Yesterday, the New Jersey Senate Environment and Energy Committee considered two dog-related bills of concern to the American Kennel Club (AKC). As introduced, both measures, SB 333 and 981, failed to protect ownership interests. See AKC’s March 11 action alert.
As originally worded, Senate Bill 333 sought to permit courts to order the forfeiture of any animal owned by an animal cruelty offender, upon conviction, and the transfer of forfeited animal (s) to the “custody” of an animal shelter. AKC is pleased to report that an amended version of S.333 was approved by the committee. Not yet publicly available, the amendment continues to prohibit persons convicted of criminal animal cruelty offenses from owning domestic companion animals for at least two years and from working or volunteering at animal-related enterprises. The amendment addresses one of AKC’s primary concerns by specifically requiring courts to transfer possession of an animal to a co-owner that does not live with the cruelty offender and who is themself not a cruelty offender before ordering an animal’s transfer to an animal shelter.
The amendment also eliminates the animal cruelty registry provisions, which have been proven ineffective at deterring criminal activity, and therefore allows government resources to be used on proven prevention activities. The change also ensures that AKC-affiliated clubs that conduct training classes are not required to secure background checks on trainers, including on members who may be volunteer trainers, prior to conducting classes. AKC is pleased to now support amended S.333, and thanks bill sponsors Senator Troy Singleton and Senate President Nicholas Scutari for their leadership and consideration of AKC’s concerns.
Unfortunately, Senate Bill 981 was approved unamended by the committee. The bill continues to disregard the interests of non-possessory co-owners—in direct conflict with the provisions of amended S.333, as noted above—and continues to contain constitutionally suspect court procedures that could reasonably lead to the erroneous deprivation of property of an individual not found guilty of a crime. AKC is continuing to work to ensure these provisions do not become New Jersey law.
AKC Government Relations (GR) will continue to provide updates on these bills, along with other dog-related legislation in New Jersey, as developments warrant. For more information, email AKC GR at firstname.lastname@example.org.