A raft of bills are due to be heard Monday, June 10 at 2 p.m. in the Assembly Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee.
Our concerns include, but are not limited to:
A bill to regulate tethering, this would have a chilling
effect on the efforts of The Seeing Eye to properly train and prepare their service dogs for training. In addition, this would make the common practice of staking dogs at field trials illegal. It would also negatively impact the use of grooming tables, since they are commonly used with a non-buckle collar. Any situation where you would temporarily restrain your dog by tying to an object would become illegal if the lead were less than 15’. Walk your dog to the corner market to pick up coffee and a paper, tying them outside? Illegal. Working in your yard and tying your dog to a tree? Illegal, if the tie is less than 15’. Going on a picnic and attaching your dog to a table leg? Illegal, if the tie is less than 15’.
Establishes a scheme of forcing animal owners to pay bond for the care of the animal after being charged, but before being adjudicated. This type of proposal has been attempted in state after state. While this bill seems to have dotted i’s and crossed t’s, a similar attempt has already been found unconstitutional in U.S. District Court level in Louisville Kennel Club vs. Louisville Metro Services.
If a person is unable to pay the bond, or falls behind in payments, the bill authorizes the holding organization to put the animal up for adoption after a seven day holding period, thereby destroying evidence.
It makes no allowance for return of an animal to a co-owner.
The bill doesn’t provide for any evaluation by a licensed veterinarian to judge if seizure is the best option, instead relying on the NJSPCA which has a financial stake in prosecuting as many people as possible. If the party charged is found not guilty (something the authors clearly think is unlikely, since it’s mentioned in passing), they are only refunded that portion of the bond that hasn’t been used, instead of having all costs returned.
Requires mental health treatment for any infraction of the animal cruelty statutes, regardless of the seriousness of the offense. The court will denote the mental health professional to be used, and the length of the treatment will be determined by the mental health professional. This set up is an invitation for collusion and abuse. This bill also provides for a bond to be paid by the person charged before the matter is settled. It makes no allowance for co-ownership.
Increases the minimum penalties for the offenses under Title 4, ranging from $500 for a disorderly persons offense, $1000 for a crime of the fourth degree, $3000 for a crime of the third degree, and $5000 for a crime of the second degree.
A3903 has been amended from the version that is available at the NJ Legislature website. I have attached it here. While much improved from the original, there are still substantive concerns, including but not limited to:
the definition of bodily injury is broad enough that it could encompass routine animal husbandry practices. While it exempts veterinarians, it doesn’t address animal owners that are fully capable of addressing the needs of their animals.
It also provides for mental health treatment, for an “appropriate” amount of time, with no indication who decides what’s appropriate.
It makes no allowance for co-ownership.
It makes no provision for an independent assessment for the need for the seizure by a licensed veterinarian, nor for a second opinion by the owner’s veterinarian.
This bill requires mental health treatment for the more serious offenses, but not for the seizure provisions. Seizure for a simple neglect charge is over reaching.
The bill exempts kennels, pet shops, pounds and shelters from requiring veterinary attention to prevent disease or injury. Since disease can run rampant in a situation where many animals are housed together, this seems a poor choice.
The bill allows for NJSPCA to petition either Superior Court or municipal court to allow seizure of all a person’s animals, whether or not the animal was part of the original offense. This is particularly dangerous, since NJSPCA has a financial stake in prosecuting as many people as possible.
It statutorily increases the ability of NJSPCA and its county chapters to thrive by awarding them the financial awards from the penalties.
Ostensibly to outlaw certain forms of euthanasia, this bill also incorporates some of the most suspect provisions of the previous bills. These include the ability for NJSPCA to petition courts for additional seizures, mental health treatment and posting of bonds.
Also mentioned in several of these bills are the requirement that the court mandate 30 days of community service to NJSPCA or a similar organization, at the same time that they allow the court to rule a person have no contact with animals whatsoever.
Please contact the members of the Assembly Agriculture & Natural Resources, with the contact information provided below. In particular, you are a constituent of any of these legislators, make sure to mention that.
Chair: Assemblyman Nelson T. Albano, 609-465-0700,
Vice-Chair: Gilbert L. Wilson, 856-547-4800,
Marlene Caride, 201-943-0615,
Ronald S. Dancer, 609-758-0205,
Parker Space, 973-300-0200,
NAIA Trust of NJ
Legislative Chair, Golden Retriever Club of America
Legislative Liasion, Schooley’s Mountain Kennel Club and Garden State Golden Retriever Club