IntroductionNew Jersey laws relating to animal cruelty are in two different Titles of New Jersey Statutes. Title 4 concerns itself with agriculture and domestic animals. Title 23 relates to fish and game, wild games, and animals. We begin our discussion with Title 4.
N.J.S. 4:22-15 defines “animal” to include “the whole brute creation.” Title 4 has different sets of law relating to animal cruelty. These sets are laws that apply to animals generally; to dogs, domestic companion animals, and service animals; and to dogs specifically.
Animals GenerallyIt is unlawful to inflict unnecessary cruelty upon an animal. Persons responsible for the care of an animal must provide that care. It is unlawful to needlessly kill the animal. It is also unlawful to torture, maim, or cruelly beat or abuse the animal.
Dogs, Domestic Companion Animals, and Service AnimalsNew Jersey laws relating to animals generally would apply, of course, to dogs, domestic companion animals, and service animals. In addition, however, laws prohibit exposing dogs, domestic companion animals, and service animals to adverse environmental conditions for more than thirty minutes. These laws do not apply, however, when a person is with the animal and the person is exposed to the same conditions. Also required under those circumstances is that the person be able to see the animal, unless the person is blind or visually impaired. These laws specifically exclude feral cats.
Cruel Restraint of DogsVarious New Jersey laws address themselves specifically to tethering of dogs. Among the circumstances under which dogs cannot be tethered (this list is not complete) are the following:
- The dog is a nursing female;
- The dog is less than four months old
- The dog is being tethered outdoors between 11:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m.
- The dog is being tethered in an unoccupied building, or upon vacant property
- The dog lacks access to fresh water for more than thirty minutes
- The dog's tether is less than fifteen feet in length
Title 4 General InformationThe itemization above is far from complete. Conviction of these laws can be a disorderly persons offense, a fourth degree crime, or a third degree crime, depending upon circumstances. For example, actions (or, in some instances, failures to act) that are disorderly persons offenses on the first occasion can become third degree crimes upon repetition. Another factor that can affect the degree of offense is whether the animal died, or suffered severe injury. Special mandatory penalties sometimes apply. These mandatory penalties can include up to thirty days community service. The court can require that this community service be performed at a facility for the prevention of cruelty to animals.
Title 23, Fish and Game, Wild Games, and AnimalsN.J.S. 23:2A-16 took effect on December 14, 2018. The New Jersey Legislature referred to it as “Nosey's Law.” It is named after a cruelly treated circus elephant. Nosey's Law prohibits use of various wild or exotic animals in a traveling animal act. It defines“Traveling Animal Act” to mean a presentation that requires an animal to be transported to or from a performance in a mobile or traveling housing facility. Covered presentations include carnivals, circuses, and other events where animals perform tricks or give rides. Nosey's Law lists the wild or exotic animals covered. That list includes camels, crocodiles, elephants, marsupials, non-human primates, and members of the cat family, but excluding domestic cats. Numerous other kinds of animals are also included.
Violations of Nosey's Law constitute third degree crimes. N.J.S. 23:2A-10 specifies the penalties for violating N.J.S. 23:2A-16. These penalties include exposure to imprisonment. N.J.S. 23:2A-10 also specifies fines of $5,000.00 (minimum) to $50,000.00. Each day of violation incurs a separate fine. N.J.S. 23:2A-10 also provides for numerous civil penalties.
New Jersey Court Decisions Involving Animal CrueltyFew cases construe New Jersey laws relating to animal cruelty. This is not especially surprising. Victims of animal cruelty cannot talk. Witnesses to animal cruelty are often family members or neighbors, all of whom often have strong reasons to not “dime out” the perpetrator. One published case that does construe the animal cruelty laws is State v. Spencer, 20 N.J.Misc. 487 (1942).
Gordon Spencer set a trap to catch a skunk that was smelling up a building. When Spencer inspected the trap a few days later, he found that it was sprung by a cat. The cat's paw was caught in the trap. Spencer tried to release the cat. The cat, however, clawed Spencer, and bit his hand in eight different places. Finally, the cat seized two of Spencer's fingers in its jaws and would not let go. The battle concluded with Spencer striking a single blow to the back of the cat's head, killing it.
The First Judicial District Court of Bergen County found Spencer guilty of violating the animal cruelty statute. That statute read pretty much then as it does now. Spencer appealed to the Special Statutory Tribunal of New Jersey. That court reversed Spencer's conviction, observing:
One unpublished case is State v. Jansson, 2008 WL 4867071. Two Rotweilers that Matthew Jansson owned were running loose in Wall Township. One dog's name was Panzer. Jansson was hunting at the time. Patrolman Todd Verrechia arrived and tried to secure Panzer. The dog bit him. Verrechia shot Panzer. A neighbor called Jansson on his cell phone and alerted him of police presence. Jansson returned home. By the time he got there, the police had left. Jansson searched for and found both of his dogs. Panzer was soaked in blood. He could not walk.
Jansson tied both dogs to a tree. Wall Police called Jansson and asked him to provide proof of rabies shots. Jansson denied knowing where the dogs were. Jansson later stated he did know where Panzer was, and took the police to him. Panzer had been tied to the tree for twenty to thirty minutes.
Jansson was charged with animal cruelty. In court, he argued that Panzer was agitated and unpredictable. The judge found significance, however, in the fact that Jansson had tied both dogs to a tree. The judge found that Jansson's real reason for not immediately revealing the dogs' location was his concern was that the dogs would be taken from him. The judge found Jansson guilty and imposed fines plus two days of community service.
Law Offices of Allan MarainAllan Marain is a New Jersey animal cruelty lawyer. He has been defending persons charged with New Jersey crimes and disorderly persons offenses for over forty-five years. He is skilled; he is experienced; he cares. He is available to review your animal cruelty charges.
Defenses to animal cruelty charges often exist. Even where complete dismissal is not available, he can explain to the judge why reduced penalties are in order. Allan Marain would welcome the opportunity to review your New Jersey animal cruelty charge.
Call him. He can help.