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New Law Mandates Local Police and County Prosecutors to Handle Animal Cruelty Violations

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William E. Cleary Sr. | CNBNewsnet 

GLOUCESTER CITY NJ (May 29, 2018)--A new state law that assigns the enforcement of animal cruelty laws to county prosecutors and municipal police
departments takes effect on August 1. As a result the New Jersey Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (NJSPCA) and the county SPCA's will no longer be doing that job.

The legislature stripping the 150 year old non-profit state and county organization from its duties was signed into law in January 2018 by outgoing Governor Chris Christie.

Here in Gloucester City the duties of the Animal Cruelty Officer has been designated to Patrolman Robert Saunders, according to the information obtained through an Open Public Records Act (OPRA) request. 

The City will house the animals captured at the Almost Home Animal Shelter, 9140 Pennsauken Highway C., Pennsauken, NJ 08110 (856-663-3058)

City Police Chief Brian Morrell said the new law will not cost local taxpayers any money. "A full-time police officer will be trained in the near future for the job as required by the state. The training will be paid for by the state. Animals will be temporarily housed at the police station until retrieved by the animal control shelter. "

The State Commission on investigations reported in 2017 on multiple abuses by the NJSPCA and its county chapters.

Some of those abuses, which led to the downfall of the NJSPCA, included:

*Not responding to some serious complaints of animal mistreatment

*Spending more cash on legal bills than on animal care

*Being a haven for gun-toting wannabe cops.

The new law (S-3558/A-5231) transfers the power of humane law enforcement to the county prosecutor in each county, and requires the designation of a municipal humane law enforcement officer in each municipality with an existing police department.

Matt Stanton, spokesman for the NJSPCA, told the Toms River Patch, "We 
are obviously disappointed. To tear down an agency that has been enforcing NJ's animal cruelty statutes for 150 years at no cost to taxpayers is unconscionable and misguided."

"The fact is this is a unfunded mandate that will place unnecessary financial strains on prosecutors and municipalities statewide," Stanton said, adding it will "result in inconsistent enforcement from county to county."

Shatkin said NJSPCA officers and agents -- 20 officers, who carry guns, and 40 agents, who do not -- are volunteers and Shatkin emphasized they did the work at no cost to New Jersey taxpayers, and at times at risk to the safety of the officers.

"NJSPCA personnel work in dangerous areas throughout the state in crime-ridden neighborhoods at any hour, day or night. NJSPCA personnel work on routine cases involving improper shelter to complex cases involving cockfighting or dog fighting, blood sports where violent gangs, illegal guns, gambling and drugs are typically associated. There have been homicides at these events as well," Shatkin said, adding that an investigation of a case in Newark led to getting an AK-47 assault rifle off the street.

The SCI report is here.

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