Bill Would Give Abused Pets a Voice
(TRENTON) -Assemblywoman Annette Quijano has introduced legislation to allow law students and volunteer lawyers to serve as legal advocates for cats and dogs that are the victims of animal abuse.
The measure is modeled after a Connecticut law passed in 2016 known as “Desmond’s Law,” named for a dog who was beaten, starved and killed by his owner. Desmond’s abuser received no jail time, and was instead sentenced to a rehabilitation program for people who’ve committed non-serious crimes and who the court considers unlikely to offend again.
“Desmond’s case is a tragic example of how the legal system can fail animals who’ve been abused or even killed. According to the Animal Legal Defense Fund, people who hurt animals are more likely go on to hurt people. By protecting our animal friends, we can ensure greater protection for New Jersey residents.” said Quijano (D-Union). “The first step is to have someone advocating for their best interests during the legal process.”
The bill (A-4840) would allow a court to appoint a separate advocate to represent a dog or cat during criminal cases involving animal abuse. An advocate could also be requested by the party or counsel. The court would then select a representative from a list provided by the Administrative Director of the Courts of attorneys with knowledge of animal issues and the legal system and law schools with students interested in animal rights. Attorneys and law students will be eligible to serve on a volunteer basis.
“Far too many animal cruelty cases in New Jersey and across the country end without trial or conviction. These are pets who’ve faced unthinkable abuse, and yet don’t receive the justice they deserve,” said Quijano. “This bill will not only benefit animals in need, but also give law students a chance to advocate for a great cause and to gain valuable courtroom experience before they graduate.”
The advocate’s responsibilities may include:
1.Monitoring the case and attending hearings;
2.Consulting with any individual with information relating to the welfare or care of the cat or dog;
3.Reviewing records relating to the condition of the animal and the defendant’s actions;
4.Presenting information or recommendations to the court that relate to the best interests of the animal
“I’d like to take a moment to thank former Senator Raymond Lesniak and the Lesniak Institute for American Leadership for elevating issues of animal welfare and bringing Desmond’s Law to my attention,” said Quijano.
The bill would take effect immediately following enactment.