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.

It looks like sister bills in New Jersey that would provide “immunity from civil and criminal liability for rescue of [an] animal from motor vehicle under inhumane conditions” are moving through the lame duck session of the state legislature.

The senate version, S2899, a senate substitution, was passed on Dec. 7, 2017 during a session vote.  The assembly version, A3636 passed last year.  According to Tom Leach, the Executive Director of both the New Jersey Association for Biomedical Research and the Pennsylvania Society for Biomedical Research, since “the bills were amended on the floor of the Senate, it will need to pass the full Senate then go back to the Assembly for concurrence with the Senate amendments.  The assembly vote that is needed is a floor vote.  There is no need for further committee activity.  Both houses still have multiple voting sessions scheduled before the end of the legislative session on January 9th.”

Of concern is the fact that the bills do not provide sufficient guidance to the public about what constitutes “inhumane conditions adverse to the health or welfare of the animal.”  The “inhumane conditions adverse conditions to the health or welfare of the animal” enumerated in the bill, include “heat, cold, inadequate ventilation, or other circumstances likely to endanger or cause bodily injury or death the animal.”

If those “inhumane conditions” exists,

any person who, without license or privilege to otherwise enter the motor vehicle, may in good faith enter the vehicle in order to remove, or render emergency care to, the animal if the person reasonably believes that the health or welfare of the animal may be at risk under such circumstances, provided that prior to entering the motor vehicle the person contacted appropriate rescue personnel to report the circumstances and made a reasonable attempt to locate the owner or operator of the motor vehicle or other person responsible for the animal unless exigent circumstances warrant foregoing such actions.

See A3636  (emphasis added).

Since anyone would be able to break into a vehicle and rescue an animal if these bills become law, these vague and ambiguous provisions could result in unneeded “rescues” that could end up injuring animals and unnecessarily destroying property.  As long as a person acts in “good faith,” they will be immune from criminal or civil liability.

Some pets would suffer if not rescued when locked in cars when the ambient temperature is high with the windows closed and no air conditioning on.  Those pets may suffer from heatstroke, but if so, immediate veterinary treatment is imperative, not optional as permitted in the current bills.  If someone in good faith believes an animal must be rescued due to inhumane conditions harmful to their health, then each rescued animals should receive immediate veterinary care.

Since no one in New Jersey other than licensed veterinarians are permitted to diagnose or treat conditions in animals, there should be provisions for mandatory veterinary treatment as soon as animals, suffering from any inhumane conditions, are rescued from vehicles.

As described on Consultant, A Diagnostic Support System for Veterinary Medicine, developed by one of my former mentors, Dr. Maurice E. White at Cornell University, “heatstroke is a multisystemic disorder usually associated with forced confinement of animals in a hot environment such as a locked car.”

The associated clinical signs of heatstroke include:

Abnormal behavior, aggression, changing habits, Abnormal upper airway breathing sounds, Anorexia, Arrhythmia, Ataxia, Blindness, Bloody stools, feces, hematochezia, Cold skin, Coma, Congestion oral mucous membranes, Constant or increased vocalization, Cyanosis, Dehydration, Diarrhea, Dryness of skin or hair, Dryness oral mucosa, Dullness, Dysmetria, Dyspnea, Epistaxis, Excessive salivation, Fever, Generalized weakness, Inability to stand, Increased respiratory rate, Mydriasis, Oral cavity, tongue swelling, Pale, Paraparesis, Petechiae, ecchymoses, purpura, Red or brown urine, Seizures or syncope, Sudden death, Tachycardia, Tetraparesis, Tremor, Vomiting or regurgitation, Warm skin, Weak pulse.

In a study titled “Hemostatic abnormalities in dogs with naturally occurring heatstroke” abnormalities in hemostatic tests run (platelet count, prothrombin and activated partial thromboplastin times (PT and aPTT, respectively), antithrombin activity (ATA), total protein C activity (tPCA), fibrinogen, and D-dimer concentrations) on 30 dogs with naturally occurring heatstroke were identified.  18 of the 30 dogs survived.  The study found:

[h]emostatic derangements are common in dogs with naturally occurring heatstroke. Alterations in PT, aPTT, tPCA, and fibrinogen concentrations appear to be associated with the outcome at 12–24 hours PP, exemplifying the need for serial measurement of multiple laboratory hemostatic tests during hospitalization, even when within reference interval on presentation. The development of disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC), as defined in this cohort, was not associated with mortality; however, nonsurvivors had significantly more coagulation abnormalities during the first 24 hours PP.

Good Samaritans and law enforcement officials, including animal control and humane officers or agents, assisting pets experiencing inhumane conditions in locked vehicles, should be required to bring that pet immediately to a veterinarian, once rescued.  It should not be optional.

On Wednesday, November 15, 2017, Las Vegas City Council voted to enact “Bill No. 2017-40 – which repeals a formerly adopted ordinance which prohibits pet shops from selling or disposing of dogs, cats or potbellied pigs other than those obtained from an animal care facility or nonprofit animal rescue organization.”

As both the American Kennel Club (AKC) and Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC) stated in written testimony, the misrepresentations about the puppies sold at pet stores harms puppies, breeders, pet stores and consumers by removing a highly regulated source of healthy puppies for people desiring a lifelong pet with specific behavioral and physical characteristics they prefer for their families.

As PIJAC explained:

Even as we have worked to raise standards of care, PIJAC has battled misconceptions about the quality of pet store animals and the sources of such animals. The unsubstantiated assertion that pet store animals generally come from substandard breeding facilities is commonly used as a smoke screen to obscure the fact that the overwhelming majority of pet owners who choose to purchase from pet stores bring home a happy, healthy pet and remain highly satisfied with their pet store experience.

The reality is that almost all pet store puppies originate from USDA licensed breeders who are regularly inspected and found to comply with appropriate care standards. By contrast, many of the dogs and cats from other sources, including rogue Internet operators, private sales, shelters and rescues, did not come from licensed breeders.

AKC stated:

An important part of ensuring the success of a pet with a new owner is to ensure that it is an appropriate fit with the owner’s lifestyle. Treasured pets may be obtained from a variety of sources, including breeders, pet stores, rescues, and local shelters.

Under the current law, families in Las Vegas have lost an important source for choosing a quality pet that is the best fit for their lifestyle and circumstances.

There is no credible evidence that puppies purchased from pet stores originate from “puppy mills,” large commercial substandard breeding facilities, or that pet store puppies contribute to shelter populations-misrepresentations that form the bases for pet store sourcing bans.

Las Vegas City Council repealed the pet store sourcing ban. Hopefully, other communities will follow suit.

On a related note, Circuit Judge Hamilton dissented from the majority opinion in a constitutional challenge to a pet store ban in Chicago (Park Pet Shop, Inc. v. City of Chicago, 872 F. 3d 495 (7th Cir. 2017) “[o]n two points critical to the federal Commerce Clause claim.”

First, the Supreme Court itself has not yet confined the balancing test under Pike v. Bruce Church, Inc., 397 U.S. 137 (1970), as narrowly as my colleagues suggest. The majority writes that Pike balancing comes into play ‘only when the law discriminates against interstate commerce in practical application.’ Ante at 502 (emphasis in original), citing National Paint & Coatings Ass’n v. City of Chicago, 45 F.3d 1124, 1131 (7th Cir. 1995) . . . . The majority would apply Pike only when the challenged law gives ‘local firms any competitive advantage over those located elsewhere’ . . . The Supreme Court’s more recent discussions of Pike, since we decided National Paint in 1995, are difficult to reconcile with this approach. For example, the Court has explained that federal courts ‘generally leave the courtroom door open to plaintiffs invoking the rule in Pike, that even nondiscriminatory burdens on commerce may be struck down on a showing that those burdens clearly outweigh the benefits of a state or local practice.’

 

Judge Hamilton also found that “the majority errs by applying a stringent version of Iqbal and Twombly to find that plaintiffs have not plausibly alleged sufficiently burdensome effects on interstate commerce.”

 

Judge Hamilton found that the complaint had sufficiently alleged plausible impacts that the pet store sourcing ban would result in the alleged harms, concluding,

I don’t know whether the plaintiffs in this case could ultimately meet the demands of the Pike balancing test. They should be permitted to try, though, particularly now that the ordinance has taken effect and evidence of actual effects should be available. I would reverse the dismissal for failure to state a claim and remand for further proceedings.

 

 

For the third time, New Jersey state agencies have concluded that the New Jersey Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (NJSPCA), described as “wannabe cops,” by the New Jersey State Commission of Investigation report aptly titled “ Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing: New Jersey’s SPCAs 17 years later.”

Some of the highlights of the report, available here, include a summary of the report previously completed in 2000:

Nearly two decades ago, the State Commission of investigation conducted an inquiry into the activities and financial practices of the various Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in New Jersey.  The investigation’s final report, completed in 2000, exposed a range of waste, abuse and malfeasance so widespread as to render many of these entities incapable of fulfilling their primary statutory obligation: the enforcement of state laws designed to prevent cruelty to animals.

Along with uncovering substantial – in some cases criminal – wrongdoing, the investigation also revealed that New Jersey remained mired in an archaic legislative scheme allowing unsupervised groups of private citizens to enforce animal cruelty laws.  These volunteers are empowered to carry weapons, investigate complaints of criminal and civil misconduct, issue summonses and effect arrests.  The Commission further found that some of these SPCAs became havens for gun-carrying wannabe cops motivated by personal gains, or the private domain of a select few who discarded rules on a whim.

The Commission concluded that the delegation of such broad power to private citizens may have been understandable, indeed, a necessity in the 1800s when the laws creating the New Jersey and county SCPAs were written.  That arrangement, however, is not workable in the highly stratified and professionalized law enforcement system of the 21st Century, and the Commission recommended turning over the enforcement role to government.

Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing: New Jersey’s SPCAs 17 Years Later, SCI, October 2017.

As the State Commission on Investigation recently found:

[t]he NJSPCA  – even though operating as a not-for-profit organization – is also supposed to be the steward of substantial amounts of public monies in the form of fines collected through animal cruelty violations and donations from citizens . . . Unfortunately, the Commission found that the altruistic mission of the organization became secondary to those who controlled the NJSPCA and subverted it for their own selfish ends and self-aggrandizement. The findings of this inquiry make plain that permitting a part-time policing unit staffed by private citizens to serve as the primary enforcers of New Jersey’s animal cruelty laws is illogical, ineffective and makes the entire system vulnerable to abuse.  Moreover, the government apparatus to perform this function is already in place-in the form of municipal and county animal control officers working in coordination with local police.

Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing: New Jersey’s SPCAs 17 Years Later, SCI, October 2017.

The Commission concluded that the NJSPCA is an organization that:

  • Fails to consistently respond to serious allegation of animal cruelty complaints-its core mission-in a timely manner and keeps records that are so sloppy it was often impossible to determine specific action taken on cases.

  • Spends more money on legal bills – racking up more than $775,000 over the past five years – than for any other expense, including funds that directly support animal care.

  • Circumvents the spirit of a 2006 law to establish effective and transparent governance at the NJSPCA by adopting bylaws that exclude the board of trustees – which has three members appointed by the Governor – from having any supervision of its law enforcement activities.

  • Remains a haven for wannabe cops, some of whom believe they may exercise police powers beyond enforcement of the animal cruelty statutes, such as conducting traffic stops.

  • Allows nearly a third of its approximately 20 humane officers to carry firearms despite the fact that those individuals do not hop up-to-date authorization to do so from the New Jersey State Police, which by law, must be renewed every two years. They are also exempt from the requirement to obtain a firearms permit.

  • Lacks the ability to estimate how much revenue it is entitled to receive from animal cruelty fines – a major source of its funding – and has no apparatus to collect these monies.

  • Allows top-ranking members access to certain questionable perks, such as care for personal use, and other beneficial benefits – at the expense of unwitting donors, and tolerates blatant conflicts of interest that profit its key officials.

Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing: New Jersey’s SPCAs 17 Years Later, SCI, October 2017.

Unfortunately, the report did not comment on NJSPCAs presumed failure to notify the New Jersey Department of Agriculture when complaints regarding livestock or poultry are received, as required by law, in order to ensure that infectious, contagious diseases in animals that may appear to have been treated cruelly, are properly handled to protect human and animal health.

For those interested in testifying about this report and potential legislation to make a real change in the State’s enforcement of its animal cruelty law, on Monday, November 13, 2017 at 10:30 am:

The Senate Economic Growth Committee will take testimony on the recent report released by the State Commission of Investigation regarding the New Jersey Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.  In addition, the committee will discuss legislative reform to strengthen the enforcement of New Jersey’s animal cruelty laws. Individuals presenting written testimony are asked to provide 10 copies to the committee aide at the public hearing.

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.