Legislation sponsored by Assemblymen Nelson Albano and Bob Andrzejczak (both D-Cape May/Atlantic/Cumberland) to crack down on animal abandonment and foster more humane treatment was approved 73-3 by the full Assembly on Monday.
“There is a need to elevate the seriousness with which courts address animal cruelty offenses because offenders too often receive minimal or no fines for offenses that are many times treated as civil violations and not criminal offenses,” said Albano (D-Cape May/Atlantic/Cumberland). “We’ve evolved a great deal as a society over the last century and our laws pertaining to the treatment of all living things should reflect that.”
The bill (A-3905) would revise the animal cruelty statutes concerning animal abandonment and increase civil penalties for certain animal cruelty offenses. Specifically, the bill would revise the criminal offense of animal abandonment and establish it as a crime of the fourth degree with an additional penalty of $1,000 for each animal abandoned that is maimed, sick, infirm or disabled, or left within 200 feet of a roadway. The civil penalty under the bill would be $500 to $3,000.
“This really is about basic human decency,” said Andrzejczak. “Abandoning any animal, especially one that is sick or disabled, is the equivalent of sanctioning them to death. This needs to be addressed with a more appropriate level of severity than a slap on the wrist.”
Under the bill, a person would be guilty of the criminal offense of animal abandonment if the person, with the purpose of relinquishing possession of the animal and without making provisions for the minimum care of the animal, knowingly leaves, or causes to be left, a domesticated animal or domestic livestock:
in a public place where the animal may die, and the animal is maimed, sick, infirm or disabled; or
in a place beyond the control, custody or possession of the owner or the person relinquishing possession of the animal.
Additionally, the bill would require the reporting of hitting, running over, or causing injury to a cat, dog, horse, or cattle and upgrade failure to report to a disorderly persons offense.
The bill arose from the 2004 Animal Welfare Task Force report, which was put together by a panel of animal cruelty experts who deliberated for at least a year on the issues. The task force recommendations and a number of the bill’s provisions draw on the recommendations made by the State Commission of Investigation concerning animal cruelty, animal control, and animal shelters throughout the state that the commission has investigated and studied since the early part of last decade.
The measure now awaits consideration by the Senate.