Amended Assembly Bill 2401, dubbed the “Responsible Dog Ownership Bill”, is scheduled for consideration by the Assembly Appropriations Committee tomorrow, June 16, 2021. The American Kennel Club (AKC) is deeply concerned with the disparate impacts of this bill on owners of large dogs. It is imperative that concerned New Jersey residents contact the members of the Assembly Appropriations Committee and share their concerns.
SUMMARY OF A.2401
As amended, A.2401 seeks to require the state’s Department of Health (DOH) to develop rules and regulations that establish (1) the size of dog that would constitute a “large dog”, necessitating fencing; (2) the appropriate height and dimensions of an enclosed fenced area for “large dogs”; (3) standards for leashing, restraining, and otherwise restricting the free movement of a dog when off its owner’s property; (4) permissible uses of invisible fencing or other options for residents of condominiums, townhouses, and apartments or other rental properties; and (5) the requirements for the control and regulation of the free movement of all dogs off the property of their owner.
A.2401 would require DOH to develop model ordinances based on the standards and requirements established pursuant to passage of A2401. Although it is not known what specific requirements would be in those ordinances, municipalities would be required to adopt them.
Owners of dogs determined to be large would be required to secure a “large dog” registration from their municipality. Additionally, municipalities would be required to issue an order to the owner to erect fencing and a date by which the fencing requirement must be completed. Violations would result in fines of $500-$2,000.
A.2401 also creates criminal liability for owners of dogs that inflict bodily injury or serious bodily injury, or cause the death of, a person, if the dog is not leashed or restrained or fails to comply with dangerous dog control court orders. It also adds death caused by a dog as a type of criminal homicide; and adds crimes of assault and aggravated assault in certain cases involving bodily injury caused by a dog.
AKC’S CONCERNS WITH A.2401
- Despite good intentions, A.2401 continues to target a specific phenotypic group (size) of dogs for additional regulation, regardless of whether a dog has demonstrated problematic behavior. AKC believes animal control laws should apply equally to all dogs regardless of size. AKC’s position statement on “Dangerous Dog” Control Legislation (available at https://cqrcengage.com/akc/file/yTIj4HTbhZD/Dangerous%20Dogs_2018.pdf) demonstrates our strong opposition to laws based on specific phenotypic classes of dogs, and our commitment to effective dangerous dog laws that punish dangerous acts, not appearance. All large dog-specific provisions should be removed from A.2401.
- In certain circumstances, A.2401 would deem an owner of a dog as guilty of a disorderly persons offense if their dog threatens a child but does not inflict bodily injury. AKC is concerned that this provision would make dogs’ typical warning behaviors, which may actually help prevent incidents by warning people of a dog’s unease with situations, illegal.
- A.2401 may result in unintended consequences, including dissuading pet purchasers from acquiring large dogs from municipal shelters and rescues, and describing as an offense.
As always, AKC encourages all dog owners to practice responsible ownership practices, including appropriate restraint and confinement practices to ensure the public’s health and safety is protected.
AKC offers a variety of materials and tools to help educate the public, including children, about how to act appropriately around dogs. Our award winning The Dog Listener video teaches children how to take cues from a dog’s behavior and determine how to safely interact with them; and is a wonderful resource for schools, youth groups, and parents. More information is available at https://www.akc.org/public-education/resources/the-dog-listener/.
WHAT YOU CAN DO:
Concerned New Jersey residents are strongly encouraged to contact the members of the Assembly Appropriations Committee. Respectfully urge them to not approve A.2401 until the bill addresses the concerns outlined above.
Assemblyman John J. Burzichelli, Chair
Phone: (856) 251-9801
Assemblyman Gary S. Schaer, Vice-Chair
Phone: (973) 249-3665
Assemblyman Brian Bergen
Phone: (973) 539-8113
Assemblyman Herb Conaway, Jr., M.D.
Phone: (856) 461-3997
Assemblyman Wayne P. DeAngelo
Phone: (609) 631-7501
Assemblyman Antwan L. McClellan
Assemblywoman Gabriela M. Mosquera
Phone: (856) 401-3073
Assemblywoman Eliana Pintor Marin
Phone: (973) 589-0713
Assemblyman Kevin J. Rooney
Phone: (973) 237-1362
Assemblywoman Cleopatra G. Tucker
Phone: (973) 926-4320
Assemblyman Jay Webber
Phone: (973) 917-3420
UPDATES ON OTHER NEW JERSEY LEGISLATION:
Yesterday, the Assembly Agriculture Committee amended Assembly Bill 1365. Originally, the bill, which seeks to prohibit the “harassing or taking” of wildlife at competitive events, would have impacted all clubs offering AKC-sanctioned performance events in New Jersey, including those that offer sporting, hound, earthdog, and herding events. The amended version of the bill, which is not yet publicly available, protects those events and better expresses the legislative intent behind the bill.
Assembly Bill 2319 and Senate Bill 1258 were also scheduled to be considered by the Assembly Agriculture Committee. However, the bills were removed from the hearing agenda.
Senate Bill 3607, the companion to A.2401, was scheduled to be considered by the Senate Environment and Energy Committee today, but was removed from the agenda.
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Contact AKC Government Relations at firstname.lastname@example.org.