The New Jersey Assembly Agriculture and Food Safety is scheduled to consider two bills this week that raise 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. The American Kennel Club (AKC) remains concerned that these bills would far too easily allow courts to automatically forfeit an individual’s rights of ownership in their animals by failing to provide appropriate and required procedural due process protections. All New Jersey dog owners are urged to contact the members of the Agriculture and Food Safety Committee to express opposition to both A.2354 and S.981. Scroll down for talking points and contact information.
CONCERNS AND TALKING POINTS
AKC shares concerns about the need to ensure 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’ procedural and substantive due process rights.
- Be amended to protect the interests of non-possessory co-owners. As currently worded, 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.
- 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, 2354/S.981 creates a significant risk that individuals could be erroneously deprived of their property without appropriate due process protections. Additionally, the bill encourages animal care agencies to be motivated by financial self-interest in seeking court-ordered forfeiture of animals.
- 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.
- Be amended to ensure that only medically-necessary surgical procedures are permitted to be performed on a seized animal. Optional permanent alternation without the owner’s consent should not be permitted.
This will be the first committee hearing for A.2354. AKC has learned that A.2354 will likely be amended during the committee hearing. Unfortunately, it is expected that the amendment will fail to address the concerns outlined above. S.981 was approved by the full Senate in March 2022.
NEW JERSEY DOG OWNERS: TAKE ACTION TODAY!
AKC strongly encourages all New Jersey dog owners to contact the members of the Assembly Agriculture and Food Safety Committee 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.
Assemblymember Roy Freiman, Chair
390 Amwell Road, Suite 301
Hillsborough, New Jersey 08844
Fax: (908) 829-4193
Assemblymember William W. Spearman, Vice-Chair
Assemblymember Joe Danielson
Assemblymember Alex Sauickie
Assemblymember Parker Space
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 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.
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org.