Governor Murphy Signs Legislation Enhancing Animal Protections
TRENTON – Governor Phil Murphy today signed two bills into law, prohibiting the leasing of dogs and cats, and establishing the ownership, possession, purchasing, selling, or manufacturing of animal fighting paraphernalia as a crime of the third degree.
“As the owner of three pets and a strong proponent of animal protections, I am proud to sign legislation that bans the predatory practice of leasing dogs and cats and codifying the possession and trade of animal fighting equipment as a third-degree crime,” said Governor Phil Murphy. “I thank the advocates and legislators that have fought for so long against these cruel and inhumane practices.”
A4552 prohibits pet dealers from entering into contracts in which the transfer of ownership of a cat or dog is contingent on the making payments over a period of time subsequent to the transfer of possession of the cat or dog, unless those payments are on an unsecured loan for the purchase of the animal. The legislation also prohibits a pet dealer from entering into lease agreements that provide for or offer the option of transferring ownership of a cat or dog at the end of a lease term. Violators of the law will be subject to penalties of up to $10,000 for a first offense and up to $30,000 for any subsequent offenses.
Primary sponsors of the bill include Assemblymembers John Armato, Raj Mukherji, Vincent Mazzeo, Kevin Rooney, and Carol Murphy and Senators Vin Gopal and Kristin Corrado.
“Leasing is popular with pet dealers because it makes high-priced puppies seem more affordable to consumers,” said Assemblyman John Armato. “In many instances, this is not the case. Residents who have entered into these lease agreements find they will pay more over time than the actual retail price of the pet only to find out they still may not fully own the dog or cat. Families interested in buying from a pet store a special breed of dog or cat pet should not be conned into an overpriced leasing agreement.”
“These unfair leasing agreements take advantage of unwary families and places certain specialty breeds of pets at risk,” said Assemblyman Raj Mukherji. “This practice also facilitates the sale of puppy mill dogs and encourages unhealthy breeding practices.”
“New Jersey residents are being deceived into signing a lease for a pet then ending up paying more than they intended,” said Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo. “Pet dogs and cats are investments, not just monetarily but also as members of our families. These types of leasing agreements are taking advantage of residents who want a specific breed of dog or cat to become a part of their lives.”
“People are feeling scammed by these leasing agreements,” said Assemblywoman Carol Murphy. “This is a fairly new industry practice that manipulates unwary consumers into an overly expensive leasing agreement. Residents should not have to enter into such agreements just to own a pet.”
“There’s an implicit assumption in the idea of ‘leasing’ a pet – that, after a period of time, that pet is going to be torn away from a loving home, possibly just after it’s come to know its new family,” said Senator Vin Gopal. “When families can’t or won’t pay, their beloved cat or dog is taken away and leased to the next buyer in line, just to pad the breeder’s pockets. Many families don’t even understand that they’re signing up for a lease when they agree to a contract – they think that they’ve signed up for a pet adoption loan, and are instead tricked into high-interest payment plans that force them to pay large sums of money to predatory businesses in order to keep their beloved animals. At the end of the day, our pets aren’t fancy cars or expensive furniture to be leased – they’re true members of the family, and deserve to be treated that way.”
“Families are being deceived into thinking they’re purchasing a high-end breed with the promise of an affordable monthly payment plan, not realizing they’re actually signing a two- or three-year lease that could result in their pet being repossessed,” said Senator Kristin Corrado. “This deceptive practice of renting-to-own puppies and kittens employed by sinister pet brokers is cruel and must be stopped.”
S3146 establishes that owning, possessing, buying, selling, transferring, or manufacturing animal fighting paraphernalia for the purpose of engaging in or otherwise promoting or facilitating the fighting or baiting of a living animal or creature is a crime of the third degree under the State animal cruelty statutes, punishable by a term of imprisonment of three to five years, a fine of up to $15,000 a year, or both. The legislation further establishes a civil penalty for the aforementioned offense of no less than $3,000 and no more than $5,000.
Primary sponsors of the bill include Senators Troy Singleton and Dawn Marie Addiego and Assemblymembers Carol Murphy, Jamel Holley, Daniel Benson, and Paul Moriarty.
“Animal fighting is immoral and an inhumane way of treating animals,” said Senator Troy Singleton. “This new law will further discourage animal fighting in New Jersey by enforcing current laws and putting more pressure on those who sell paraphernalia and bait animals into fighting.”
“There is no space in our society for animal cruelty,” said Senator Dawn Marie Addiego. “We do not accept violence, torture and inhumane treatment, and therefore, we cannot accept the specialized equipment used to perpetrate this violence. I am glad the Governor is taking this step to help sweep the streets of these vile products.”
“Dog fighting, cock fighting and animal combat of any kind is downright cruel,” said Assemblywoman Carol Murphy. “We do not condone or tolerate this behavior in New Jersey. However, it can be difficult for law enforcement to charge suspects without actually having seen them facilitate animal fighting. By criminalizing paraphernalia, we will make it easier for officers to gather evidence and hold violators accountable.”
“Animal fighting is among the most callous and inhumane forms of animal cruelty,” said Assemblyman Jamel Holley. “We must to do all we can end this practice in our state, starting with ensuring law enforcement are able to charge suspects accordingly when they see signs of trouble.”
“This law takes a comprehensive approach to combatting animal fighting in our State,” said Assemblyman Daniel Benson. “If officers find clear evidence of fighting activity, they should be able to charge a suspect regardless of whether they’ve seen the act take place. When more abusers are brought to justice, the lives of more animals will be saved.”
“No domesticated animal is born knowing how to viciously fight another animal; they are trained to do so by people who want nothing more than to profit off of their suffering,” said Assemblyman Paul Moriarty. “Strengthening our animal cruelty laws will undoubtedly help us reduce incidents in New Jersey and rescue animals from abusive situations.”
“The ASPCA has long warned consumers to be skeptical of the pet stores and online sellers who may try to deceive them about the sources and health of the dogs they sell, and pet leasing is just one more example of the disregard many pet stores have for the well-being of their animals,” said Debora Bresch, senior director of state legislation for the ASPCA, Upper Atlantic region. “We thank Governor Murphy for signing this legislation to end this particular inhumane practice by which pet stores team up with private lenders to deceive consumers while they amp up profits for puppy mills.”
“By signing S3146, Governor Murphy has provided more tools for our law enforcement officials to combat cruel and illegal animal fighting in our state,” said Brian Hackett, New Jersey State Director for The Humane Society of the United States. “This action marks a milestone in animal welfare, as NJ becomes the 25th state to pass a prohibition of the sale and possession of animal fighting paraphernalia, closing a critical loophole in our already very strong anti-animal fighting laws. Today, we are also grateful that the governor has signed the ban on pet leasing, which is a deceptive scheme that some pet stores have used to peddle puppy mill cruelty onto unsuspecting consumers. HSUS sincerely thanks Governor Murphy and all the bills’ sponsors for their continued support for animal protection legislation in New Jersey.”