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Animal Cruelty Laws: Protection for Pets

Pets are something very near and dear to most Americans. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, many families in the United States own pets, with 37-47% of all homes going to dogs, and 30-37% of them going to cats.  It is clear that companion animals are a large part of what we consider American society. From parks, to stores, to grooming, and even specialized treat shops, there is an entire consumer industry built around providing the best that we can for our pets. This caring attitude toward our pets is probably a large contributing factor for the severity of our animal cruelty laws.

Failure to Provide Necessary Care

New Jersey law specifically protects pets, not only from their owners, but anyone in charge of caring for an animal. The relevant law in New Jersey can be found in N.J.R.S. 4:22-17(a), under cruelty. A New Law Advisory from the New Jersey Courts explains that the law on animal cruelty was changed as recently as August 7, 2013. In the new iteration of the law, section (a)(4) was added, which makes it unlawful to “Fail, as the owner or as a person otherwise charged with the care of a living animal or creature, to provide the living animal or creature with necessary care.” The penalty for violation of the law includes a fine of up to $2000 and/or up to six months in jail.

Recently on April 19, 2016 NJ.com reported on Jennifer Caruso who pled guilty to abandoning her dog, in Bergen County Municipal Court. Caruso left her dog in her previous home after she finished moving to a new apartment. Although she claims she made arrangements for someone to take the dog, she failed to follow up. Ultimately, she pled guilty to one count of abandoning the dog, as well as two counts of failing to provide the dog with necessary care. Multiple animal protesters were present at the courthouse and were upset with what they considered to be a relatively light sentence.

More Than Owner Liability

It is interesting to note that the law for failing to provide necessary care to an animal is not limited to owners of animals, but also includes any person charged with care of a living animal. This would seem to include people from pet-sitters, to veterinarians, and even groomers. Daily News reported on a dog groomer in Cranford, New Jersey who was issued a criminal summons on counts of failing to provide necessary care to a living animal. The article reported that 6-year-old terrier Ozzie was dropped off by his owner to be groomed. When the owner returned, he was told Ozzie somehow hurt his back, and by the time Ozzie reached an animal hospital, doctors told the owner that Ozzie was acutely paralyzed. Unfortunately, Ozzie was euthanized.

The way the law is currently written, many people connected with pets could be charged with a crime in the event that something happens to the animal. This could mean if you are charged with watching someone’s furry friend, you might face criminal charges if the pet was somehow injured under your watch. If you or a loved one are being charged with failing to provide necessary care to a pet then you should contact a licensed New Jersey criminal law attorney like Phillip J. Murphy, who has been practicing law since 1989. Call us today to discuss your case.

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