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Last week, the New Jersey Assembly Appropriations Committee amended the controversial “cost of care” bill, Assembly Bill 2354, and voted to forward it to the full Assembly for further consideration.  The American Kennel Club (AKC) believes amended A.2354 still fails to both adequately protect the rights of bona fide co-owners and address the constitutional issues of procedural due process, unreasonable seizures, and excessive fines presented by the bills.  It is imperative that all New Jersey dog breeders and enthusiasts—especially those who co-own dogs with others—contact Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, Majority Leader Louis Greenwald, and your Assemblymember today to urge them to not call S.2354 for a floor vote.

AKC has long urged amendments to A.2354 to protect the rights of co-owners not in possession of an animal when it is seized, and to quickly give them precedence over any other assignment of possession and ownership. The most recent amendment to A.2354 does not meet those goals.  It only allows for the consideration of a co-owner’s rights after a criminal trial against the person from whom an animal was seized is completed, which could take years, and also would require a court to decide whether transferring the animal to the co-owner is in the best interest of the animal.

New Jersey law should work to keep as many animals out of shelters and rescues as possible.  It should protect the rights of proven co-owners to take possession of their animals if they were not in possession of them when seized due to suspected cruel or negligent treatment, and should do so expediently.  Additionally, a person should not have to meet additional “best interest” standards to take possession of their own property.

Contact Speaker Coughlin and Majority Leader Greenwald today by email or phone to request A.2354 not be scheduled for a floor vote.  Feel free to cut-and-paste the sample text (below) into your email, or use the text during your phone call.

Speaker Craig Coughlin
(732) 855-7441

Majority Leader Louis Greenwald
(856) 435-1247

For the contact information for your New Jersey Assemblymember, go to and enter your address.

Subject line: Oppose A.2354 (Second Reprint)

My name is [first name, last name], I am a resident of [your city/town], and I oppose A.2354 as an unconstitutional means for animal shelters and rescues to take ownership of animals.  I respectfully urge Speaker Coughlin and Majority Leader Greenwald to not schedule the bill for further consideration.

  • I join the American Kennel Club (AKC) in abhorring animal cruelty and negligent treatment of animals, and share in concerns about the need to assure that local animal control agencies receive adequate public funding to achieve their public mandate.  However, funding mechanisms for animal control agencies, shelters, or rescues must not exist to the detriment of dog owners’ constitutional protections.
  • NJ law (4:22-17.7) already provides an easy and fair process for shelters and rescues to be paid for taking care of animals seized for alleged cruelty or neglect.
  • A.2354 is a business protection bill for shelters and rescues.  It would allow shelters and rescues to demand money much earlier in cases than current law allows.  It would also provide for the automatic forfeiture of seized animals via a new and accelerated timeline.  A2354 would not allow courts to consider whether the person from whom the animals were seized is ultimately found not guilty (raising constitutional concerns of unreasonable fines and procedural due process) or is indigent (raising constitutional concerns of procedural due process violations).  A.2354 would also not allow courts to consider co-owners’ rights until after a seized animal would be automatically forfeited and their rights terminated (raising concerns of the erroneous deprivation of property).
  • Proponents of the bill have argued their proposal is necessary for a shelter or rescue to maintain possession of an animal for the duration of a trial to “preserve evidence.”  AKC believes that argument is without merit.  In most cases, preserving physical evidence often locks inanimate objects in a protected environment with extremely limited access.  The nature of animals is different because they are constantly changing.  By receiving care, like feeding, watering, exercising, grooming, or by moving them from one location to another, they will materially change and will have no relation to the circumstances in which they were found and removed from.  Other means of preserving evidence in cruelty or negligence cases can provide much greater, and significantly more reliable, evidentiary value.  They include, but are not limited to, photographs, videos, eyewitness reports, veterinary reports, or the information used to establish probable cause.

As currently written (Second Reprint), A.2354 is overreaching and a detriment to animal ownership rights.  Please join me in opposing A.2354 and its further consideration by the full Assembly.

Thank you.

[Phone number]

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.
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AKC Government Relations (AKC GR) will continue to provide calls for action and updates on A.2354 and its companion, S.981, as developments warrant.  For more information, contact AKC GR at 919-816-3720 or