Committee Advances Bills To Expand Animal Cruelty Violations

Trenton – The Senate Environment and Energy Committee today passed legislation sponsored by Senators Patrick Diegnan, Jr. and Vin Gopal that would revise current law prohibiting cruel tethering and confinement of dogs and establish procedures for seizure, care and forfeiture of animals involved in cases of animal cruelty.

The bill, S-981, would revise current law to prohibit tethering a dog on an unoccupied or vacant property unless the dog is accompanied or within view of their owner. It would also prohibit tethering a dog in any way that is harmful to their health or exposes them to accumulated waste, debris, precipitation or flooding.

The bill would also establish procedures for animal seizures, including specifying that notice has to be sent to the former owner as well as the address from which the animal has been taken no later than seven days after seizure.

“This law will provide protection to pets that are the victims of neglectful or abusive owners. One of the primary goals of the legislation is to prevent an abusive owner from automatically regaining custody,” said Senator Diegnan (D-Middlesex). “For example, under present law, an individual who participates in dogfighting or other unimaginable behavior is presumed to be the owner until a court rules otherwise.”

“This bill would help address cost of care issues, and require anyone found guilty of abuse and has had their animals seized from their possession to pay for the animal’s care,” said Senator Gopal (D-Monmouth). “This way, costs will no longer be passed onto local and State agencies.”

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) notes that both Connecticut and New York already have cost of care laws.

The Senate Environment and Energy Committee also advanced another animal welfare bill, ‘Moose’s Law’, S-333, sponsored by Senator Troy Singleton and Senate President Nick Scutari. The legislation would prohibit a person who has been convicted of criminal animal cruelty offenses from owning a domestic companion animal and from working or volunteering at animal-related enterprises. Any person who violates the provisions would be guilty of a disorderly person’s offense.

The Committee advanced both bills with unanimous votes of 5-0.