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Van Drew/Madden Bill to Protect Animals From Antifreeze Poisoning Now Law

State Seal

 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, has been signed by the governor.

“While an antifreeze leak can be a frustrating problem for a car owner, it can be deadly for an animal. Thousands of animals are killed each year from ingesting the liquid, which they are attracted to because of its sweet smell,” said Senator Van Drew (D-Cape May/Cumberland/Atlantic). “Years ago, we brought together the antifreeze manufacturers and animal advocates to determine how best to prevent accidental poisonings. After agreement by all parties, we passed a law that required companies to add a bittering agent to the substance. Unfortunately, we heard that manufacturers were not following the very law they helped create. I am pleased the governor signed this legislation to add penalties for violations, which hopefully will to prevent more animals from experiencing a cruel and painful death.”

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 new law (S-1341) provides that any person who fails to include a bittering agent in antifreeze would be subject to a civil penalty of up to $500 for each 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. Last year, a one-year-old Rottweiler in Mantua Township, Gloucester County, 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.

“We worked to put in place a law that required manufacturers to add a bittering agent to antifreeze, as a way to protect animals against what in many cases are preventable deaths. Unfortunately, we heard of instances where compliance may not have been taking place,” said Senator Madden (D-Gloucester/Camden). “This new law establishes financial penalties for violating the requirement. We believe this will better ensure that manufacturers are using the required additive and help to avoid preventable animal deaths.”

The Senate approved the bill by a vote of 39-0. The Assembly approved it 70-1. The law takes effect immediately.