We’ve evolved a great deal as a society over the last century and our laws pertaining to the treatment of all living things should reflect that.

Sammy, a dog who was left for dead alongside a Wall Township road.  (Red Bank Veterinary Hospital via Facebook)

Those are the thoughts of one of the sponsors of legislation to revise the animal cruelty statutes concerning animal abandonment and increase civil penalties for certain animal cruelty offenses. The bill has been approved by the full New Jersey Assembly.

“There is a need to elevate the seriousness with which courts address animal cruelty offenses because offenders too often receive minimal or no fines for offenses that are many times treated as civil violations and not criminal offenses,” says Assemblyman Nelson Albano.

Specifically, the bill would revise the criminal offense of animal abandonment and establish it as a crime of the fourth degree with an additional penalty of $1,000 for each animal abandoned that is maimed, sick, infirmed or disabled, or left within 200 feet of a roadway. The civil penalty under the bill would be $500 to $3,000.

“This really is about basic human decency,” says Assemblyman Bob Andrzejczak, the bill’s co-sponsor.  “Abandoning any animal especially one that is sick or disabled is the equivalent of sanctioning them to death. This needs to be addressed with a more appropriate level of severity than a slap on the wrist.”

Under the bill, a person would be guilty of the criminal offense of animal abandonment if the person, with the purpose of relinquishing possession of the animal and without making provisions for the minimum care of the animal, knowingly leaves, or causes to be left, a domesticated animal or domestic livestock:

  • in a public place where the animal may die, and the animal is maimed, sick, infirm or disabled; or
  • in a place beyond the control, custody or possession of the owner or the person relinquishing possession of the animal.

The measure also would require the reporting of hitting, running over, or causing injury to a cat, dog, horse, or cattle and upgrade failure to report to a disorderly persons offense.