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Van Drew/Madden Bill to Protect Animals From Antifreeze Poisoning Clears Senate

New Jersey Senate Chambers


 TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator Jeff Van Drew and Senator Fred H. Madden to better protect animals from accidental poisonings, through stronger enforcement of a state law requiring antifreeze manufacturers to add a bittering agent to the sweet-tasting liquid, was approved today by the full Senate.

“Pets and wildlife are attracted to antifreeze because of its sweet smell, and tragically thousands of animals die each year from ingesting it,” said Senator Van Drew (D-Cape May/Cumberland/Atlantic). “This is an issue that we recognized several years ago when we passed legislation requiring manufacturers to add a bittering agent designed to deter animals. As part of the process, we brought together manufacturers and animal advocates to determine the best way forward. We are now hearing that some manufacturers are not adhering to the standards they helped create. This bill will strengthen the law by adding penalties. Hopefully this will prevent more tragedies from occurring.”

In 2009, Senators Van Drew and Madden sponsored and the state enacted a law requiring any engine coolant or antifreeze manufactured after January 1, 2011 and subsequently sold in New Jersey to include denatonium benzoate as a bittering agent so as to render it unpalatable. The bill (S-1341) would provide that any person who fails to include a bittering agent in antifreeze would be subject to a civil penalty of $500 for the first offense and $1,000 for the second or subsequent offense. If the violation is of a continuing nature, each day during which it continues would constitute an additional, separate and distinct offense.

According to the Humane Society Legislative Fund (HSLF), estimates range from 10,000 to 90,000 animals poisoned each year from ingesting ethylene glycol, the toxic substance used in antifreeze.  One teaspoon of antifreeze or engine coolant can kill an average-sized cat, according to the HSLF. In April, a one-year-old Rottweiler in MantuaTownship, GloucesterCounty, had to be put down by its owner after it ingested antifreeze, potentially through an intentional poisoning, which caused kidney failure. The dog’s owner reported seeing a bowl in her backyard that she had not placed there, according to media reports, but thought nothing of it until her dog became sick. The dog tested positive for antifreeze. At least 17 states have passed laws requiring a bittering agent to be used in antifreeze.

“Three years ago, antifreeze manufacturers were to begin adding a bittering agent to make the liquid unpalatable for animals. Reports that some companies may not be following the law are concerning, particularly because we know that consumption of a small amount of engine coolant can be lethal for an animal,” said Senator Madden (D-Gloucester/Camden). “This measure will establish strict penalties for violating the law, and each day a company is out of compliance will be treated as a separate offense. This will better ensure that manufacturers are using the required additive and will help put a stop to preventable animal deaths.”

The Senate approved the bill by a vote of 38-0. It next heads to the Assembly for consideration.