New Jersey Takes Steps Towards Stronger Animal Laws

Seth Victor

In a move to join Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Maine, Michigan, Ohio, Oregon, and Rhode Island, the New Jersey Assembly passed a bill 60-5 last Thursday to ban gestation crates for pigs. A similar bill already having passed in the state senate 35-1, the measure now awaits Gov. Chris Christie’s signature. Though a progressive step forward for animal protection, the bill, while giving a thorough definition of the kinds of confinement banned, still allows for the common exceptions. Gestating pigs can still be confined for “(1) medical research, (2) veterinary examination, testing, individual treatment, or an operation, (3) transportation of the animal, (4) an exhibition or educational program, (5) animal husbandry purposes, provided the confinement is temporary and for no more than six hours in any 24-hour period, (6) humanely slaughtering of the animal in accordance with the laws, and rules and regulations adopted pursuant thereto, concerning the slaughter of animals, and (7) proper care during the seven-day period prior to the expected date of the gestating sow giving birth.” While there is a rational basis for all of these exceptions, broad ones such as “veterinary examination” seem ripe for abuse (or at least a defense), and animal testing gets its typical pass with the “medical research” caveat. Still, there is a disorderly persons misdemeanor where once there was none, and groundwork to phase out a particularly thorny issue in CAFOs.

Taking a page from Suffolk County, Gov. Christie may also sign “Moose’s Law,” a measure that would create a registry of animal abusers that aims to prevent such people from owning pets or working in animal care jobs. In what is becoming an interesting trend in New Jersey, Moose’s Law passed swiftly through the assembly 72-3-2, stemming from an incident wherein Moose, a chocolate lab, was left in a hot car last summer and died from the heat. The person who left Moose in the car is a self-proclaimed animal trainer who claimed she had found him dead, but the allegation is that the woman kidnapped Moose and attempted to give him to a new set of owners. If passed, the measure will require that the Commissioner of Health determine whether any potential employee for an animal care position is eligible to work with animals by checking with an annually updated state maintained list for persons with “an animal cruelty past.”  This list would be publicly accessible. Also passed by the assembly was “Patrick’s Law,” which states that “starvation of an animal or severe physical cruelty be upgraded from a disorderly persons offense to a crime of the fourth degree. Civil penalties would be upgraded as well, from $1,000 to $3,000 for a first offense, and $3,000 to $5,000 for a second or subsequent offense.”

Moose’s Law appears to be worded well, and would perhaps provide deterrence for cruelty within the animal care field, which when you consider all that the term encompasses, is something in need of attention. Still, registries are dangerous things. New Jersey passed the nation’s first Megan’s Law in 1994 only one month after its eponymous murder, and nearly twenty years later the complications and problems with that law are disastrous. Almost two years ago Schultz’s Law was fast-tracked into the New Jersey code for reasons that were more reactionary and less animal-centric. While restricting animal ownership for convicted abusers is a sound policy, we must remain cognizant of the individual cases under which this stigma might not be warranted. That isn’t to say animals should be at the mercy of abusers; it is to say that we must always be careful that the law is saying what we want to accomplish. Comparatively, raising animal cruelty from a misdemeanor to a felony gives a bit more puissance to animal protection, and might be the biggest step of all these measures to deter abusers.

Overall, making the great assumption that these bills are all signed, this is an laudable effort by New Jerseyans’ representatives on behalf of animal welfare issues.

4 Responses

  1. Small clarification on the NJ bill – due to some amendments made to the Assembly version, the bill has to go back to the Senate for concurrence before it can be signed by Christie.

  2. Thanks for the update KM.

  3. Congratulations! you guys are far ahead of us. We wish to be there one day!

  4. […] like Patrick with adequate food and water could land a similar offender in custody. The bill was passed by the NJ Assembly last […]

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