Singleton, Conaway & Lampitt Bill Package to Better Protect Animals, Help Prevent Animal Abuse Clears Assembly Panel

(TRENTON) – A legislative package sponsored by Assembly Democrats Troy Singleton, Herb Conaway, Jr., MD, and Pamela Lampitt to better protect animals by creating an online animal abuse registry, and prohibiting individuals convicted of animal cruelty offenses from owning pets and working in close contact with animals was released Thursday by an Assembly panel.

The first bill (A-308), sponsored by Singleton and Conaway, 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 this or any state. Under the bill, any person who violates the bill’s prohibitions would be guilty of a disorderly persons offense.

The bill, designated as “Moose’s Law,” was inspired by a 2012 incident that led to the death of a chocolate Labrador retriever from Delran named Moose. 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. Police investigations later revealed the woman had actually kidnapped Moose, and then gave it to another set of owners. Moose died after the woman left him unattended in a hot vehicle. Under current law, the woman could be found guilty and still legally work with animals in the future.

“Many people consider their pets part of the family. To know that the person responsible for the death of a beloved pet can continue to work with animals just adds insult to injury,” said Singleton (D-Burlington). “Putting these restrictions in place will help ensure that a person capable of such abuse and neglect is not allowed to work in this capacity, and possibly put other animals at risk.”

“An individual who has been convicted of animal cruelty has no business working with animals. It’s just that simple,” said Conaway (D-Burlington). “This bill would help ensure that individuals who do not have the best interest of these animals at heart are never entrusted with their care.”

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 the tools and authorizations necessary to investigate their employees’ criminal histories so that they may verify that no offender can work at these locations.

The second bill (A-3421) would direct the Department of Health (DOH) to establish an animal abuser registry on its website. The registry would provide the full name of an individual convicted, or found civilly liable for an animal cruelty violation, and the individual’s photograph, if one is available. The registry would not include social security numbers or driver’s license numbers.

The bill, sponsored by Singleton and Lampitt, would also update current law concerning the DOH list of persons ineligible to be animal control officers because of guilt or liability as animal cruelty offenders. The bill would expand the offenses that would disqualify an individual from becoming an animal control officer, and would authorize the Commissioner of Health to use the registry to update and maintain the list of persons ineligible to be animal control officers.

“This registry can help protect animals from potential abusers,” said Singleton. “Keeping a record sends the message that animal cruelty is not an insignificant crime, and can help animal organizations better screen prospective employees and individuals looking to adopt animals.”

“Animal control officers are supposed to protect the public and animals from harm,” said Lampitt (D-Burlington/Camden). “This bill would help weed out those individuals who try to take on this responsibility, even though they’ve proven to be completely unsuitable for the job.”

The bills were released by the Assembly Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee.