The full Assembly on Monday approved a comprehensive four-bill package sponsored by Assembly Democrats Reed Gusciora, Daniel Benson, Gilbert “Whip” Wilson, Bob Andrzejczak, Nancy Pinkin and Pamela Lampitt to crack down on animal cruelty.
A-201, sponsored by Gusciora, Benson and Wilson, would authorize the courts to issue an animal protection order against any person found guilty of abusing an animal or otherwise violating the state animal cruelty laws. The animal protection order would require the person to refrain from interacting with an animal permanently or for a period of time specified by the court. The bill was approved by a vote of 76-0.
“As a humane society, we should not tolerate abuses against animals any more than we would against a person,” said Gusciora (D-Mercer/Middlesex). “Sadly, there have been a number of high profile animal abuse cases in recent years, a good number of which arise from domestic disputes, lending even more support for this legislation. Whether it’s indirect abuse, like starvation, direct abuse such as physical violence or the anger of a disgruntled spouse or partner, this bill will help protect innocent animals.”
“In the same vein as a domestic violence restraining order, this measure will help protect animals from cruelty and abuse,” said Wilson (D-Camden). “These innocent, defenseless creatures deserve these protections as much as people do.”
A-991, sponsored by Andrzejczak, Benson and Pinkin, would establish a mandatory minimum term of three months of imprisonment for harming or threatening to harm a search and rescue dog or an animal owned or used by a law enforcement agency. Under the bill, any person who purposely kills a search and rescue dog or an animal owned or used by a law enforcement agency would face a minimum of five years of imprisonment. The bill was approved by a vote of 72-0-5.
“New Jersey residents who put themselves in harm’s way in order to serve and protect the people of this state deserve our utmost respect, and that includes all members of our canine and mounted patrol units,” said Andrzejczak (D-Cape May/Atlantic/Cumberland). “This legislation will go a long way toward ensuring that those who deliberately injure animals in our emergency and rescue services get the punishment they deserve.”
“Animal cruelty of any kind is absolutely despicable, but there is something particularly heinous about crimes against some of New Jersey’s most loyal and hardworking civil servants,” said Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex). “With this bill, we declare that the abuse of animals who serve our communities simply will not be tolerated.”
“These animals are an invaluable asset to law enforcement and the community at large,” said Pinkin (D-Middlesex). “They train their whole life to serve and protect us. The least we can do is ensure our laws are designed to protect them.”
A-1023, sponsored by Benson, Lampitt and Wilson, would allow an animal welfare organization, animal rescue organization, or operator of a foster home or shelter to take custody of an animal confiscated from its owner while alleged animal cruelty charges are pending. The bill was approved by a vote of 75-0-2.
“This is an important step to help ensure that animals are protected during these sensitive times rather than neglected or discarded in a kill-shelter,” said Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex). “There are many great animal welfare and rescue organizations out there that would love to provide a caring environment for animals that have been abused or neglected and we should take advantage of this to offer the best outcome for these animals.”
“Animal welfare organizations can be a great partner during difficult situations involving abused or neglected pets,” said Lampitt (D-Camden/Burlington). “Animals in this particular type of situation can be traumatized and would benefit from a nurturing and caring environment to help restore their trust and socialization skills.”
A3381, sponsored by Gusciora, expands criminal and civil acts of animal cruelty to include the theft or release of a living animal or creature during an act of burglary. Violators found guilty would be subject to a fine of between $250 and $1,000, a jail term of up to six months, or both. The bill was approved by a vote of 73-0-4.
“We’ve seen a number of heartbreaking cases involving families whose pets have been killed, injured or gone missing as a result of a burglary,” said Gusciora. “For many individuals, pets are considered part of the family and can’t simply be replaced if stolen or lost. Even pets that are successfully reunited with their owners may suffer physical or emotional injuries as a result. Hopefully this bill will help prevent the theft or unlawful release of pets during a burglary.”
The bills now head to the Senate for consideration.