Gusciora, Benson, Wilson, Lampitt & Andrzejczak Bill Package to Prevent Animal Cruelty Gains Assembly Panel Approval

A comprehensive package of five animal welfare bills sponsored by Assembly Democrats Reed Gusciora, Daniel Benson, Gilbert “Whip” Wilson, Pamela Lampitt and Bob Andrzejczak to crack down on animal cruelty was unanimously approved by an Assembly panel on Thursday.

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.

“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-1023, sponsored by Benson and Lampitt, 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.

“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.”

A-2938, sponsored by Andrzejczak, would permit a municipality, which does not have a pound, to contract with an animal foster care service for collecting and caring for stray animals found within the municipality. Under the bill, such service must be maintained by a non-profit humane society or other similar association that has continuously engaged in animal foster care for at least one year and whose members or volunteers provide temporary shelter and care for animals pending their permanent adoption or admission to a pound.

“This is an excellent way to prevent animals from being thrown into kill-shelters or unnecessarily euthanized,” said Andrzejczak (D-Cape May/Atlantic/Cumberland). “Many local non-profit rescue groups fit this bill these days and would gladly assist towns to help avoid these other options.”

A-2961, sponsored by Andrzejczak and Gusciora, establishes monetary civil penalties for failure to include a bittering agent in antifreeze, which is already required of such products sold in New Jersey.

“Pets, especially dogs, have been known to drink antifreeze, which is a highly toxic substance that can be sweet tasting, leading to serious health issues or death,” said Andrzejczak. “Bittering agents are effective in helping to prevent consumption by both animals and children, who sometimes confuse the substance with bright colored sports drinks.”

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.

“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 were approved by the Assembly Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee and now await consideration by the full Assembly.