Tomorrow, Tuesday, June 15, the New Jersey Senate Environment and Energy Committee is scheduled to consider two dog-related bills. New Jersey residents are encouraged to contact the members of the committee and respectfully share their concerns.
Senate Bill 3607
As introduced, S.3607, dubbed the “Responsible Dog Ownership Act”, seeks to establish new dog related rules, including specific requirements for “large dogs”. It requires 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” thereby requiring 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; and (4) the requirements for the control and regulation of the free movement of all dogs off the property of their owner. DOH would also be required to develop model ordinances, and localities would be required to adopt new ordinances providing for the standards and requirements developed by DOH.
Owners of dogs determined to be “large” would be required to secure a special 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 up to $500.
S.3607 would also update the state’s child endangerment statute to include incidences involving threatening of, bodily injury to, serious bodily injury to, or death of a child, to be crimes, ranging from disorderly persons offenses to crimes of the third degree.
The American Kennel Club (AKC) is concerned that, despite good intentions, S.3607 as introduced is targeting a specific phenotypic group of dogs for additional regulation, regardless of whether a dog has demonstrated problematic behavior. AKC’s well known position on “Dangerous Dog” Control Legislation demonstrates the organization’s strong opposition to such laws based on specific phenotypic classes of dogs. Moreover, AKC is concerned that S.3607 will result in unintended consequences, including dissuading pet purchasers from acquiring large dogs from municipal shelters and rescues, and describing dogs’ typical warning behaviors 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.
Please note that companion bill A.2401 has been amended to address some concerns after its first committee hearing. Amended A.2401 is scheduled to be considered by the Assembly Appropriations Committee on Wednesday, June 16.
Senate Bill 325
As introduced, S.325 seeks to create new laws regarding the cost and payment of care for animals involved in animal cruelty violations. Specifically, the bill provides for:
1) the shelter, pound, kennel, or animal care facility at which the animal is impounded to issue, no later than seven days after the animal has been impounded, a custodial care notice that includes an itemized accounting of the actual costs of care for the animal during the first seven days of impoundment;
2) the individual charged with these costs shall be required to pay the amount set forth in the notice and every 30 days thereafter until the full and final disposition of the animal cruelty violation or request a court hearing to contest the reasonableness of the specified expenses;
3) the shelter, pound, kennel or animal care facility where the animal is impounded to assume ownership of the animal if no hearing is requested and the individual does not pay the expenses as required under the bill; and
4) upon assuming ownership, the shelter, pound, kennel or animal care facility would be authorized to address the status of the animal as it would any other impounded animal.
The bill also prohibits any impounded animal to be sold, euthanized, offered for adoption or otherwise disposed of by the shelter, pound, kennel or animal care facility if the owner pays for the expenses of care, unless, in the opinion of a licensed veterinarian, the animal is experiencing intractable and extreme pain and is beyond any reasonable hope of recovery. In such a case, the bill allows for the immediate euthanizing of the animal and the individual charged held liable for all costs of providing care for, and disposal of, the animal.
Furthermore, the bill requires, if the animal is returned to the owner who has paid for expenses, that any amount paid to the shelter, pound, kennel or animal care facility that is unexpended be returned to the owner. Finally, the bill directs the court to establish any unpaid expenses as a lien on the animal and no animal may be returned to its owner until the lien is paid.
The AKC appreciates that S.325, as currently worded, specifically provides that courts may consider an individual’s ability to pay in determining whether assessed costs are reasonable. We believe that this may reduce changes that a defendant not found guilty is unconstitutionally deprived of their property rights. However, AKC is concerned that S.325 does not specifically protect the rights of non-possessory of co-owners in cases where a possessory co-owner defendant fails to post for care costs. Additionally, AKC is concerned that daily care costs are not specifically capped.
What You Can Do:
Concerned New Jersey residents are strongly encouraged to contact the members of the Senate Environment and Energy Committee and express their concerns with S.3607 and S.325.
Written testimony should be submitted to OLSAideSEN@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.
State Senator Bob Smith, Chair
Phone: (732) 752-0770
State Senator Linda Greenstein, Vice-Chair
Phone: (609) 395-9911
State Senator Christopher “Kip” Bateman
Phone: (908) 526-3600
State Senate Richard J. Codey
Phone: (973) 535-5017
State Senator Kristin M. Corrado
Phone: (973) 237-1360
AKC Government Relations (GR) will continue to provide updates on pending New Jersey legislation as developments warrant. For more information, contact AKC GR at firstname.lastname@example.org.