12/13/21 update: The Senate Environment and Energy Committee passed an amended version of Senate Bill 4058. The committee amendment eliminated the provision that allowed courts to reduce the amount of costs assessed to only veterinary costs. AKC believes this amendment further makes S.4058 untenable. AKC Government Relations will continue to provide updates should S.4058 progress further during the lame duck legislative session.
New Jersey Senate Bill 4058, which was introduced on November 8, is scheduled to be considered by the Senate Environment and Energy Committee tomorrow, Thursday, December 9, 2021. The bill seeks to update the state’s tethering provisions and create new costs of care laws for dogs seized as part of a criminal or civil animal cruelty case. The American Kennel Club (AKC) believes the costs of care provisions are onerous and must be amended to better protect the constitutional, property, and contractual rights of dog owners. New Jersey dog owners are encouraged to respectfully request the members of the Senate Environment and Energy Committee not approve S.4058 until the bill is appropriately amended.
S.4058 IS ONEROUS TO OWNERS’ INTERESTS
AKC is concerned with S.4058’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 owned 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 S.4058
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, S.4058 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. S.4058 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, S.4058 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, S.4058 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 S.4058’S TETHERING PROVISIONS
S.4058 would 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 Senate Environment and Energy Committee and respectfully request S.4058 not be approved at this time.
State Senator Bob Smith, Chairman
16 Stelton Road
Piscataway, NJ 08854
Phone: (732) 752-0770
State Senator Linda R. Greenstein, Vice-Chair – S.4058 cosponsor
Phone: (609) 395-9911
State Senator Christopher Bateman
State Senator Richard J. Codey
Phone: (973) 535-5017
State Senator Kristin M. Corrado
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.