At the request of New Jersey Department of Agriculture (NJDA), New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station (NJAES), and New Jersey Farm Bureau, State legislators adopted a law in 1996 “which directs the Department of Agriculture—in consultation with the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station—to adopt ‘standards for the humane raising, keeping, care, treatment, marketing, and sale of domestic livestock,’ as well as ‘rules and regulations governing the enforcement of those standards.’”  35 NJR 1873(a) 2003.  At the time, livestock owners were increasingly concerned about the uneven-handed enforcement of the State’s animal cruelty statutes by state and county societies for the protection of animals (SPCA), who often had minimal, if any, knowledge about the proper care of livestock and horses.  As the State Commission of Investigation reported, there were “no standards, rules or guidelines governing [SPCA’s] composition, operation, training or activities, there is no consistency or uniformity in their make-up, functioning or enforcement of the laws.”  NJSCI Report 2000.

The law was adopted to “[p]rotect. . .  the health and well-being of New Jersey’s livestock . . . to ensure farm animals are humanely treated.  This includes livestock farmers whose livelihood depends on raising healthy animals and who, therefore, have an added financial incentive to properly care for their animals.”  35 NJR 1873(a) 2003To ensure that experts qualified to investigate complaints of cruelty involving livestock the law also requires notification of NJDA of complaints received by investigating authorities.

The NJSPCA, county SPCAs or other State or local government authority receiving a complaint shall immediately notify the New Jersey Department of Agriculture and, if the complaint is in writing, provide a copy to the NJDA at the address provided in N.J.A.C. 2:8–8.3(c).

Unfortunately, while the standards mandate humane care, the enforcement of those standards remains problematic.  It is not clear if NJDA has been notified immediately upon receipt of complaints to SPCA’s, as required by law.  This notification is critical to ensure that only the approved standards are used as guidelines, and to ensure that all inspections are conducted in accordance with accepted biosecurity protocols referenced herein to prevent the spread of infectious or contagious agents on or off farm premises.

I recently discussed these ongoing issues at the 2017 New Jersey State Agricultural Convention, where the delegates adopted a resolution to address “continued concerns from stakeholders because of humane-law enforcement personnel’s inconsistent and inappropriate enforcement of animal cruelty statutes against the owners of livestock and poultry in New Jersey, by largely ignoring the Humane Standards, even when they are being followed by the livestock owner, have not changed since the adoption of the law, despite the clear rules to guide the investigation of complaints.  See Resolution No. 6, Humane Treatment of Livestock.

The delegates “urge that New Jersey’s agricultural community evaluate the consistency and appropriateness of the implementation of the Humane Standards by the SPCA and other humane-law enforcement personnel who are tasked to respect and follow them with enforcing animal-cruelty statutes.”

They also encourage the Legislature to adequately fund the implementation and enforcement of the Humane Standards and to require SPCA agents to comply with the provisions set forth therein.

After a whirlwind of comments and criticisms, USDA has updated its statement regarding the abrupt deactivation of its Animal Care Search Tool, available here https://content.govdelivery.com/accounts/USDAAPHIS/bulletins/185b051.

Similar to statements published on interested parties’ websites, USDA confirmed that this decision was based on internal discussions and review that predated the new administration.

In 2016, well before the change of Administration, APHIS decided to make adjustments to the posting of regulatory records.

USDA noted that the deactivation resulted not only based on guidance from the Department of Justice (see Department of Justice Guide to the Freedom of Information Act and Overview of the Privacy Act), that provides a comprehensive review of litigation related to FOIA and the Privacy Act, but that their action was also related to litigation “APHIS is currently involved in . . . concerning, among other issues, information posted on the agency’s website.”

USDA/APHIS did not identify which litigation it referenced in its updated statement.

Like USDA, many federal agencies struggle to balance transparency with personal and business protections required by federal law.

 Recently, PETA (largely) lost it’s lawsuit against HHS, alleging that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had impermissibly withheld information pursuant to PETA’s FOIA request “seeking records submitted by importers of nonhuman primates . . . to CDC pursuant to certain agency regulations.”   People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals v. United States Department of Health and Human Services, No. 15-cv-309, slip op. (D.D.C. January 5, 2017).

In the final Order, the Court granted Defendant’s Corrected Motion for Relief under Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(b) holding:

“The four categories of information the Court previously held qualified for protection pursuant to FOIA Exemption 4 with respect to the records of seven objecting importers—quantity of animals imported, the descriptions of crates used in shipments, the names of the companies that export the animals, and the names of the airline carriers that transport the animals—also qualify for such protection with respect to the records of Central State Primate (‘CSP’), Dallas Zoo Management (‘DZM’), and SBNL USA (‘SNBL’). It is further ORDERED that Plaintiff’s [52] Cross-Motion for Relief under Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(b) is GRANTED-IN-PART and DENIED-IN-PART. Plaintiff’s motion is GRANTED in that information regarding the quantity of animals imported and the descriptions of crates used in shipments on the records of Worldwide Primates, Inc. (‘WWP’) and Primate Products Inc. (‘PPI’) does not qualify for protection pursuant to FOIA Exemption 4. Plaintiff’s motion is DENIED in all other respects.  Id., slip op. (D.D.C. Feb. 6, 2017).”

PETA has appealed this decision.

In a stunning turn of events, USDA has deactivated it’s Animal Care Search Tool, as indicated on its website:

Animal Care Search Tool-DEACTIVATED
Animal Care Search Tool-DEACTIVATED.

USDA inspection reports of licensees pursuant to the Animal Welfare Act, among other data, were previously available on this search engine.

The following alert is provided when clicking on the link (now deactivated):

If the law requiring such disclosure is not specific about where the pet store must obtain the inspection reports, then the pet stores may have to obtain those documents from their sources.  Certainly, they will be unable to obtain the reports quickly through a FOIA request (unless that process has drastically changed).  Even if obtainable through FOIA, it seems likely that the breeder’s personal information, required by many laws, will be redacted by USDA.

It will be incredibly interesting and insightful to hear more about the legal basis USDA relied upon to protect this personal information under the Privacy Act and other laws, as mentioned in the alert.

It seems likely that USDA will be explaining this in court when this policy is undoubtedly challenged.  See some of their thinking at their Q&A on their website.

Without access to USDA inspection reports, animal activists, intent on closing pet stores and eliminating dog breeding, will be unable to misrepresent the meaning of non-compliant citations on those reports, as they have consistently done to convince legislators to ban sales of pets based on mere citations.  Such citations do not mean that licensees have violated the AWA.  As described in USDA’s alert, inspection reports and other legal proceedings that have not received final adjudication are no longer available.  Hopefully, this will help ensure that licensees are provided with due process of the law that the Constitution and justice requires before their businesses are effectively shuttered.

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

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

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

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

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

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

A308 does not include such provisions.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. For the purposes of this act, “domestic livestock” means cattle, horses, donkeys, swine, sheep, goats, rabbits, poultry, fowl, and any other domesticated animal deemed by the State Board of Agriculture and the Department of Agriculture, in consultation with the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station, to be domestic livestock for such purposes, according to rules and regulations adopted by the department and the board pursuant to the “Administrative Procedure Act.”

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

The bill statement for A2052 states:

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

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

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

New Jersey Bill S2848 does far more than described in the official bill statement which states that the bill requires:

1) all cats and dogs brought into the State from other jurisdictions to have an animal history and health certificate certified by a licensed veterinarian providing the information about the cat or dog specified in subsection a. of section 1 of the bill; and

2) animal rescue organizations, shelters, and pounds to accept the return of a cat or dog received from the facility for up to one year 10 after the receipt of the animal from the facility.

The bill authorizes shelters, pounds, and animal rescue organizations to charge a fee of up to $100 for such a return.

The provisions in S2848 that miss the mark include the following:

  1. A shelter, pound, or animal rescue organization must accept the return of any cat or dog adopted and may charge the person returning the cat or dog a fee of up to $100.00, but a pet store is required to accept the return of a cat or dog for any reason within one year of the date of purchase without the ability to charge the person returning that animal any fee. These provisions clearly unreasonably favor shelters and rescues and importantly do not place the appropriate responsibility on the adopter or pet owner before deciding to bring a pet into a home.  While there should be provisions for returns under certain conditions, the bill as proposed does not include reasonable provisions.
  2. The bill unrealistically and unreasonably extends the pet purchase time frame for returns to pet stores for pets diagnosed with infectious, contagious diseases from 14 days to 1 year after sale, and for pets diagnosed with congenital, hereditary conditions or a sickness [or death] brought on by a congenital or hereditary cause or condition from 180 days to 1 year after sale. These provisions ignore sound science.  The provisions limiting returns resulting from infectious diseases to those diagnosed within 14 days after sale were based on typical incubation periods for such diseases.  Infectious diseases that occur outside of those time periods are typically unrelated to the care provided by the pet store or their sources, who should not remain liable for situations outside of their control.  Similar concerns arise from the extension of pet store liability for congenital or hereditary conditions that are influenced by the pet’s environment, and not the responsibility of the pet store or its sources.
  3. The bill properly mandates registration of animal rescue organizations and requires reporting of some important information about the number of adopted animals. However, information about the source of animals, whether from other states or countries, should also be required.  The myth of the local overpopulation of dogs in New Jersey can only be exposed when the numbers of dogs imported into the State for adoption is required to be reported.

This bill appears to be an attempt to require reporting of certain information about the source of pets provided to the public, but it requires significant amendments to ensure that the law actually provides for the health of pets, consumer protection, and the sustainability of properly run pet stores, animal shelters and animal rescue organizations.

New Jersey Senate Bill No. 2847,  introduced on December 12, 2016 would make some important beneficial changes to the laws governing animal rescue organizations and shelters in New Jersey, but would also require the unnecessary and harmful premature spay and neuter of cats and dogs before sale from pet shops, kennels, shelters, pounds, and animal rescue organizations.

Considering the positive amendments first, the bill would require registration of all animal rescue organizations with the State Department of Health.  Registration is currently voluntary.

Pursuant to Public Law 2011, Chapter 142, the New Jersey Department of Health shall establish a voluntary registry of animal rescue organizations and their facilities.

As of November 3, 2016 there were 70 in-state and out-of-state animal rescue organizations voluntarily registered in New Jersey, as listed on the DOH website.

Registration and oversight of animal rescue organizations is sorely needed.

Another positive amendment in S2847 is the ability of shelters or pounds to euthanize an animal surrendered by its owner before the current seven-day waiting period, and the ability to euthanize a stray or an animal surrendered by someone other its owner if a veterinarian determines “that the animal is in extreme pain and cannot recover from the illness or condition that is causing the pain.”

A veterinarian should make this determination for animals surrendered by their owners or other individuals for at least 2 reasons: (1) proper animal ownership can be difficult to determine; and (2) the irreversible decision whether or not to euthanize an owned pet should be decided by a veterinarian, trained and licensed to make such determinations.

As for the requirement to spay or neuter a dog or cat before sale, so long as the animal is merely two months old, for reasons previously discussed, this premature, unnecessary elective surgery at so young an age exposes each animal to short and long-term injury and harm.  Increasingly, scientific evidence proves that the early removal of endocrine glands, such as testes and ovaries, increases the incidence of certain metabolic disorders, including some forms of cancer, and can decrease the lifespan of certain pets.  The decision about when to spay or neuter an individual pet should be determined by the owner in consultation with their veterinarian, after learning about the risks and benefits of such procedures.  Veterinarians are increasingly advising dog owners to wait until at least after the pet’s first reproductive cycle to sterilize their dog.  The requirement remains with each owner to ensure that their pet is not irresponsibly bred until it is spayed or neutered.

Finally, the requirement for shelters and pounds to pay owners up to $250.00 for any pet released before it is spayed or neutered could have a devastating impact on these organizations who are already struggling to compete with animal rescue organizations.

If amended to address these concerns, S2847 could be supportable.

 

I had the opportunity to present an “Animal Law Update” on October 21, 2016 at the New Jersey Association for Biomedical Research’s 23rd Annual IACUC Conference – the region’s premier training conference for professionals in laboratory animal research field.  Among this year’s 110 participants were key institution decision makers, Animal Care and Use Committee members, lab animal veterinarians, animal welfare compliance specialists and other lab animal research team members from the pharmaceutical industry, contract research organizations, academic research institutions, and government officials from USDA and NIH.

 

During my presentation I discussed the legal issues affecting animal-related industries, including the biomedical research community and analyzed activist activities that can help the research community predict, prepare for, and defend against such challenges.   I was also re-elected to the Board of Directors of the New Jersey Association for Biomedical Research during the annual meeting, held at the beginning of this conference.

 

Dr. William Stokes, Assistant Director, Animal Welfare Operations, USDA, APHIS, Animal Care provided an informative USDA Regulatory Update and Insights.  Dr. Stokes shared USDA Animal Care’s “5-year Strategic Plan” including the mission and vision of the agency, also available on its website:

New to the agency is the introduction of the term “critical noncompliant items” (“NCI’s) which includes all “direct noncompliant items” and certain “indirect noncompliant items.”  Dr. Stokes explained that this term was not really new, and had been used in practical effect, by the agency for a long time.

Dr. Stokes also provided important data from USDA’s inspections authorized by the Animal Welfare Act including:

  • There were over 10,000 unannounced inspections in FY16 of research facilities, breeders, dealers, exhibitors, transporters and intermediate handlers;
  • There were about 1350 inspections of the 1050 registered research facilities;
  • 76% of these inspections had no NCI’s;
  • Of the 561 NCI’s in research facilities, 38% of those were related to activities and conduct of Institutional Animal Care and Use Committees, and specifically related to the semi-annual reports that are required by the AWA.

Dr. Stokes  informed the attendees about the updated public search engine that serves as the database for USDA licensees and related inspection reports, known as the Animal Care Information System (ACIS3).  USDA  sent a bulletin on  09/22/2016 to stakeholders titled “New Terms Will Appear on USDA Inspection Reports.” As Dr. Stokes explained, there are two new terms that will appear on reports and in search results:

  • Focused inspections
  • Critical noncompliant items.

Dr. Stokes ended his presentation reminding all attendees that the goal of USDA and its licensees is to “optimize welfare.”

 

 

The Animal Welfare Act (AWA) has been disemboweled by local jurisdictions around the country that have banned sales to pet shops from USDA licensees and those specifically exempted from licensure, which shops rely upon to provide healthy puppies to people choosing to purchase a specially-bred puppy with specific physical and behavioral traits best suited to that pet owner’s particular needs.

Beginning around 2008, animal rights organizations began persuading lawmakers to implement decades-long campaigns to eliminate commercial dog breeding by banning sales of puppies in pet shops that they claim are sourced from “puppy mills,” a pejorative term used for any dog breeder, licensed or not. At their urging, lawmakers in many jurisdictions have limited pet shops to sales of animals sourced from shelters and rescues, which are largely unregulated entities that transfer ownership of randomly sourced dogs that have an unacceptably high prevalence of infectious diseases and other disorders.

While the AWA permits local jurisdictions to adopt more rigorous standards of care than the law prescribes, the bans have gone too far—in many cases sales are banned from USDA licensees based solely on the existence of validly held licenses. Sourcing bans that are not based on the standards of care licensees provide to animals should be considered pre-empted by the AWA. Reliance on the mere citation of a violation of the AWA on an inspection report as the basis for such bans is not legally sound. Congress established the mechanisms for licensure and loss thereof, which these local laws ignore.

Through the adoption of as over 150 laws across the country, the animal health and welfare requirements set forth by Congress in the AWA to protect animals and people have been effectively removed. If such laws are not enjoined, they will cumulatively render the federal regulation superfluous to the local sales bans or, at best, be subject to a labyrinthine patchwork of local regulation. This is precisely the situation the Framers of the Constitution sought to avoid through the Supremacy Clause.

Under the false banner of humane care and consumer protection, these bans will harm animals, their owners, and create a public health risk through the introduction of infectious diseases, which, like rabies, are fatal. If these local laws are not enjoined, they will eliminate the market that Congress has sought to regulate through the AWA. This cannot be a proper result.

This is the time of year that nonprofit organizations hope for contributions from those who have the means and interest to support these organizations.

This year, I encourage you to consider supporting curiousSCIENCEwriters.

curiousSCIENCEwriters (cSw) is an innovative, independent steAm initiative that trains creative high school communicators to bring complex science to the general public through the power of story. Science and technology are advancing exponentially, yet fewer than 7% of American adults are scientifically literate. With growing medical, environmental and social issues facing us all, it is essential that the next generation of communicators be prepared to help people make sense of emerging science that affects their personal health and well-being, as well that of the world around them. Whether scientists, journalists or citizen scientists, they will require critical thinking and technical skills to fight science illiteracy that has reached historic levels.

How does it work?

“Each year, curiousSCIENCEwriters selects a group of high school students through a highly competitive application process to participate in an intensive extracurricular training program. A key element includes mentoring by scientists and science communications professionals through remote and onsite sessions. This collaborative process, which involves teams of student writers, editors, and graphic designers, results in credible, engaging science stories that the student staffers help disseminate through a variety of traditional and trending media outlets.”

Jayne Mackta, a colleague, supporter and friend, is the founder and creative director of curiousSCIENCEwriters.

Jayne has devoted her adult life to advocating for families affected by genetic disorders and promoting public understanding of biomedical research. Since her first job out of college with the Encyclopedia Americana where she reduced lengthy articles to single paragraphs, she has searched for the secret of saying more in fewer words. A fierce enemy of jargon, Jayne delights in coaching young editors in the art of deleting words that obscure meaning.

cSw, a program of States United for Biomedical Research (SUBR), relies exclusively on tax-deductible donations from citizens like you, concerned about the toll science illiteracy is taking on the health and welfare of our world.

Click here to read some of the fascinating stories written by cSw student staffers.

Consider this innovative and important program if you are donating this year. You can donate online by clicking here.