New Jersey could soon have a new law that prohibits cruel tethering and confinement of dogs, and also gives animal control officers expanded authority to seize and care for canines involved in animal cruelty cases.

The measure, S981, revises current law to prohibit tethering a dog in any way that is harmful to their health or exposes them to accumulated waste, debris, precipitation or flooding.

It would prohibit tethering on vacant property unless the animal is within view of the owner, and the bill would also establish procedures for animal seizures, including specifying that notice has to be sent to the former owner as well as the address from which the animal has been taken no later than seven days after seizure.

According to state Sen. Pat Diegnan, D-Middlesex, the measure specifies the person responsible for the abuse would be responsible for the cost of care for the animal once it is seized.

“This will obviously give kennels the opportunity to be reimbursed for the care, and save these pets from being otherwise euthanized, this is just really basically passing along the cost to the responsible party,” he said.

group of five dogs
Photo: Zoonar/Erik Lam

He noted the bill would also make it difficult for neglectful and abusive owners to regain ownership once the animal has been taken to a shelter or animal care agency.

Animal cruelty getting worse

Diegnan said this kind of law is important because the problem of animal cruelty has been “amplified, believe it or not, during the pandemic, where people got pets to keep them company, and now they’re back at work and abandoning their pets and the stories you hear would break your heart."

“My niece actually has a dog that had pellets in it. The prior owner was taking target practice on the dog," he said.

Diegnan said most people are good with animals, but those that are not should be held responsible.

The State Senate has passed the measure and it now heads to the New Jersey Assembly for consideration.

David Matthau is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at

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