Van Drew/Madden Bill To Protect Pets, Wildlife From Antifreeze Poisoning Clears Committee

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 a Senate Committee.

“An antifreeze leak can be an aggravating problem for a car owner, but it can be deadly for an animal. Wildlife and pets are drawn to antifreeze because of its sweet smell, and thousands of animals are killed each year from ingesting it,” said Senator Van Drew (D-Cape May/Cumberland/Atlantic). “In order to address this, we brought together the manufacturers and animal advocates to determine how best to prevent accidental poisonings. After years of work, and agreement by all parties, we finally got a bill through both houses and the companies were to move forward with adding the bittering agent. I am extremely disappointed to hear that manufacturers may not be following the very law they helped create. Unfortunately, it’s now necessary to add serious penalties for violations. Hopefully this will prevent more dogs and cats 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 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.

“We already have a law on the books requiring manufacturers to add a bittering agent to antifreeze, but we have heard of instances where compliance may not be taking place,” said Senator Madden (D-Gloucester/Camden). “Creating a penalty for violating the law will give the state the means to strengthen enforcement and compliance. This will ensure that antifreeze sold in the state contains the required additive that makes it unpalatable for animals and, in doing so, help to prevent illness and death.”

The Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee approved the bill. It next heads to the Senate for consideration.