1/4/22 Update: Unfortunately, the Assembly Agriculture Committee approved an amended version of A.6099 by a vote of 4-1. Two of the votes in favor of the bill were by committee members who were defeated in their recent reelection bids. Like its companion bill S.4058 in the Senate, A.6099 may now be scheduled for consideration by the full Assembly on Monday, January 10, 2022, which is the final voting session of the 2020-2021 legislative session. AKC Government Relations has received no confirmation at this time that either bill will be added to either chamber’s floor agenda. However, as the legislative session nears its adjournment, circumstances are fluid. AKC Government Relations continues our advocacy efforts urging amendments to these bills, and will issue action alerts should either bill be scheduled for a floor vote. For more information, contact AKC Government Relations at email@example.com.
On Monday, January 3, 2022, the New Jersey Assembly Agriculture Committee will consider Assembly Bill 6099, a companion bill to Senate Bill 4058. A.6099, as introduced, is problematic because its costs of care provisions are onerous; will lead to shelter overpopulation; and must be amended to better protect the constitutional, property, and contractual rights of dog owners.
With the last voting day of the lame duck session scheduled for January 10, A.6099 and S.4058 may be fast-tracked for consideration. New Jersey dog owners are strongly encouraged to request the members of the Assembly Agriculture Committee not approve A.6099 until the bill is appropriately amended.
A.6099 IS ONEROUS TO OWNERS’ INTERESTS
AKC is concerned with A.6099’s cost of care provisions, including:
- Allowing animal care agencies with custody of a seized animal to file an action for reasonable costs of care. If costs are awarded, the person found liable then would have seven days after the court’s order to pay the agency the full amount for renewable 30-day periods until the owner voluntarily transfers ownership to the agency, ownership is immediately transferred to the agency due to failure to pay, the animal is euthanized, or the underlying criminal case concludes.
- Permitting a person found liable for costs to demonstrate to the court that they are unable to pay the full amounts required, and allowing the court to reduce the amount owed down to only veterinary expenses.
- Providing for any unexpended amounts paid to be returned to the person upon a change in a seized animal’s ownership.
- Mandating the immediate return of the seized animal if the person is eventually found not guilty and has made timely payments; and, except necessary veterinary costs, reimbursement for all reasonable costs of care.
- Permitting the agency to petition the court to order the animals’ forfeiture if the person is found guilty of underlying charges. In addition to the forfeiture, the court may prohibit the convicted person from having custody or control of any animals for a period of time it deems appropriate.
- Creating extensive definitions of “animal care agency”; “animal cruelty violation”, to include both civil and criminal violations; and “reasonable costs of care”.
AKC’s VIEW OF A.6099
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’ procedural and substantive due process rights. To that end, A.6099 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. A.6099 must be written to ensure that no enforcement agency is motivated by financial incentives or financial self-interest in seeking forfeiture. The bill must explicitly limit costs to those based on a daily public—not private—care rate and directly related to the basic care of the animals.
Additionally, A.6099 must be amended to protect the interests of non-possessory co-owners. Co-ownerships are common relationships among 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 alleged cruel treatment should take precedence over any other assignment of ownership in a seized animal.
Finally, A.6099 must be amended to ensure that only medically necessary surgical procedures are permitted to be performed on a seized animal. Optional permanent alteration without the owner’s consent should not be permitted.
Click here to read more about cost of care legislation concerns.
AKC TAKES NO ISSUE WITH A.6099’s TETHERING PROVISIONS
A.6099 would also amend the state’s tethering laws to deem it unlawful to tether a dog on an unoccupied or vacant property or any structure thereon, in a manner that exposes the dog to accumulated waste or other debris, precipitation, or flooding. AKC takes no issue with these provisions.
WHAT YOU CAN DO:
Concerned New Jersey dog owners are strongly encouraged to contact the members of the Assembly Agriculture Committee and respectfully request A.6099 not be approved at this time. Express concerns with the bill’s cost for care provisions that do not protect the rights of owners who are ultimately found not guilty.
Assemblymember Eric Houghtaling, Chair
802 West Park Avenue
Ocean Twp., NJ 07712
Phone: (732) 695-3371
Assemblymember Adam J. Taliaferro, Vice-Chair
Phone: (856) 339-0808
Assemblymember John Armato
Assemblymember Ronald S. Dancer
Phone: (609) 758-0205
Assemblymember Parker Space
Phone: (908) 300-0200
Assemblymember Lisa Swain
AKC Government Relations (GR) will continue to provide updates on this bill during the remainder of the 2020-2021 lame duck session as developments warrant. For more information, contact AKC GR at firstname.lastname@example.org.