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Assembly Panel OK’s Albano, Wilson, Caride & Giblin Bill Package to Crack Down on Animal Cruelty Offenses, Boost Standards for Care

Four-Bill Package Calls for More Humane Treatment of Both Domestic & Farm Animals

(TRENTON) — An Assembly panel on Thursday approved a comprehensive package of bills sponsored by Assembly Democrats Nelson Albano, Gilbert “Whip” Wilson, Marlene Caride and Thomas Giblin to crack down on animal cruelty offenses, increase penalties for violators and boost standards of care for both domestic and farm animals.

“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.”

Specifically, the bill package includes:

  • A3902:

    • Sponsored by Albano, this bill establishes requirements concerning standards for the care of dogs in all pet shops licensed and operating in the state as a condition of pet shop licensure;
  • A3904:

    • Sponsored by Albano, this bill revises the penalties for animal cruelty by establishing the criminal offense of animal neglect (purposely, knowingly or recklessly failing to provide minimum care to an animal) as a disorderly persons offense, the criminal offense of aggravated neglect (purposely, knowingly or recklessly fails to provide minimum care to an animal and the animal dies) as a crime of the fourth degree, and extreme animal neglect (purposely, knowingly, or recklessly failing to provide minimum care to an animal for a period of time that results in a significant negative impact on the health and well-being of the animal) as a crime of the third degree. Certain convictions would also require individuals to undergo counseling, including anyone convicted of animal fighting, tormenting, torturing, maiming, hanging, poisoning, cruelly beating, or needlessly mutilating an animal; juveniles who are adjudicated of certain crimes who would have otherwise been convicted if they were an adult; or anyone subject to certain fines;
  • A3905:

    • Sponsored by Albano, this bill revises animal cruelty statutes concerning animal abandonment and increases civil penalties for animal cruelty. Animal abandonment, when a person knowingly leaves or relinquishes possession of an animal, particularly in a public place, without making provisions for the minimum care of the animal, would be established 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 for a violation of the new animal abandonment offense would be $1,500 to $3,000. For other civil offenses under the bill, penalties would increase from $500 to $2,500; and
  • A-3250:

    • Sponsored by Wilson, Caride and Giblin, this bill would make it a disorderly persons offense to cruelly confine a gestating sow in such a way that they are crated, confined, or tethered on a farm in a manner that prevents them from being able to turn around freely, lie down, stand up, or fully extend their limbs. A violator would face fines between $250 – $1,000, imprisonment up to six months, or both, for each separate offense.

“Some of the images we’ve seen of the treatment of farm animals are truly disturbing,” said Wilson (D-Camden/Gloucester). “There are many ways we can meet our needs as a society in a far more humane manner without inflicting undue cruelty on these defenseless animals.”

“New Jersey has evolved dramatically since our first animal cruelty laws were put into place in the late 1800’s,” said Giblin (D-Essex/Passaic). “Unfortunately, many of our animal abuse and neglect laws have failed to evolve along with us. These changes will enhance compliance and enforcement to address the humane treatment of animals.”

“There continues to be too much disregard for the proper treatment of animals in society,” said Caride (D-Bergen/Passaic). “Some of our anti-cruelty laws are extremely outdated and reflect the role of animals in commerce at that time. It’s time we update them to reflect our evolving mores and values.”

Some of the bills 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 bills’ 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 measures were approved by the Assembly Agriculture Committee and now await consideration by the full Assembly.