Animal Welfare Legislation: Protecting A Silent Minority

I have written recently about summer- and holiday-related activities, and it occurred to me that we share many of these events with our pets.

I have always believed in the dignity and protection of our pets and all animals. During my legislative career, I have been an unrelenting and vigorous sponsor and supporter of animal welfare legislation, especially for our domestic animals who often become members of our family. Legislative support of animal welfare laws that I have introduced or supported include...

  • Keeping violators away. I don’t understand the psychological makeup of someone who would hurt animals. However, I do understand that we must prevent individuals who have a conviction of animal cruelty from owning a domestic companion animal (a pet) and from volunteering in any animal-related enterprise. We often refer to this proposal, Senate Bill No. 861, as Moose’s Law, to honor a family dog that died after being stolen and then mistreated. Even though, this proposal was vetoed by former Governor Chris Christie in 2014, we continue to reintroduce it every session and fight to make it law.
  • The Animal Registry. We can review a lawyer’s conduct, an accountant’s and even our doctor’s record. Why should not the same transparency apply to people convicted of animal cruelty? Trying to answer that question is why I originally introduced legislation in 2016. Unfortunately, former Governor Christie vetoed this proposal also right as he was leaving office in January of 2018. However, Senate Bill No. 381 currently takes up this charge by providing for a registry of persons convicted of animal cruelty. It would be readily identifiable and posted on the website of the Department of Health and Senior Services. This provides an easy, quick and transparent reminder of whom you should not be dealing with when considering purchasing a pet or placing it under a violator’s control. When passed, this type of state animal registry would be only the second (Tennessee) in the United States. 
  • Declawing cats. Some cat owners request the declawing of cats because of scratching behavior. It is cruel and unusual punishment and usually unwarranted. I have introduced legislation, Senate Bill No. 1209, to prohibit this practice unless a veterinarian certifies that it is necessary for the health of the cat.
  • A Second Chance for “Vicious” dogs. The purpose of this proposal is to redefine the criteria used to classify a dog as vicious or potentially dangerous. Giving canines raised in an environment of cruelty a second chance by removing the presumption of viciousness, is consistent with the 2011 resolution adopted by the American Bar Association. The resolution called for there to be an evaluation and behavioral assessment with humane euthanasia being the last resort. I am grateful that Governor Phil Murphy agreed and signed Senate Bill No. 1923 into law in May.  
  • Outlawing the sale of dog-fighting paraphernalia. Senate Bill No. 3146 establishes that owning, possessing, buying, selling, transferring or manufacturing animal-fighting paraphernalia for dog fighting would be a third-degree felony. This would also include civil penalties — a stiff fine — applied to any guilty parties. This proposal is sitting on Governor Phil Murphy’s desk currently awaiting his action. 


On this theme of animal welfare, this Saturday, July 27th, I am sponsoring Helping Homeless Cats in Palmyra, at the Purrsonal Space Cat Lounge, from 10 a.m. to noon. It’s a perfect time to put your love of cats into action. For more details visit,

Given the crush of what we all consider more “serious” topics — and there are many — it could raise the question of why I seem so concerned about animal welfare.

The answer isn’t a mystery if you’ve ever had a pet. You already know the answer. There is also an overarching reason for these initiatives that tells us something vital about ourselves and our broader community. Pets, along with children and the elderly, are often among the most vulnerable in society. They also need someone to speak on their behalf. How we treat them speaks volumes about who we are as a people, and that’s why they are important components of my legislative agenda and I hope that merit your support as well. That’s my take, what’s yours?

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  • Ada H. Workman (Sissy Workman)
    commented 2019-07-26 09:51:00 -0400
    Thank you Troy for your continued support to keep MOOSES Law on the books. This is the time of year when he went missing and was brought back to us deceased. His memories come up almost everyday on fb of the hard search we did and the sad outcome. Please keep up all the hard work you are doing for our animals. Thank you.
  • Eric Baratta
    commented 2019-07-25 15:45:49 -0400
    One of my favorite quotes is by Gandhi—“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” You can switch out ‘animals’ for any vulnerable population, really. You are a people’s champ and a champ for animals, too. When you were in the assembly, you were a champ for wildlife and farm animals, I believe. These animals receive the least protection from abuse given their violent uses by society, and are most of need for a champ in our legislature. At present, it seems the deck is particularly stacked against wildlife in the New Jersey legislature with the current Senate president, and even the Governor’s office to an extent, which is incredibly disappointing given the majority party.

    Do you have any updates on where the leghold trap ban legislation is? There was a recent incident of two teenagers in Lacy Township, NJ that really illustrated how cruel these traps—that have been made legal through administrative back-channels by NJ DEP—are for the animals caught, and equally important, how this type of legalized and state-promoted cruelty can foster the decrease in empathy towards others—human or otherwise—that seems to becoming frighteningly widespread in our country these days. I appreciate your thoughtful and nuanced posts and work. You make great connections, and I think Gandhi also spoke of topics that helped connect seemingly unrelated issues in a way that enlightened many and promoted the progress that peace and empathy bring to a world where most people would want to live.

    Thank you for your work, this post and for all you do on behalf of animals.