Animal rights lawmaker wants to NJ to get rid of animal cruelty cops
Six weeks ago, the State Commission of Investigation issued a scathing report blasting the New Jersey Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals for overstepping its bounds and failing to fulfill its core mission of protecting animals.
The SCI report described the group as a dysfunctional band of “gun-carrying wannabe cops” who take weeks to investigate animal cruelty complaints while sometimes unjustly harassing animal owners.
NJSPCA officers reportedly made illegal traffic stops and in one case threatened a dairy farmer with fines for not providing ample shade for cows in a pasture.
Now, Jersey’s leading animal rights legislator has introduced a measure that calls for the NJSPCA to be abolished as a state entity.
The measure, sponsored by state Sen. Ray Lesniak, D-Union, calls for county prosecutors and municipal humane law enforcement officers appointed by each town to be in charge of enforcing animal cruelty laws.
“The NJSPCA doesn’t have the resources to do it. They don’t have the experience of actual law enforcement. It’s a private organization," Lesniak said.
The NJSPCA is a private nonprofit agency that is funded by the fines paid by people found guilty of violating animal laws.
Under Lesniak’s bill, humane law enforcement officers, or HLEO’s, could be an appointed animal control officer or an officer with the local police department.
The HLEO would have to pass a background check and complete a humane law enforcement training course designed by the Police Training Commission and the Attorney General’s Office.
If the HLEO is an animal control officer, they could be authorized to carry a firearm after completing an approved training course.
After the legislation was given the green light by the state Senate Economic Growth Committee on Thursday, Lesniak proclaimed “this is a new day for enforcement of animal cruelty laws in the state of New Jersey, to bring it into professional law enforcement, this is a great day for people who care about animals being treated in a humane way.”
Lesniak said while his bill calls for the NJSPCA to be abolished, the county SPCAs in the state will continue to operate “not in law enforcement, but in helping with animal welfare.”
“This will actually get them more involved and focusing on animal welfare and animal protection, while the law enforcement takes care of animal cruelty.”
Lesniak’s bill calls for animal cruelty cases to be investigated only by law enforcement.
He added the Attorney General’s Office will “monitor the entire situation” and work with county officials to realign the system over the next 13 months.
Lesniak said his measure has universal support from every single animal welfare organization in New Jersey. But Timothy Martin, an associate with MBI GluckShaw, the lobbying firm that represents the NJSPCA, said the measure was misguided and should be reworked.
“We certainly believe that the New Jersey SPCA and this state could have a closer relationship,” he said.
“We don’t believe that eliminating the New Jersey SPCA and the infrastructure and the good volunteers who are well trained and well vetted is the right way to go.”
Martin said it would be a mistake to abolish the organization.
“We’re looking forward to working with the Senator and the Legislature in the future and closing the gaps and improving our relationship.”
You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com
Also on New Jersey 101.5: