The American Kennel Club (AKC) and a broad coalition of animal interests groups remain gravely concerned with New Jersey Senate Bill 2868 and its companion Assembly Bill 4533, which, if enacted as currently written, would create court-appointed legal advocates for animals.
AKC supports the traditional legal classification of animals as personal property, which has resulted in a stable legal system that clearly protects animals by defining the rights and responsibilities of owners and others in the animal care chain, like veterinarians and enforcement officials. AKC believes that, without significant amendments, S.2868/A.4533 have the potential to throw this system into chaos.
S.2868/A.4533 are modeled on a 2016 Connecticut law that established a similar animal advocates program. However, before that law was enacted, Connecticut had already explicitly classified animals as property (a protection that continues to exist today). In contrast, New Jersey law does not provide similar explicit protections.
This lack of ownership protection in current New Jersey law is the basis of AKC’s history of opposing S.2868/A.4533. Without an explicit statement that animals are classified as property under New Jersey law, we believe that the current wording of the bills will, at minimum, bring their current legal classification into question. This may lead to both legal and pragmatic issues regarding who is responsible for an animal, including ultimately impacting the ability of dog owners to freely choose the most appropriate course of care and treatment for their pets and other unintended consequences
AKC and other allied groups have met with Assemblyman Raj Mukherji, the primary sponsor of A.4533 and the chairman of the Assembly Judiciary Committee (to which both bills are currently assigned) to express our concerns and request amendments. However, Assemblyman Mukherji and non-elected backers of the legislation have been unwilling to amend the bills to address the concerns of New Jersey dog owners, the AKC, and other allied groups.
S.2868 bill has already passed the Senate and remains pending in the Assembly Judiciary Committee, where A.4533 is also pending.
WHAT YOU CAN DO TODAY:
With approximately six weeks left in New Jersey’s “lame duck” legislative session, it is of utmost importance that all concerned New Jersey residents contact Assembly Speaker Craig J. Coughlin to express opposition to S.2868/A.4533 (aka, the “lawyers for dogs” bills) and request he not call either bill for a vote unless they are amended as follows:
- Striking Section 1 (problematic findings) of the bill in its entirety.
- Adding a new subsection to Section 2 of the bill that reads, “The provisions of this section shall not change the legal status of animals as property.”
Speaker Craig J. Coughlin
569 Rahway Ave.
Woodbridge, NJ 07095
All concerned New Jersey residents are also strongly encouraged to contact their Assemblymember to request they vote against S.2868/A.4522 unless amended as outlined above. To find the contact information for your New Jersey Assemblymember, go to https://www.njleg.state.nj.us/members/legsearch.asp.
AKC Government Relations (GR) will continue to provide additional information and calls to action as developments warrant. For more information, contact AKC GR at firstname.lastname@example.org.