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Today, the New Jersey Assembly Appropriations Committee adopted amendments to Assembly Bill 2401, the “Responsible Dog Ownership Act”.  The bill is now scheduled for a voting session by the full Assembly on Thursday, June 24, at 1PM.

The American Kennel Club (AKC) expressed strong concerns with earlier versions of A.2401, particularly with the bill’s disparate impact on owners of large dogs.

We appreciate that Assemblyman Benjie Wimberly, primary sponsor of A.2401, listened to concerns shared by AKC, other organizations, and New Jersey residents in crafting amendments.

Newly-amended A.2401:

  • Removes the large-dog licensing and fencing requirements.  Instead, the bill establishes state-wide leashing requirements for when a dog is off the property of its owner; and only imposes fencing requirements for dogs that are repeatedly found outside the control of their owner, regardless of size.
  • Requires to Department of Health (DOH) to creates rules for leashing, restraining, or otherwise restricting the free movement of dogs; for fencing, if required for dogs repeatedly in violation of leash laws; for exceptions to the leashing requirements, including exercising dogs in dog parks; and for the control of movement of dogs of all sizes.  The amendment would continue to require DOH to develop model ordinances.
  • Mandates that municipalities adopt ordinances that, at a minimum, include the standards and requirements established by the DOH rules.
  • Requires that owners register or license newly-acquired dogs, as required by their municipality.
  • Mandates that dogs be leashed or controlled with another appropriate restraint, unless otherwise exempted by DOH rules.
  • Upon the first occurrence of a dog off the property of its owner without a leash or other appropriate restraint attacking a person without causing bodily injury, the owner shall be issued a warning notice that fencing requirements may be imposed if the dog is again found off the owner’s property.  Upon the third occurrence, the owner of the dog shall be required to comply with fencing requirements.
  • Provides for fines in lieu of fencing requirements if a dog attacks and does not cause injury and the owner is a resident of a condominium, townhouse, apartment, or other rental property; or if the owner’s dog is being walked in locations off the owner’s property, if the dog is in a park or other public open space, or if the dog is taken to the property of another person and is found off property.
  • Continues to establish criminal liability for the owner of a dog that inflicts bodily injury or serious bodily injury to, or kills, a person, when the dog is not leashed or restrained in a residential neighborhood, park, or other open space accessible to the public, or the owner fails to comply with court-imposed requirements.
  • Continues to include death caused as a result of injuries sustained by a dog as a type of criminal homicide; and updates the state’s assault statue to include instances when an owner allows their dog off leash or fails to restrain the dog and the dog inflicts injury upon a person.  However, the bill now specifically provides exceptions for provocation, self defense, or defense of offspring or owner.
  • Updates the state’s child endangerment statute to include instances when an owner allows their dog off leash or fails to restrain the dog and the dog threatens, inflicts injury, inflicts serious injury, or kills a child; with exceptions for provocation, self defense, or defense of offspring or owner.
  • Updates the state’s potentially dangerous dogs and vicious dogs statutes.

AKC appreciates the willingness of Assemblyman Wimberly, sponsor of A.2401, to consider the input of stakeholders and amending A.2401 to better ensure the bill’s reasonableness.

AKC Government Relations will continue to provide updates to A.2401 as they warrant, including information or additional amendments that may be forthcoming.  For more information, email