violates the Due Process rights of pet breeders and dealers, the proposed changes provide:

Pet shops and pet dealers cannot purchase from a pet dealer who ‘received three or more separate, final and conclusive orders for violation of the federal Animal Welfare Act . . . or corresponding federal animal welfare regulations . . .during the five-year period prior to the purchase of the animal by the pet shop or pet dealer.”

Unfortunately, the Governor did not correct the requirement for out of state breeders to comply with NJ Department of Health regulations, an impermissible violation of the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

Whether and to what extent the Conditional Veto will be adopted remains to be seen.  The bill sponsor has threatened to override the veto.

Those interested in supporting the Conditional Veto and blocking an override can visit NAIA’s website  for more information.

 

Sometimes it is important to set the record straight.

That is the case here.  New Jersey stood at the forefront in the country of establishing humane standards of care for livestock and poultry for the state.   In 2003, when the rule was originally proposed, the New Jersey Department of Agriculture explained that they were “adopt[ing] ‘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 N.J.R. 1873(a)(2003, as mandated by N.J.S.A. 4:22-16.1.

While the rules require minimum standards of care,  the Department acknowledged that “many responsible New Jersey farmers meet or exceed” those standards.  The standards were developed in consultation with the New Jersey Agricultural Station, and involved hundreds of hours of meeting with subcommittees established for each livestock group.  Committee members included state and federal animal health officials, academicians, subject matter experts, farmers, transporters and members of the N.J.S.P.C.A.  As the Director of the Division of Animal Health at that time, I chaired those meetings.

The N.J.D.A., the N.J. Ag. Station and N.J. Farm Bureau had approached legislators requesting the amendment to the animal cruelty statute (N.J.S.A. 4:22-16.1) that mandated the creation of these regulations out of concerns that there was no uniform guidance to either professional or volunteer law enforcement officials who were enforcing animal cruelty statutes with uneven hands across the state.  These rules were necessary to provide:

[r]egulatory authorities charged with the enforcement of animal cruelty rules  . . . measurable standards to help them do their jobs effectively and assist in the training of new inspectors.  These defined standards provide authorities with a baseline to use to determine when animal cruelty occurs.  Application of these standards uniformly, across the State will standardize the criteria under which animal cruelty cases are judged.  35 N.J.R. 1873(a)(2003.

In addition to specific standards for the raising, keeping, care, treatment, marketing and sale of: (a) cattle; (b) horses; (c) poultry; (d) rabbits; (e) small ruminants; and (f) swine, they also established “procedural rules for investigation and enforcement actions and [the] use of proper biosecurity protocols.”  Id.   Biosecurity protocols are critical when investigating complaints about animal care “to prevent the spread of infectious or contagious agents on or off farm premises.”  Id. 

Furthermore, because the cause of livestock illness many not be immediately apparent, it is important that any individual who performs investigations be familiar with clinical signs of disease and report any cases of livestock disease or death to the  . . . NJDA as required under N.J.A.C. 2:2-1.5.  Id.

As previously described here, New Jersey was one of the first states to establish comprehensive humane standards of care for livestock and poultry.  At the time, Colorado was one of the few states that had standards for livestock, although not at comprehensive as those drafted by New Jersey.

Well after the rule was adopted and survived legal challenges, the regulations and process used to draft the standards was shared with other states, including, for example, Ohio.  Ohio’s standards were recently heralded as a model to follow for the formation of livestock codes in other states. 

While I agree that the process used and resulting standards adopted in Ohio are a great model, it is important to remember that both started right here in the “Garden State!”

 

A “Good Samaritan” bill, S 3134, introduced in the New Jersey Senate on May 8, 2017 would “provide immunity from civil liability for veterinarians or emergency responders who assist animals at accident scene or emergency.”  Sister bill A4770 was introduced and referred to the Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee on May 11, 2017.

Currently veterinarians have immunity for civil damages for rendering emergency care:

Any individual licensed to practice veterinary medicine who, in good faith, renders emergency care to any animal which has, immediately prior to the rendering of such care, been brought to such individual’s attention at or from the scene of an accident or emergency situation or has been discovered by such individual at the scene of an accident or emergency situation shall not be liable for any civil damages as a result of any acts or omissions by such person in rendering the emergency care.  NJSA 45:16-9.11

So what do these newly introduced bills do differently?

First, it seems as if the bill sponsors and oversight from the Office of Legislative Services may have been unaware of the existing provisions for veterinarians, since the introduced bills purport to amend  NJ Rev Stat § 2A:62A-1 (2013) a statute titled “Civil immunity for emergency care” and there is no citation to the above-mentioned statute, part of the NJ Veterinary Medical Practice Act.

The provisions for veterinarians in these newly proposed bills appears redundant to immunity already provided.

However, the bills would expand the immunity to all “emergency responders” defined as “a law enforcement officer, paid or volunteer firefighter, paid or volunteer member of a duly incorporated first aid, emergency, ambulance, or rescue squad association, or any other individual who, in the course of employment, provides medical care or other assistance at the scene of an accident or emergency.”

The actual provisions of the bills is similar to the immunity provided for in the State Veterinary Practice Act for veterinarians, namely:

An emergency responder or veterinarian who in good faith renders emergency care to an animal at the scene of an accident or emergency shall not be liable for any civil damages as a result of any acts or omissions in rendering the emergency care. Nothing in this section shall exonerate an emergency responder or veterinarian from gross negligence.

It would appear that these bills would provide immunity to emergency responders and veterinarians responding to pets confined in a vehicle during inclement conditions that could be considered emergencies, e.g., excessively high temperatures.

Therefore, while these bills are, in part redundant, they extend immunity to emergency responders and strike an appropriate balance that would benefit pets and their owners.

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.

 

 

The New York Times recently published an article addressing an issue that is close to the heart of pet owners across the country, namely, pet-custody rights in the event of a divorce or separation. The article notes that courts across the nation have treated family pets in varying fashions: some courts treating pets as personal property alone, while others have attempted to act in the best interests of the animals, awarding shared custody, visitation rights and even alimony payments to custodial pet parents.

In January of 2017, Alaska became the first state to enact “pet-custody legislation”, which explicitly allows matrimonial courts to take into consideration a pet’s well-being in issuing awards. The legislation defines an animal, as “vertebrate living creature not a human being.” The legislation also includes other protections for animals commonly enacted by states around the country including the addition of animal cruelty as an offense defined as “domestic violence.” Such classification allows a pet owner to petition a court for a protective order, and financial assistance, in the event that a member of the household commits an act of animal cruelty.

The Alaskan measure may be viewed as a step toward changing the legal status of pets from property, to something else, where pets would be granted certain legal rights and protections. Jeff Pierce, legislative counsel for the Animal Legal Defense Fund, is quoted in the article discussing the beneficial effect that the law in Alaska has not only in reducing potential conflicts in divorces, but also in drawing attention to pet-custody and wellbeing questions in general. Pet-custody legislation of this nature has the potential to increase litigation costs in divorce proceedings. For example, experts may have to be retained in order to determine how to actually consider a pet’s well-being in issuing an award.

For more detail about Pet-Custody legislation please see “When Couples Divorce, Who Gets to Keep the Dog? (or Cat.)” by Christopher Mele, published by the New York Times on March 23, 2017.

I previously described concerns about S3019’s impact to veterinarians.

There are additional concerns about the impact of this bill to animal shelters and NJ taxpayers.  And, it is inexplicable why S3019 exempts animal rescue organizations from provisions governing shelters since these unregulated organizations are becoming the primary way people are obtaining pets—through retail rescue channels.  See The Phenomenon called “Retail Rescue.”

Animal shelters are under increasing pressure from the no-kill movement to decrease or eliminate the number of animals they euthanize.  This creates a near impossibility for those shelters that provide for the euthanasia of pets as a service to pet owners who rely on shelters for that very purpose.  Additionally, some animals are unfortunately not suitable for adoption because of behavioral or medical disorders.  For these animals and the people who may unwittingly adopt them, euthanasia may be the best option.

Animal rescue organizations do not have to comply with any provisions that would govern shelters if S3019 becomes law.  They simply have to register with the Department of Health.  Certainly animals housed in any facility should be provided with proper care, but with the draconian and costly provisions in S3019, it is not clear why any private brick and mortar shelter would continue to exist.

Unlike “regulated animal facilities,” animal rescue organizations would not have to: (1) employ a State-certified director, (2) comply with strict feeding, housing, exercise, and medical care requirements, (3) maintain records of any sort, or (4) be subject to a civil action in Superior or municipal court brought by any person for failure to comply with this law.

Other concerns about the bill include, but are not limited to:

  1. The Department of Health would have to draft regulations regarding the recognition of cat and dog breeds by shelter staff.  However, studies have proven that “regardless of profession, visual identification of the breeds of dogs with unknown heritage is poor.”  See K.C. Croy, et al., What kind or dog is that? Accuracy of dog breed assessment by canine stakeholders.   Published by College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Florida, Gainesville.  Hopefully, DOH’s proposed regulations, if drafted, will include the deficiencies related to the visual identification of randomly-sourced pets.
  2. The cost of enforcing this bill will be significant.
    1. The law would require at least three inspections of regulated animal facilities by specially trained inspectors each year. While training is certainly a welcome and important advance, the cost would be considerable.
    2. The bill would require the Board of Veterinary Medicine, the Department of Health and Rutgers to develop certain training and certification programs that would be costly to develop and implement.
  3. The law would limit euthanasia of animals to veterinarians or a veterinary technician with specific training and certification in euthanasia. The law would require that the Board of Veterinary Medicine, in consultation with the Department of Health, establish training and certification, but it is unclear how this can proceed without requiring the licensure of veterinary technicians, something the legislature has not provided for.
  4. The law would encourage shelters to provide for “temporary” housing, even with other animals, instead of performing euthanasia.  While decreasing euthanasia is laudable, shelters should not be encouraged to violate DOH’s sanitary regulations adopted to decrease disease spread and behavioral incompatibilities that prohibit such housing.

S3019, in addition to its well-meaning intent, would have some positive effects, such as increased tracking and reporting of the movement of animals into and between regulated animal facilities.  Of course, this data should include movement through animal rescue organizations.

The provisions of S3019 that would help ensure that any adoptable animals are not unnecessarily euthanized is clearly laudable.  However, unless the State prohibits the unregulated importation of animals from other states and countries to rescues and shelters through retail rescue channels, animals that are unsuitable as pets will continue to reside in shelters and some will be euthanized.

Senator Linda R. Greenstein introduced S3019 on Feb. 27, 2017, a bill that would establish “additional requirements for operation and oversight of animal shelters, pounds, kennels operating as shelters or pounds, and veterinary holding facilities.”

The bill creates liabilities for veterinarians who provide certain critical services to municipalities.  If enacted, it is unclear why veterinarians would expose themselves to such liability.  Therefore, critical services currently provided by these veterinarians to communities could place both people and animals at unnecessary risk.

The following provisions are of greatest concern:

The bill defines “veterinary holding facilities” as “any facility owned or operated by a veterinarian, veterinary hospital, clinic, veterinary boarding facility, or similar facility that houses stray, surrendered, or otherwise impounded animals as a boarding agent or holding facility for an animal control provider, the New Jersey Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals or any of its humane law enforcement officers or agents, a county society for the prevention of cruelty to animals or any of its humane law enforcement officers or agents, or local law enforcement.”

If an animal control officer, an agent of the NJSPCA or a country SPCA, or a professional law enforcement officer brings an animal in need of veterinary medical care to a veterinarian for emergency care, that veterinarian is required to provide such care.  See N.J.A.C. 13:44-4.7.  If part of that care requires short or long-term housing for that animal, the veterinarian could be defined as a “veterinary holding facility” which then qualifies that facility as an “animal holding facility.”  S3019 would require each animal holding facility, including a veterinary holding facility to:

  1. provide specific vaccinations to each animal in the facility;*
  2. apply for a pound license from the municipality in which it operates;
  3. employ a properly trained and certified director of the facility; and
  4. establish specific hours of operation during which time they must be open to the public.

This bill would expose veterinarians to liability for serving their communities by providing care to abandoned, injured, and rescued animals they treat on an emergent basis.  Many of these provisions are not appropriate and are unnecessary for veterinary facilities which are governed by statutes and regulations enforced by the State Board of Veterinary Medicine Examiners which “supervise[s] the practice of veterinary medicine, surgery and dentistry; ensure[s] that veterinary medicine is performed in a manner consistent with acceptable medical and ethical standards; and adjudicate[s] consumer complaints against licensees.”

These provisions of S3019, while well-meaning, should be amended.

*While vaccination generally should be required in animal facilities, it is unwise to require specific vaccines in statutes or regulations, since recommendations change over time, as informed by advances in veterinary medicine.  Instead, laws should incorporate by reference recommendations from appropriate veterinary associations such as the American Animal Hospital Association.