TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senator Ellen Karcher which would increase penalties on animal cruelty, particularly in commission of another crime, was approved by the Senate today by a vote of 38-0.
“The bond between a pet and an owner can be very strong, and we go to great lengths to keep our pets safe and comfortable,” said Senator Karcher. “Anyone with a sense of compassion can see that when it comes to cruelty laws, slap-on-the-wrist penalties will not cover it. We need to send a message that the mistreatment and abuse of animals will not be tolerated in New Jersey, and that the penalties will be strong enough to make criminals think twice before they participate in animal cruelty.”
The bill, S-161, would create a new criminal offense for killing or seriously injuring an animal during the commission of some other serious crime, such as murder, assault or robbery, or during the flight from law enforcement officials for one of these crimes. The bill also increases penalties for animal cruelty, in instances when cruelty is committed purposely or if the animal dies from its cruel treatment, from those applicable for a fourth-degree crime, subject to a maximum fine of $10,000 and/or up to 18 months imprisonment, to penalties for a third-degree crime, with a maximum fine of $15,000 and/or a term of imprisonment between three to five years. Any penalty accrued under these proposed statutes would be in addition to civil penalties under the current law, and any penalty from other crimes committed.
“This bill brings the punishments in line with the crime when it comes to animal cruelty,” said Senator Karcher. “We need to make it very clear that New Jersey will not turn a blind eye on the plight of endangered or mistreated animals, and that we will enforce penalties with teeth for cruelty in this State.”
The bill now heads to the Assembly for consideration.