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Madden-Singleton-Beach-Sweeney Bill Would Create Animal Abuse Registry

New Jersey Would Be the Second State with a Public Database of Animal Abusers

TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator Fred Madden, Senator Troy Singleton, Senator Jim Beach and Senate President Steve Sweeney that would help prevent the mistreatment of animals by creating a statewide animal abuse registry was approved by a Senate committee today.

The bill, S-381, voted out of the Senate Economic Growth Committee, would provide a list of those convicted of animal cruelty on a public website and make sure they are not allowed to own or acquire any animals. The measure would also bar anyone found guilty of an animal cruelty offense from becoming an animal control officer.

 “The abuse and mistreatment of animals violates our standards of basic decency,” said Senator Madden. “A registry sends a message that animal cruelty won’t be tolerated at the same time it will help to prevent repeat offenders. We need to protect pets and other animals that are all but defenseless from abuse by people.”

“This is a tremendous tool for law enforcement, local shelters and animal rescue groups to utilize to ensure the safe placement of animals into good homes,” said Senator Singleton (D-Burlington).  “Without the animal abuse registry, these organizations have no way of knowing if a potential adopter has abused animals in the past.  This registry will hold bad actors accountable and provide peace of mind to the many well-intentioned groups out there looking for good homes for stray and abandoned animals.”

“The public disclosure of people who abuse animals will serve as a deterrent and help keep abusers away from animals,” said Senator Beach. “The bill would allow businesses in direct contact with animals to screen job applicants before hiring them.”

“Research has shown that animal abusers commit violence against people at higher rates than normal,” said Senator Sweeney. “We should do what can be done to prevent all types of abuse and violence against animals and humans.”

Specifically, the bill would prohibit anyone who has been criminally convicted of an animal cruelty violation from owning, keeping, or harboring an animal. Licensing authorities would be required to check the website to avoid issuing any pet license to these individuals, and pet stores, rescue organizations, and animal pounds and shelters would be required to check the website prior to selling or transferring an animal and to anyone on the registry.

The legislation would direct the Department of Health to establish on its website an animal abuser registry and update current law concerning the DOH list of persons ineligible to be animal control officers because of guilt or liability as animal cruelty offenders. Anyone convicted of animal cruelty in New Jersey would be added to the database. The registry will be publicly accessible on the department’s website.

Only those found guilty of criminal animal offenses would be listed on the website.

New Jersey would become the second state, after Tennessee, to create an online registry. Celina Batlle, the president of Tennessee’s SPCA, said that since the legislation was passed, incidents of animal abuse have “decreased tremendously.”

Similar legislation was previously approved by the Legislature but vetoed by former Governor Chris Christie.

The bill stipulates that within 90 days after the effective date of the bill, the courts, the Department of Law and Public Safety, and any other governmental entity maintaining records of an animal cruelty violation, is to provide written notice of the violation and the name of the person convicted of the violation within past 10 years to the Commissioner of Health for the registry.