By Kristen Coppock - www.phillyburbs.com
TRENTON — Moose’s Law was approved Thursday by the New Jersey Assembly, bringing it one step closer to adoption.
Named for a deceased Delran dog, the bill aims to bar those convicted of animal-abuse charges from owning pets or working in related businesses.
Moose, a 3-year-old chocolate Labrador retriever, died last summer after being left in a hot car by a novice animal rescuer and dog trainer. The dog was missing for more than a month, and his owners had frantically searched for him before his remains were returned.
Approved by a vote of 72-3-2, Moose’s Law was sponsored by Troy Singleton, D-7th of Palmyra; Herb Conaway, D-7th of Delanco; and John Burzichelli, D-3rd of Paulsboro.
“After what they’ve gone through, Moose’s family has been fighting to ensure that other families don’t have to endure a similar tragedy,” Singleton said. “Putting these restrictions in place will help ensure that his legacy results in greater protections for other animals.”
Owner Sissy Workman said Thursday that she was happy to hear the bill had advanced to the Senate.
“I think it’s great,” she said. “Since Moose’s case, there have been so many animal-cruelty issues come up. If Moose’s Law goes all the way, it’s going to have an effect.”
Workman said she doesn’t think the proposed legislation will deter animal abusers from committing initial crimes, but she believes it will help prevent repeat offenses. Moose’s Law would criminalize pet ownership or animal-related employment for anyone previously convicted of animal-cruelty offenses.
The legislation also would give animal-related enterprises the resources and authorization to conduct background checks on employees to ensure no one convicted of cruelty offenses is hired. Those businesses would include zoos, aquariums, veterinary operations, animal training facilities, kennels and pet shops.
Conaway said the bill will help limit people with bad intentions from working with animals in the future.
“What happened to Moose was tragic, especially given the great lengths his family took to try and find him,” he said. “But the bigger lesson learned here is that not everyone entrusted with the welfare of animals has their best intentions in mind.”
In Moose’s case, former Delran resident Jacquelin Lockard, the operator of a dog training business in Pennsylvania, was charged with various offenses related to his disappearance and death.
Last month, in Superior Court in Burlington County, Lockard admitted to stealing Moose, selling him to another family, despite knowing he was being sought by the Workman family, and leaving the dog in her hot car to die, after being paid to train him.
She pleaded guilty to theft by failure to make required disposition of property and two offenses of animal cruelty, including “inflicting unnecessary cruelty to a living animal.” The second offense was for failing to provide proper shelter for her own dog.
Lockard has yet to be sentenced.
Under Moose’s Law, the list of animal-cruelty offenders would be made public. Any organization or place that adopts or sells animals would have the ability to check the list.