Legislation aimed at strengthening New Jersey’s animal cruelty laws is headed for the State Senate, after approval by the full Assembly last week.
The measure, known as “Moose’s Law,” is in response to a case of a chocolate Labrador retriever named Moose from Delran who died in a hot car after allegedly being kidnapped in July 2012.
Under current law, the person who allegedly kidnapped Moose could be found guilty of the crime, and still legally work with animals in the future.
“My bill modifies New Jersey’s animal cruelty to make law that an individual who has been found guilty of animal cruelty can no longer work in an animal enterprise, a pet shop or potentially own a dog or a domestic animal based on a judicial order,” said Assemblyman Troy Singleton (D-Mount Laurel), primary sponsor of the bill, which passed the Assembly Jan. 29.
The legislation authorizes a judge to issue an order banning a convicted animal cruelty offender from acquiring or owning any domestic companion animal for:
- At least two years following the conviction for the present offense, or following the date of the offender’s release from prison for the offense, whichever is later.
- The duration of the probationary period imposed by the court for the offense, if that period will last for two years or longer.
- Any more extended period of time, which the court, in its discretion, determines to be appropriate based on the nature and severity of the offense and the offender’s prior history of animal cruelty offenses.
“This bill allows the court to look at the offense and look at the offender and make a determination whether or not that person can own a pet for some specific period of time or indefinitely if the crime is so egregious,” Singleton said.
While Singleton thinks it’s important for a judge to make the ultimate decision, he doesn’t think animal cruelty offenders should ever own a pet again.
“I will tell you, I think those who are cruel to animals – I believe personally they forfeited their right to be pet owners,” Singleton said.
Moose had been missing for more than a month when a woman, claiming she had found him on the side of the road, returned his dead body to his owners. According to a police probe, the woman allegedly had kidnapped Moose. She then gave the dog to another set of owners and agreed to train Moose before leaving him unattended in a hot vehicle, which ultimately led to his death.
The bill would also require the state Department of Health to establish an animal cruelty registry and make a list of animal cruelty offenders available on its website. A copy of the offenders list would also be distributed to each municipality.
“What happened to Moose was tragic, especially given the great lengths his family took to try and find him,” said bill co-sponsor Assemblyman Herb Conaway (D-Delran) in a press release emailed on Jan. 29. “The bigger lesson learned here, however, is that not everyone entrusted with the welfare of animals has their best interests at heart.”