New Jersey Assemblyman Troy Singleton, sponsor of "Moose's Law," an animal abuse registry law which I have discussed several times, has proposed another animal cruelty-related bill. This time, in Assembly Bill No. 4313, Singleton proposes to add to the list of possible civil animal cruelty offenses conduct that "[p]uts a domestic companion animal in danger of injury or imminent harm."
Notably, the amendment is not based on actual injury or imminent harm, but conduct that "puts a domestic animal" in such danger. If a professional, government-authorized agency were responsible for making such determination, with the requisite training and background to do so, this amendment might be reasonable and warranted . Unfortunately, in New Jersey, the animal cruelty statutes are enforced by quasi-governmental agencies (State and/or County Societies for the Protection of Cruelty to Animals) which have been repeatedly criticized in statewide public investigations as being corrupt, ineffective, self-interested, and unable to fulfill their duties without violating the state and federal constitutional rights of New Jersey citizens. (See, e.g., SCI and Animal Welfare Task Force Reports).
Even if the problem of law enforcement were resolved, for example, as has occurred in New York City, since the ASPCA relinquished its law enforcement authority to the NYCPD,
Singleton's proposed amendment suffers from the quintessential issue that a law is void for vagueness and therefore unenforceable.
What conduct would constitute placing a domestic animal in "actual injury or imminent harm" that is not already included in the statutory provisions of the State's animal cruelty statutes?
How does this proposed amendment provide any additional protection to animals that are not already specified in the existing statute related to civil violations, provided below?
Before additional enforcement authority is provided to enforcers of the animal cruelty statutes in New Jersey, measures must be taken to ensure that the enforcing agencies are properly trained law enforcement professionals—not State and County SPCA's.
The following conduct is currently prohibited by the State’s animal cruelty civil statutes:
4:22-26. Acts constituting cruelty in general; penalty:
A person who shall:
Overdrive, Overdrive, overload, drive when overloaded, overwork, deprive of necessary sustenance, abuse, or needlessly kill a living animal or creature, or cause or procure any such acts to be done;
Torment, torture, maim, hang, poison, unnecessarily or cruelly beat or needessly mutilate a living animal or creature; or cause or procure any such acts to be done-
Cruelly kill, or cause or procure the cruel killing of, a living animal or creature, or otherwise cause or procure the death of a living animal or creature from commission of any act described in paragraph (2) of this subsection;
Inflict unnecessary cruelty upon a living animal or creature, or unnecessarily fail to provide a living animal or creature of which the person has charge either as an owner or otherwise with proper food, drink, shelter or protection from the weather, or leave it unattended in a vehicle under inhumane conditions adverse to the health or welfare of the living animal or creature-
Receive or offer for sale a horse that is suffering from abuse or neglect, or which by reason of disability, disease, abuse or lameness, or any other cause, could not be worked, ridden or otherwise used for show, exhibition or recreational purposes, or kept as a domestic pet without violating the provisions of this article;
Keep, use, be connected with or interested in the management of, or receive money or other consideration for the admission of a person to a place kept or used for the purpose of fighting or baiting a living animal or creature;
Be present and witness, pay admission to, encourage, aid or assist in an activity enumerated in subsection e. of this section;
Permit or suffer a place owned or controlled by him to be used as provided in subsection e. of this section;
Carry, or cause to be carried, a living animal or creature in or upon a vehicle or otherwise, in a cruel or inhumane manner;
Use a dog or dogs for the purpose of drawing or helping to draw a vehicle for business purposes;
Impound or confine or cause to be impounded or confined in a pound or other place a living animal or creature, and shall fail to supply it during such confinement with a sufficient quantity of good and wholesome food and water;
Abandon a maimed, sick, infirm or disabled animal or creature to die in a public place;
Willfully sell, or offer to sell, use, expose, or cause or permit to be sold or offered for sale, used or exposed, a horse or other animal having the disease known as glanders or farcy, or other contagious or infectious disease dangerous to the health or life of human beings or animals, or who shall, when any such disease is beyond recovery, refuse, upon demand, to deprive the animal of life;
Own, operate, manage or conduct a roadside stand or market for the sale of merchandise along a public street or highway; or a shopping mall, or a part of the premises thereof, and keep a living animal or creature confined, or allowed to roam in an area whether or not the area is enclosed, on these premises as an exhibit; except that this subsection shall not be applicable to: a pet shop licensed pursuant to P.L.1941, c.151 (C.4:19-15.1 et. seq.); a person who keeps an animal , in a humane manner, for the purpose of the protection of the premises; or a recognized breeders association, a 4-H club, an educational agricultural program, an equestrian team, a humane society or other similar charitable or nonprofit organization conducting an exhibition, show or performance;
Keep or exhibit a wild animal at a roadside stand or market located along a public street or highway of this State; a gasoline station; or a shopping mall, or a part of the premises thereof;
Sell, offer for sale, barter or give away or display live baby chicks, ducklings or other fowl or rabbits, turtles or chameleons which have been dyed or artificially colored or otherwise treated so as to impart to them an artificial color.
Use any animal, reptile or fowl for the purpose of soliciting any alms, collections, contributions, subscriptions, donations, or payment of money except in connection with exhibitions, shows or performances conducted in a bona fide manner by recognized breeders' associations, 4-H clubs or other similar bona fide organizations;
Sell or offer for sale, barter or give away living rabbits, turtles, baby chicks, ducklings or other fowl under two months of age, for use as household or domestic pets;
Sell, offer for sale, barter or give away living baby chicks, duckling or other fowl, or rabbits, turtles or chameleons under two months of age for any purpose not prohibited by subsection q. of this section and who shall fail to provide proper facilities for the care of such animals;
Artificially mark sheep or cattle, or cause them to be marked, by cropping or cutting off both ears, cropping or cutting either ear more than one inch from the tip enf thereof, or half cropping or cutting both ears or either ear more than one inch from the tip end thereof, or who shall have or keep in the person's possession sheep or cattle, which the person claims to own, marked contrary to this subsection unless they were bought in market or of a stranger;
Abandon a domesticated animal;
For amusement or gain, cause, allow, or permit the fighting or baiting of a living animal or creature;
Own, possess, keep, train, promote, purchase or knowingly sell a living animal or creature for the purpose of fighting or baiting that animal or creature;
Gamble on the outcome of a fight involving a living animal or creature;
Knowingly sell or barter or offer for sale or barter, at wholesale or retail, the fur or hair of a domestic dog or cat or any product made in whole or in part from the fur or hair of a domestic dog or cat, unless such fur or hair for sale or barter is from a commercial grooming establishment or a veterinary office or clinic or is for use for scientific research;
Knowingly sell or barter or offer for sale or barter, at wholesale or retail, for human consumption, the flesh of a domestic dog or cat or any product made in whole or in part from the flesh of a domestic dog or cat;
Surgically debark or silence a dog in violation of section 1 or 2 of P.L.2002, c. 102 (C:4:19-38 or C.4:19-39);
Use a live pigeon, fowl or other bird for the purpose of a target, or to be shot at either for amusement or as a test of skill in marksmanship, except that this subsection and subsections bb. And cc. shall not apply to the shooting of game;
Shoot as a bird used as described in subsection aa. of this section, or is a party to such shooting; or cc. Lease a building, room, field or premises, or knowingly permit the use thereof for the purposes of subsection aa. Or bb. Of this section- Shall forfeit and pay a sum according to the following schedule, to be sued for and discovered, with costs, in a civil action by any person in the name of the New Jersey Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals;
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.