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NJ considers ‘bond or forfeit’ law for animal cruelty cases

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TRENTON – People accused of animal cruelty may must pay a bond to cowl the prices a shelter incurs caring for animals taken into custody whereas a legal case is pending, below a invoice endorsed by an Assembly committee Monday.

It’s unclear if the invoice – S4058/A6099 – can be handed by the Senate and Assembly at their closing conferences of the two-year legislative session subsequent Monday. Opponents of the plan are advocating for lawmakers to delay a closing vote and as an alternative make revisions to slender down the plan subsequent session.

The invoice’s proponents say the invoice has been labored on for three years and will now not wait.

More than 35 states have related legal guidelines in place now, making New Jersey an outlier, mentioned Brian Hackett, legislative affairs supervisor for the Animal Legal Defense Fund. He mentioned that nationally, ‘cost-of-care’ legal guidelines are utilized in large-scale animal cruelty cases, similar to dogfighting and mass hoarding, wherein shelters offering care whereas the case unfolds might be bankrupted.

“This isn’t a situation of someone doesn’t have a proper doghouse and an animal is seized, or my grandmother has a few cats she’s not able to take care of properly,” Hackett mentioned.

‘Aunt Tillie’s little chihuahua’

Emily Hovermale of St. Hubert’s Animal Welfare Center mentioned such a law is lengthy overdue and would create a course of for shelters to recoup prices of caring for animals who’ve been topic to abuse.

“Depending on the number and species of animals involved, these costs can range from thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars, all of these expenses falling to animal care agencies like ours with potentially devastating financial consequences,” Hovermale mentioned.

Terri Peifer, an activist with Companion Animal Advocacy NJ, mentioned it’s unusual for animals to be taken away and not using a particular person being given a possibility to alter. She mentioned animal seizures will not be taken calmly by police until a state of affairs is horrific and the animals are at risk.

“Truth be told, law enforcement usually errs on the side of the owners and resists seizing people’s animals,” Peifer mentioned. “So, Aunt Tillie’s little chihuahua is not going to get seized. There’s a process.”

Seized animals might be killed

But the invoice doesn’t say the proposed law couldn’t be utilized in smaller conditions. Steve Clegg, a shelter reform advocate, mentioned lawmakers needs to be cautious.

“Any time you allow the government to take your property and charge you up front or lose your property is wrong,” Clegg mentioned. “And it doesn’t become any less wrong because we’re talking about defenseless animals.”

Mike Fry, a Minnesota-based animal shelter marketing consultant, mentioned the invoice – like an ordinance nullified in Louisville, Kentucky – violates the Constitution by requiring folks accused of one thing to pay up entrance to take care of their property earlier than any due course of.

The invoice says a shelter or pound may present care to enhance an animal’s bodily or psychological well-being or switch the animal to an animal rescue facility or foster house. If a veterinarian determines the animal is in intractable and excessive ache and past any cheap hope of restoration, the animal might be euthanized.

“These proposed changes will, without a doubt, result in some pets being taken away from families and then killed before the court system ultimately finds those families not guilty,” Fry mentioned.

It’s doable the funds that will should be made might be 1000’s of {dollars}, maybe exceeding $10,000. If an individual was later discovered not responsible of the animal cruelty cost, that will be returned, however prices for cheap veterinary care could be subtracted.

Blogger and animal welfare activist Alan Rosenberg mentioned shelters use animal abuse cases to boost tons of cash that goes into salaries for directors – and that he worries what’ll occur to animals seized below the proposed law as soon as that fundraising effectively runs dry.

“If they’re cute, they’re going to adopt those animals at a high fee,” Rosenberg mentioned. “If they’re not cute or require some work, they’re going to kill those animals to save money.”

Michael Symons is State House bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5. Contact him at michael.symons@townsquaremedia.com.

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