Legislation Addresses Recent ‘Dog Flipping’ Trend; Creates Third Degree Crime
TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator Nicholas P. Scutari that would create a specific crime for dealing in stolen pets was approved yesterday by the Senate Judiciary Committee. Current law addresses dealing in stolen property but does not specifically address the added harm when the crime involves a domestic animal.
The bill (S332) was introduced in response to recent reports about the rise in a trend known as “dog flipping,” when dogs are stolen and then listed for sale online through such sites as Craigslist for a profit. The issue was featured in an ABC News segment, and has been covered by other news agencies.
“Losing a pet is devastating for the owner, not to mention the traumatic effect this has on the animals when they are taken away from their caregivers, and sometimes placed in dangerous and harmful situations,” said Senator Scutari (D-Middlesex, Somerset, Union). “Creating serious consequences for those who steal and then deal in stolen pets will hopefully deter individuals from committing these crimes and hold them accountable for their actions.”
A person would be guilty of dealing in stolen pets if he or she “traffics in, or initiates, organizes, plans, finances, directs, manages or supervises trafficking in stolen property consisting of a domestic companion animal,” according to the bill.
Unlike the existing crime of dealing in stolen property, which can be graded as a disorderly persons offense up to a second degree crime based on the value of the property involved, dealing in stolen pets would be a crime of the third degree under the proposed bill. Punishment for a third degree crime could include a term of imprisonment of three to five years, a fine of up to $15,000, or both.
“People are stealing pets, especially dogs, for a variety of reasons, including breeding, selling, or using them for illegal purposes like dogfighting,” added Senator Scutari. “This is a very serious offense and the law must make clear that it is unacceptable and that those who perpetrate this crime will face severe penalties.”
Under current law, theft of a domestic companion animal is also a crime of the third degree.
The committee approved the bill unanimously. It now heads to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee.