Legislation is Known as "Moose's Law" in Honor of Delran Dog Who Died in Hot Car After Allegedly Being Kidnapped
The General Assembly on Thursday approved legislation sponsored by Assemblymen Troy Singleton, Herb Conaway, Jr., M.D. and John Burzichelli, known as "Moose's Law," that would bar animal cruelty violators from working in various animal-related industries or from owning a domestic pet.
"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," said Singleton (D-Burlington). "Putting these restrictions in place will help ensure that his legacy results in greater protections for other animals."
The bill (A-3303), approved by a vote of 72-3-2, would prohibit a person from owning, operating or working at an animal-related enterprise, or owning any domestic companion animal, if they have been convicted of, or found civilly liable for, an animal cruelty offense in any state.
"What happened to Moose was tragic, especially given the great lengths his family took to try and find him," said Conaway (D-Burlington). "But the bigger lesson learned here is that not everyone entrusted with the welfare of animals has their best intentions in mind. This would help limit anyone with mal intentions from the privilege of working with animals."
The bill was drafted in response to an incident that took place last summer in Delran when Moose, a chocolate Labrador retriever, jumped a fence at his home and was missing for over a month before a woman - a self-proclaimed dog trainer - returned his dead body to the owners, claiming she had found him dead along the road. According to police investigations, however, the woman allegedly found the dog alive and kidnapped the dog, giving it to another set of owners in Pennsylvania and contracting with the new owners to train the dog. The woman then allegedly left the dog in a hot car in July, causing his death.
Various concerned citizens have indicated that, under current law, the woman in Moose's case could continue to work as a dog trainer and own her own pets even if she is convicted of animal cruelty, thereby placing other animals and animal owners at risk.
"Letting convicted animal abusers work with animals is akin to letting the fox guard the hen house," said Burzichelli (D-Cumberland/Gloucester/Salem). "What happened to Moose was heartbreaking. Somebody who professes to be a dog trainer should know better and shouldn't be entrusted with the welfare of another animal in the future."
The bill would address these concerns by: (1) prohibiting animal cruelty offenders from engaging in pet ownership or animal-related employment; (2) criminalizing such behavior and requiring the forfeiture or transfer of any pets owned by such an offender; and (3) giving animal-related enterprises the tools and authorizations necessary to investigate their employees' criminal and civil offense histories, in order to ensure and verify that animal cruelty offenders are not being employed at these businesses.
This includes any for-profit or non-profit industries, businesses, enterprises, or endeavors that involve hands-on contact or other direct interaction with animals, such as: a zoo, aquarium, or other animal exhibition; an animal care or veterinary operation; an animal training operation; an animal breeding operation; an animal shelter or pound; an animal kennel or boarding operation; a pet shop; an animal adoption or sales service; or an animal transport service.
The court would be able to use its discretion when issuing a judicial order requiring the forfeiture of a domestic companion animal owned by a person who has been convicted of, or found civilly liable for, an animal cruelty offense; or when it comes to prohibiting such an offender from engaging in the future ownership or possession of a domestic companion animal.
The bill charges the state Department of Health with determining if a person has been convicted of, or found civilly liable for, an animal cruelty offense. No employee would be authorized to be left alone with an animal until the investigation has been performed and the commissioner confirms the absence of disqualifying convictions or civil violations.
Additionally, the list of animal cruelty offenders would be made public so any organization or place that adopts or sells animals would have the ability to check the list if they chose.
The bill now heads to the Senate for consideration.