The New Jersey Assembly Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee is considering several bills on Monday, November 14, that impact New Jersey dog owners and breeders.
AKC encourages dog owners who reside or participate in events in New Jersey to contact the committee members prior to the hearing regarding these bills on Monday, November 14 at 2:00pm (Scroll down for committee contact information).
The Assembly Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee will be considering the following bills impacting dog owners:
- Assembly Bill 772 – Payment for animals seized after a cruelty allegation. This bill deals with the payment for the care of animals seized when the owner is charged with a cruelty violation. The agency seizing the animals is required within seven days of impoundment to provide a “custodial care notice” that includes, among other items, an itemized account of the actual costs of care of the animal for those seven days, as well as an itemized account of the “projected reasonable costs” for caring for the animal for each 30-day period going forward until the case is resolved.
The AKC appreciates that the owner has the opportunity to contest the costs in court, and that the court may consider facts and circumstances including the defendant’s ability to pay. However, the court is not required to consider whether the defendant is able to pay, and the bill still states that the costs are a lien against the animal until the payments have all been made. In fact, the bill says that “notwithstanding a court order authorizing the defendant to resume care and control of the animal”, the agency holding the animal shall not release it until all payments have been made. If payments are not made in the time allotted by the court, then the agency assumes permanent ownership of the animal.
The AKC is concerned that these provisions disproportionately harm disadvantaged dog owners who could lose their animals before a verdict is reached, or even if the court finds them not guilty and determines the animals may be returned to the owners. Read AKC’s article “Guilty Until Proven Innocent?” for talking points and more information on this issue.
- Assembly Bill 2041 – Animal Protection Orders for abused animals. This bill would allow the court to issue an “animal protection order” against a person found guilty of animal abuse or the state’s cruelty laws. The order may be applied to a specific animal, or any animal as deemed appropriate by the court. If the person violates this order, they are guilty of a disorderly persons offense.
The AKC strongly believes that no animal should ever be abused, and those who harm animals must be held accountable. AKC supports protection orders in cases of domestic abuse, when the order covers both the owner and their animals. AB 2041, however, provides no protection for owners and instead elevates the legal status of animals. The AKC believes there are more appropriate ways to handle cases of animal cruelty.
- Assembly Bill 2052 – Additional requirements for providing an animal with “necessary care.” This bill adds additional requirements to the definition of “necessary care”, which all animals in New Jersey must be given. The new requirements include clarifying that water must be drinkable and of an appropriate temperature. It also allows for circumstances or emergencies beyond an owner’s control when necessary care cannot be provided. The AKC believes these are reasonable changes.
The concerns lie in the requirements for an enclosed structure with adequate bedding to protect against cold and dampness, and “reasonable access to an exercise area.” While this is appropriate for dogs kept in outdoor kennels or permanently kept outdoors, it is unclear how these provisions would apply to those who keep animals in their home. It is also unclear how the access to an exercise area would apply to those who do not have a yard or exercise area, but do still ensure their dogs receive proper activity and exercise.
- Assembly Bill 3636 – Removing animals from unattended vehicles. This bill states that a person is immune from civil or criminal liability for breaking and entering a vehicle if the conditions threaten a dog’s health and welfare, the animal is in imminent danger, and the person enters the vehicle in good faith to provide emergency care.
Anyone entering a vehicle must first immediately report the situation to appropriate rescue personnel and make a reasonable effort to locate the person responsible for the animal. AKC is concerned as there is no recourse for the owner for damage incurred when the animal in the car was not in danger, or for protection if the dog harms someone as a result of being removed from the vehicle. These protections are especially important if the animal flees the car and becomes at large.
- Assembly Bill 3638 – Establishing a crime of animal hoarding. AB 3638 is another bill being considered on Monday by the committee. It would define animal hoarding as a person who cares for or has possession of animals in a quantity where they fail to provide necessary care, and as a result at least some animals die or are subject to injury or other severe health consequences. The AKC appreciates that the bill makes it clear that the number of animals alone cannot be used to determine a hoarding situation, but rather may be a factor in determining the care and treatment of the animals.
Contact the Committee:
Contact the Assembly Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee prior to its hearing at 2:00 pm on Monday November 14, to express your comments on these bills. If you are a constituent, please be sure to mention that when you are contacting their office. The contact information is as follows:
Assemblyman Bob Andrzejczak (District 1) – Chairman
Assemblyman Adam Taliaferro (District 3)– Vice Chair
Assemblyman Ronald Dancer (District 12)
Assemblyman Eric Houghtaling (District 11)
Assemblyman Parker Space (District 24)
The AKC Government Relations Department and the New Jersey Federation of Dog Clubs will continue to closely monitor these bills and provide more information as it becomes available. For questions or more information, e-mail AKC GR at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The New Jersey Assembly Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee is considering several bills on Monday, November 14, that impact New Jersey dog owners and breeders. AKC encourages dog owners who reside or participate in events in New Jersey to contact the committee members prior to the hearing regarding these bills on Monday, November 14 at 2:00pm