On Monday, June 14, the New Jersey Assembly Agriculture Committee will consider three dog-related bills. It is imperative that American Kennel Club (AKC)-affiliated clubs in New Jersey, and breeders, owners, and performance dog enthusiasts, contact the members of the New Jersey Assembly Agriculture Committee and respectfully urge them to amend A.1365 and amend S.1258/A.2319.
AMEND A.1365 TO PROTECT AKC PERFORMANCE EVENTS
Assembly Bill 1365 seeks to prohibit the “harassing or taking” of wildlife at competitive events. As currently written, the bill would impact all clubs offering AKC-sanctioned performance events in New Jersey, including those that offer sporting, hound, earthdog, and herding events.
- Make it unlawful (1) to harass or take covered wildlife at a competitive event; and (2) for any person to organize, sponsor, promote, conduct, or participate in a competitive event at which the participants harass or take covered wildlife. Violators would be subject to a disorderly persons offense and be subjects to a five-year suspension of any license or permit issued to the person by the NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife, and all privileges to take or possess wildlife.
- Define “competitive event” as any activity, competition, contest, derby, tournament, or other organized activity where participants are encouraged to take wildlife and are rewarded by the receipt of a prize or any kind of inducement or reward. A plain reading of this expansive definition easily would include several types of AKC-sanctioned performance events.
- Define “harass” as a means to annoy, attack, disrupt normal behavior patterns of, or otherwise disturb wildlife without taking it. Though quarry are protected and not harmed, this broad definition would likely include AKC Earthdog events.
AKC encourages and strongly supports the interaction and mutual enjoyment of owners and dogs in sporting activities such as hunting and field trials; in working circumstances such as herding, tracking, and pulling; and in competition events such as dog shows, obedience trials, agility trials, and other performance events and tests.
A.1365 is only the latest in a line of similar legislation filed in multiple states that would ban competitive events involving dogs bred for AKC Performance Events and related activities. The same legislation was filed in New York in 2019 as Assembly Bill 772 and included amendments protecting AKC events; and similar legislation was recently passed in Maryland. Special interest animal rights groups that have expressed support of these bills have failed to demonstrate a need for this legislation based on proven wildlife conservation principles.
The Assembly Agriculture Committee should not approve A.1365 as currently written. Instead, the bill should be amended by (1) clarifying that hunting contests where the sole objective is taking the largest number of game or wild birds would be prohibited, and (2) any prohibition would not apply to field trials, dog training areas, or canine performance events.
AMEND “MOOSE’S LAW” TO PROTECT CO-OWNERSHIP RIGHTS
Senate Bill 1258 and Assembly Bill 2319, known as “Moose’s Law”, seeks to prohibit those convicted of criminal animal cruelty offenses from owning domestic companion animals and from working or volunteering at animal-related enterprises.
The AKC appreciates efforts to ensure that those found to have committed animal cruelty crimes are appropriately punished, and that chances of repeating such atrocious behaviors are reduced. Under S.1258/A.2319, after conviction, a court may order the forfeiture of any animal owned by the offender and the transfer of such animal to the custody of an animal shelter. The bills, however, do not protect the interests of non-possessory co-owners. Co-ownerships are common relationships amongst owners of purebred dogs that compete in AKC-sanctioned events, and AKC believes the property interests of co-owners who were not in possession of the animal at the time of the cruel treatment should take precedence over any other assignment of ownership in the animal.
AKC urges the committee amend S.1258/A.2319 to ensure the rights of responsible co-owners who were not party to an underlying crime be protected by taking precedence over an assignment of ownership to non-owner entities.
WHAT YOU CAN DO:
AKC-affiliated clubs, breeders, owners, and performance enthusiasts are strongly encouraged to contact the members of the Assembly Agriculture Committee and respectfully urge them to:
(1) amend A.1365 to protect AKC-sanctioned performance events, and
(2) amend S.1258/A.2319 to protect the rights of co-owners.
Written testimony should be submitted to OLSAideAAN@njleg.org. If you are interested in only registering your position with the Committee, please fill out the Registration Form located on the New Jersey Legislature Home Page under the applicable Committee heading.
Assemblyman Eric Houghtaling, Chair
Assemblyman Adam J. Taliaferro, Vice Chair
Assemblyman John Armato
Assemblyman Ronald Dancer
Assemblyman Parker Space
Assemblywoman Lisa Swain
AKC Government Relations (GR) will continue to provide updates on pending New Jersey legislation as developments warrant, including additional committee hearings scheduled during the week of June 14. For more information, contact AKC GR at email@example.com.