Tomorrow, Thursday, May 18, the New Jersey Assembly Appropriations Committee is scheduled to consider two bills that continue to raise significant constitutional concerns for dog owners. Assembly Bill 2354 and Senate Bill 981 seek to establish court procedures for the seizure, care, and forfeiture of animals involved in animal cruelty violations.
Despite the late timing of this notice, all New Jersey dog owners are strongly encouraged to contact the members of the Assembly Appropriations Committee TODAY to express opposition to both A.2354 and S.981. (Scroll down for information on how to contact the committee today)
While we appreciate amendments previously made to the bills, the American Kennel Club (AKC) remains concerned that these bills do not protect the rights of co-owners and would far too easily allow courts to automatically forfeit an individual’s ownership rights in their animals. They fail to provide appropriate and required procedural due process protections required by both the U.S. and New Jersey constitutions.
AKC has been working on securing additional amendments to the bills prior to tomorrow’s committee hearing that would meet proponents’ shelter/rescue funding goals while curing constitutional concerns. Unfortunately, proponents of the bills have failed to accept changes.
CONCERNS AND TALKING POINTS
AKC shares concerns about the need to assure that local animal control agencies receive adequate public funding to achieve their public mandate. However, such funding mechanisms must not exist to the detriment of dog owners’ constitutional protections.
AKC requests that A.2354/S.981 must:
- Ensure that dog owners are not forced to forfeit ownership of their animals if they are unable to pay for mandated costs without regard of whether they are ultimately found not guilty. As currently worded, A.2354/S.981 creates a significant risk that individuals will be erroneously deprived of their property without appropriate due process protections. Instead, courts should be permitted, but not mandated, to award care costs. Doing so would allow a court to consider whether a defendant is unable to pay care costs significantly higher than they would otherwise spend. Additionally, as currently worded, the bill encourages animal care agencies to be motivated by financial self-interest in seeking court-ordered forfeiture of animals.
- Be amended to expediently protect the interests of non-possessory co-owners. As currently worded, A.2354/S.981 would allow an animal care agency to take full ownership of an animal regardless of whether the animal is co-owned by an individual who was not in possession of the animal at the time of the alleged offense and therefore not responsible for the alleged treatment.
- Explicitly limit assessed costs to those based on a daily public—not private—care rate and directly related to the basic care of the animals. The bills currently provide for extensive costs to be claimed by an animal care agency.
FOR ADDITIONAL TALKING POINTS, VIEW AKC GOVERNMENT RELATIONS ADVOCACY RESOURCES (www.akcgr.org)
Click here to read AKC’s Due Process Protections for Dog Owners position statement.
Click here to view our new brief animated explainer video on “cost of care” legislation.
Click here to view talking points in AKC’s new one-page flyer on “cost of care” legislation.
Recent Legislative & Informational Alerts
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Toolbox (with downloadable materials)
NEW JERSEY DOG OWNERS: TAKE ACTION TODAY!
AKC strongly encourages all New Jersey dog owners to contact the members of the Assembly Appropriations Committee today and respectfully urge them to oppose both A.2354 and S.981 until both bills are amended to address the ownership and due process concerns noted above. Please email the committee members below, and provide your name, NJ city of residence, with the subject line, “Please Oppose A.2354/S.981”.
Assemblywoman Lisa Swain, Chair
205 Robin Rd., Suite 122
Paramus, NJ 07652
Assemblyman Raj Mukherji, Vice Chair (bill sponsor)
Assemblyman Brian Bergen
Assemblyman Wayne P. DeAngelo
Assemblywoman Pamela R. Lampitt
Assemblyman Antwan L. McClellan
Assemblywoman Gabriela M. Mosquera
Assemblywoman Eliana Pintor Marin
Assemblyman Kevin J. Rooney
Assemblyman Gary S. Schaer
Assemblyman Jay Webber
AKC Government Relations will continue to provide updates on A.2354/S.981 and other pending New Jersey Legislation as developments warrant. For more information, email email@example.com.