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Lesniak Bill To Create Task Force On Endangered And Exotic Animals Advances

Measure Would Create Task Force to Address Illegal Trade and Inhumane Treatment of Endangered Species

TRENTON – A concurrent resolution, sponsored by Senator Raymond J. Lesniak, which would establish the “Task Force on the Illegal Trade and Inhumane Treatment of Endangered and Exotic Animals” to develop recommendations to protect endangered species and avoid the exploitation of exotic animals was unanimously approved by the Senate Economic Growth Committee today.

“As an ethical society, we have a responsibility to be good stewards of our natural environment, and that includes preserving species of animals that are on the brink of extinction,” said Senator Lesniak, D-Union. “Unfortunately, there are far too many incidents in this world of over-hunting, of inhumane practices and of outright exploitation of and cruelty towards rare and exotic animals. If New Jersey can do something to slow down the black market trade that is promoting inhumane treatment and pushing animals into extinction, then we should by all means do it.”

The resolution, SCR-127, would create a six member task force, with members appointed by the Senate President and the Speaker of the General Assembly. The resolution stipulates that the chair of the task force should be someone with significant managerial experience at the Department of Environmental Protection or the United States Environmental Protection Agency, and that three other members must represent nonprofit organizations Big Cat Rescue, the EcoHealth Alliance, and the Humane Society of the United States. The final two members would be selected by the Senate President and Assembly Speaker, and would be required to be public members who do not hold elective office, and who have substantial knowledge and expertise related to endangered and exotic animals.

The task force would be required to evaluate the permitting, registration and reporting of all endangered species and exotic animals, and make recommendations for a comprehensive approach to curtail the illegal trade and inhumane treatment of such animals. The task force would be required to submit a report containing its findings and recommendations within 180 days of first organizing to the presiding officers of each legislative chamber, and to the minority leaders in each chamber.

“The idea behind this task force is to bring in experts who are committed to the preservation and humane treatment of endangered and exotic animals, and let them help direct public policy in this area,” said Senator Lesniak. “We want to make sure that any legislative action is comprehensive, feasible and effective, and the only way to accomplish all three goals is to engage the government organizations and nonprofit groups that are on the ground dealing with these issues every day. Additionally, we wanted to create a time frame for the task force’s deliberations, so that we can get recommendations in a timely manner.”

The bill is in response to Governor Chris Christie’s conditional veto of the sponsor’s legislation which would have created a registration system for tigers in order to combat the illegal trade of tigers and tiger body parts in New Jersey. In his veto message, Governor Christie stated that he wanted to create a more comprehensive approach to dealing with the issues facing exotic and endangered animals in New Jersey. While Senator Lesniak said he agrees that a more comprehensive approach is needed, he said that empanelling a task force through the Legislature is a better solution than tapping existing cabinet members to create a plan of action, as Governor Christie suggested in his conditional veto.

“While I agree with the Governor in theory on the need for a comprehensive plan of action to protect all endangered and exotic animals, I believe this approach is a better way to go,” said Senator Lesniak. “Governor Christie, in his conditional veto, wanted a three-member executive task force, led by a member of the Governor’s cabinet, to make recommendations for legislative action. Given this administration’s track record when it comes to implementation of legislation, and given the fact that legislation originates in the Legislature, I think it’s appropriate to move that task force to the Legislature. By tapping people actively engaged in animal preservation and promoting humane treatment of animals, we can ensure that the legislative intent is met to develop standards to slow the steady march towards extinction and halt the cruel and inhumane practices facing many rare and exotic animals in New Jersey.”

The resolution how heads to the full Senate for consideration.