Legislation Assemblymen Troy Singleton and Herb Conaway Jr. sponsored to prohibit individuals convicted of animal cruelty offenses from owning pets and working in close contact with animals was released by an Assembly panel on Monday.
The bill (A-2389) would prohibit an individual from owning a pet or operating, volunteering with or working at a facility that requires direct interaction with animals if he or she has been convicted of an animal cruelty offense in any state. The bill was first introduced and approved by both houses during the previous legislative session, but it was pocket vetoed by the governor.
“Having a pet is a rewarding responsibility that ought to be reserved only for those with a demonstrated history of having properly cared for animals,” said Singleton (D-Burlington). “This legislation is representative of our state’s long-standing reverence for animal rights.”
The sponsors cited a July 2012 incident in which a Delran chocolate Labrador retriever died as the impetus for the legislation, which is to be known as “Moose’s Law.” The dog, Moose, had disappeared for more than a month before a woman, claiming she had found him on the side of the road, returned his dead body to his owners. According to police investigations, however, the woman allegedly had kidnapped Moose, then gave the dog to another set of owners and agreed to train him before leaving him unattended in a hot vehicle, which ultimately led to his death. Under current law, the woman could be found guilty and still legally work with animals in the future.
“After what they’ve gone through, Moose’s family has been fighting to ensure that other families don’t have to endure a similar tragedy,” said Singleton. “Putting these restrictions in place will help ensure that his heartbreaking story results in greater protections for other animals.”
“What happened to Moose was tragic, especially given the great lengths his family took to try and find him,” said Conaway (D-Burlington). “The bigger lesson learned here, however, is that not everyone entrusted with the welfare of animals has their best interests at heart. This legislation would prevent anyone with bad intentions from having the privilege of working with animals.”
The bill addresses animal welfare concerns by: (1) prohibiting convicted animal cruelty offenders from owning a pet or engaging in animal-related employment or volunteer work; (2) requiring an offender to forfeit or transfer any pets he or she may already own and prohibiting him or her from owning a pet for at least two least after the date of conviction; and (3) giving for-profit and non-profit animal-related enterprises, such as zoos, aquariums, pet shops and animal shelters, the tools and authorizations necessary to investigate their employees’ criminal and civil offense histories so that they may verify that no offender can work at these locations.
Additionally, the bill would require the Department of Health to establish an animal cruelty registry and make a list of animal cruelty offenders available on its website and distribute a copy of the list to each municipality.
The bill was released by the Assembly Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee.