Two summers ago we learned of a heartbreaking story involving Moose, a chocolate Labrador retriever from Delran who died in a hot car after allegedly being kidnapped. On Thursday, a state Senate committee is scheduled to vote on a bill that honors Moose, and cracks down on animal cruelty offenders by making it illegal for them to ever own a pet.

Dogs at Park
Flickr User DonDeBold

"Letting convicted animal abusers work with animals is akin to letting the fox guard the hen house," said Assemblyman John Burzichelli (D-West Deptford), one of the measure's co-sponsors. "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."

In July 2012, Moose jumped a fence at his home and was missing for over a month before a woman who was a self-proclaimed dog trainer returned the dog's dead body to the owners, claiming she found it along the road. However, according to police investigations, the woman allegedly found Moose alive and kidnapped the Lab, giving him to another set of owners in Pennsylvania.

The woman then allegedly left Moose in a hot car, causing his death.

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.

If enacted, Moose's Law would:

  • Prohibit animal cruelty offenders from engaging in pet ownership or animal-related employment;
  • Criminalize such behavior and require the forfeiture or transfer of any pets owned by such an offender; and
  • Give 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.

"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 Assemblyman Troy Singleton (D-Mount Laurel), another co-sponsor of the bill. "Putting these restrictions in place will help ensure that his legacy results in greater protections for other animals."

Under the legislation, a court would be able to use its discretion and require the forfeiture of a pet owned by a person who has been convicted of, or found civilly liable for, an animal cruelty offense.

The measure has already passed the full Assembly.

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