Trenton, NJ –-(Ammoland.com)- New Jersey A2039 revises the definitions concerning types of animal abuse and raises the penalties so that many infractions become felonies.
This new law would impact all pet owners in New Jersey, which include approximately 1,993,000 households, representing about 5,340,000 individuals. See text of bill here.
This bill will be heard tomorrow in the Assembly Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee. Please watch for a special Alert tomorrow to send a message to that committee. See below to send a special message to your Assemblyperson now.
The vast majority of Americans take good care of their animals. In 2011 the American Pet Products Association estimated that $50.84 billion dollars were spent on pet care. The notion that our society is teeming with animal abusers is an exaggeration. This legislation is an overarching attempt to justify that assumption.
Some of the activities targeted by this bill include perfectly legitimate American Kennel Club events such as earthdog trials and hunt tests. The definition of “sexual contact” needs to be refined to ensure that normal animal husbandry practices and conformation events will not be negatively impacted.
The definition of “minimum care” is so vague it gives no guidance to animal owners at all. The language used is inappropriate for criminal law. Instead, it is tort language and doesn’t rise to the standard used for criminal law.
The new section on aggravated animal abuse includes, “purposely causes unnecessary bodily injury to an animal” and also, “knowingly causes unnecessary bodily injury to an animal.” There is disagreement among animal owners as to what is necessary or not. This could easily apply to normal animal husbandry practices such as cropping, docking, and dewclaw removal. The first charge carries a crime of the fourth degree, the second carries a crime of the third degree. Both are felonies.
Section 5 would make it a disorderly persons offense if you tied your dog to a parking meter while you went inside a shop to buy coffee and a newspaper.
In the same section, aggravated animal abuse is a failure to provide minimum care that causes the death of an animal, but extreme aggravated animal abuse is failure to provide minimum care and the animal lives. That is contrary to most other laws.
The penalties are over the top, with “person found guilty of a cruelty offense is subject to maximum fines, and subject to minimum fines of not less than:
- $10,000 when offense is crime of the first degree;
- $5,000 when offense is crime of the second degree;
- $3,000 when offense is crime of the third degree;
- $1,000 when offense is a crime of the fourth degree;
- $500 when offense is a disorderly persons fine.”
Crimes of the fourth, third and second degree include aggravated assault, sexual assault, property theft crimes, manslaughter and second degree homicide. Charges of animal abuse don’t equal similar charges of crimes against people and don’t belong in Title 2.
In every case, these penalties are for each individual animal. Once they have charged you with cruelty for your school of guppies, the fines and jail time will soon add up. The bill also calls for mental health treatment, with the cost to be borne by the violator. Law cannot require a court to order mental health counseling without an evaluation of the facts of the case and a determination by the court based on those facts.
Section 6 outlaws euthanasia practices accepted by the AVMA. It is inappropriate for the state to insert itself between a veterinarian and their client.
The bill provides all kinds of mechanisms for forfeiture and repayment of fees having to do with the care of the animal, but does not provide for the transfer of ownership and care to a non-custodial co-owner.
A2039 does nothing to increase the care for animals, or to protect them from harm. All it does is create a new class of criminals. New Jersey does not need more felons, nor do their prisons need more prisoners. Incarceration is expensive. Continued education in the proper care of pets would be money better spent.
Please send a message to your Assemblyperson about this bill.
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About National Animal Interest Alliance
The Mission of NAIA is to promote the welfare of animals, to strengthen the human-animal bond, and safeguard the rights of responsible animal owners and professionals through research, public education and sound public policy. Visit: www.naiaonline.org