Proposed New Jersey Assembly Bill A5715 (the “Rescue Animal Disclosure Act” or the “Bill”) which would provide for the regulation of animal rescue organizations and facilities (“Animal Rescue”) in New Jersey, was introduced in May, with no sister bill to date in the Senate.
The Bill would require the Animal Rescue to provide consumers with an animal’s medical and behavioral history and permit the return of an animal within 21 days of adoption, under certain conditions. Those requirements are somewhat similar to provisions in the Pet Purchase Protection Act (“Act”) which govern pet shops. However, the Bill expressly exempts Animal Rescues from the provisions of the Act.
Notably, the Bill protects consumers by requiring the Animal Rescue to provide consumers with “a copy of the records, statements, reports, and other information required,” including any veterinary reports. The Bill permits an animal to be returned to the Animal Rescue if “the person adopting the animal cannot care for the animal because of the animal’s behavioral temperament or any other reason that would prevent the person from properly caring for the animal.” If an animal is returned, the Animal Rescue “shall request that a person returning an animal provide an anonymous statement describing the reason the animal is being returned, as well as a copy of any veterinarian reports that have been provided to the person.”
These records must be provided to any subsequent adopter with notification that the animal might be unfit for sale and that it would be advisable for the consumer to have the animal examined by a veterinarian. Such notification allows consumers to have important information about a pet before the adoption is finalized and the ability to return the pet as previously described.
In addition, the Bill also amends section 6. of P.L. 2011, c.142, which permitted but did not require registration of Animal Rescues with the Department of Health (“DHS”). If adopted, the Bill would make it mandatory for every animal rescue organization and facility to register with the DHS.
In addition, the Bill establishes that animal rescue organization facilities can only charge “reasonable fees” for adoptions and may never outright sell animals.
Some legal questions that concern us are the following:
Who will determine what a “reasonable fee” is?
If an Animal Rescue cannot sell an animal, who is the owner of that animal? Custody and ownership are increasingly complicated and oft disputed issues amongst pet owners.
Stay tuned for updates regarding this and similar legislation. Anyone seeking additional guidance can contact us directly for assistance.
The primary author, Andrew Regan is a Fox Rothschild 2021 summer associate.