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  • NJ A832
  • Establishes Animal Cruelty Offender Registry; prohibits purchase, adoption, and breeding of animals by animal cruelty offenders.
Introduced
(1/27/2016)
In Committee
(1/27/2016)
Crossed OverPassedSignedDead/Failed/Vetoed
2016-2017 Regular Session
This bill would provide for the establishment and implementation of an animal cruelty offender registry that would require the continuing registration of animal cruelty offenders and allow for the public disclosure of certain information pertaining to those offenders. Requiring the registration of animal cruelty offenders is necessary because the overwhelming evidence accumulated since 1970 shows that persons who cruelly abuse or torture animals are likely to engage in recidivist acts of violence against both animals and humans. In particular, studies have shown that early incidents of animal abuse are often part of the criminal histories of serial killers, child, spouse, and elder abusers, and sexually violent predators, and may be characteristic of the developmental histories of up to 66 percent of violent offenders, in general. In addition, it has been shown that those who abuse animals through participation in animal fighting rings also often engage in other crimes associated with violence, and will often continue to engage in animal abuse and other violence-related offenses even after serving jail time. The bill would require registration for any person convicted of an enumerated animal cruelty offense who maintains, establishes, or re-establishes a primary residence or secondary residence in this State or who is otherwise physically present in the State for more than 14 consecutive days or a period exceeding 30 days in a calendar year. In particular, a person would be required to register if they have been convicted, adjudicated delinquent, found not guilty by reason of insanity, or found civilly liable for any of the following animal cruelty offenses: (1) overdriving, overloading, driving when overloaded, overworking, depriving of necessary sustenance, abusing, or needlessly killing a living animal by direct or indirect means, including through the use of another living animal; (2) tormenting, torturing, maiming, hanging, poisoning, unnecessarily or cruelly beating, or needlessly mutilating a living animal by direct or indirect means, including through the use of another living animal, whether or not such actions cause the death of the animal; (3) cruelly killing, by direct or indirect means, a living animal, including through the use of another living animal; (4) causing, allowing, or permitting the fighting or baiting of a living animal for amusement or gain; (5) engaging in the management of, or receiving money or other consideration for the admission of a person to, a place that is kept or used for the purposes of fighting or baiting a living animal; (6) owning, possessing, keeping, training, promoting, purchasing, or knowingly selling a living animal for the purposes of fighting or baiting that animal; (7) allowing or suffering a place under a person's ownership or control to be used for the purposes of fighting or baiting a living animal; (8) acting as a spectator, gambling on the outcome of a fight, or otherwise encouraging or assisting in activities occurring at a place that is kept or used for the purposes of fighting or baiting a living animal; (9) carrying a living animal in or upon a vehicle or otherwise, in a cruel or inhumane manner; (10) impounding or confining a living animal and failing to supply it during such confinement with a sufficient quantity of good and wholesome food and water; (11) abandoning a maimed, sick, infirm, or disabled animal to die in a public place; (12) abandoning a domestic animal; (13) unlawfully debarking or silencing a dog; (14) using a live pigeon, fowl, or other bird as a target or to be shot at for amusement or as a test of skill in marksmanship, or shooting such a bird, except where such use or shooting conforms with the rules pertaining to the shooting of game animals; and (15) any comparable offense in another state, country, or jurisdiction. The bill establishes a prohibition against the animal cruelty offender from adopting, purchasing, or engaging in any part of breeding animals after being required to register and during any period of time when the animal cruelty offender is required to register. If it is the first time the animal cruelty offender has been required to register and the animal cruelty offender owns, or has in the animal cruelty offender's residence, any animals, the appropriate municipal official shall inspect the conditions under which the animals are kept and the health and environment of the animals, and determine if the animals are in good physical health, and appear to receive necessary care as defined pursuant to R.S.4:22-15, and do not seem to be suffering from any abuse or neglect. If such a determination is made, the animal cruelty offender would be permitted to continue to own, care for, or live with the animals in the animal cruelty offender's residence. If the determination is that the animals are in poor physical health, do not receive necessary care, or show signs of abuse or neglect, or the animal cruelty offender has committed a second offense that would require registering, the animals would be immediately forfeited and offered for adoption. The bill would require the Attorney General to provide for the release of the animal cruelty offender from registration requirements after the animal cruelty offender has remained incident-free for 10 years. The Attorney General is required to provide for the annual archiving of the registry and any animal cruelty offender's name and other required information would remain accessible to law enforcement and the public, regardless of whether the animal cruelty offender is currently required to register. The bill would require that notice of the duty to register be provided by the Attorney General within 30 days after the bill's enactment, and by the Motor Vehicle Commission upon application for a driver's license or identification card. The court or local law enforcement agency with which an offender is required to initially register pursuant to this bill would be required to notify the offender of the specific requirements of the bill, and the penalties for noncompliance. The information to be included in an offender's registration would consist of the following: (1) A statement in writing, signed by the animal cruelty offender, acknowledging that the offender has been advised of the duty to register, and including the offender's name, social security number, age, race, sex, date of birth, height, weight, hair and eye color; address of primary residence and secondary residence if any, or county and municipality of physical presence if a non-resident or homeless resident; address of anticipated or current places of employment; any anticipated or current school enrollment; the commission date and a brief description of the conviction offenses for which registration is required; and the indictment number associated with each such offense; (2) A photograph of the defendant; and (3) Any other information that the Attorney General deems necessary to properly inform the public about the identity of the offender and to assess the risk of re-offense. The bill would require each offender to verify the address on the registration statement on an annual basis, and would additionally require each offender to notify law enforcement officials of any change in address. Any person who fails to register as required by the bill's provisions would be guilty of a crime of the third degree and would be subject, in addition to any other penalties provided by law, to pay a fine of $2,500. Any registered animal cruelty offender who fails to comply, or who falsifies information in complying with the change of address requirements or address verification requirements provided by the bill, would be guilty of a crime of the fourth degree, and would be subject, in addition to any other penalties provided by law, to pay a fine of $1,500. The Attorney General would be required to maintain a central registry of all registrations submitted in accordance with this bill's provisions, and would additionally be required to develop a system for making certain offender information from the central registry available to the public on the Internet. The Attorney General would be responsible both for ensuring that the Internet registry contains appropriate warnings and notifications, and for maintaining the accuracy of, and for timely updating the information contained therein. An Animal cruelty offender Internet Registry Advisory Council would be established to consult with and make recommendations to the Attorney General concerning the publication of registration records on the Internet. All records maintained pursuant to the bill would be open to any law enforcement agency in the State, any other state, or the United States government, and would be able to be released to the Office of Animal Welfare in the Department of Health, or to the Division of Child Behavioral Health Services, the Division of Prevention and Community Partnerships, or the Division of Youth and Family Services in the Department of Children and Families for use in carrying out the office's and the divisions' respective responsibilities under law. Any official would be immune from civil liability for damages for any discretionary decision to release relevant records unless it is shown that the official acted with gross negligence or in bad faith. Upon receipt of an offender's registration or notification of an offender's change in address, and pursuant to the procedures outlined in the bill's provisions, the chief law enforcement officer of the municipality (or county) wherein the offender's primary residence and secondary residence, if any, is located, or wherein the offender is generally present if a non-resident or a homeless resident of the State, would be required to provide notification to the community of the offender's presence therein, in accordance with guidelines to be established by the Attorney General relating to the offender's risk of re-offense. The bill would establish a temporary advisory council to assist the Attorney General in establishing these guidelines and procedures for risk assessment and community notification. The bill would require the Attorney General to consider various factors relevant to an offender's risk of re-offense, and would require the regulations adopted by the Attorney General to provide for two tiers of community notification based on whether the offender is determined to have a low risk of re-offense, or whether the offender is determined to have a moderate or high risk of re-offense. The bill would require the regulations adopted by the Attorney General to prohibit a "low risk" categorization in a case where the registered animal cruelty offender (1) has more than one prior conviction for an animal cruelty offense, as defined by the bill, (2) has one prior conviction for an animal cruelty offense in addition to one or more convictions for a violent offense against a person, or (3) has been diagnosed with Conduct Disorder - a disorder characterized by a general and ongoing disregard for societal laws and the feelings of others, and for which animal abuse is a symptom. In the case that an offender is determined to have a low risk of re-offense, notification of the offender's presence in the community would be provided only to law enforcement agencies likely to encounter the person, and the person's registration information would be prohibited from publication on the Internet unless such publication is ordered by a court of competent jurisdiction. In the case that an offender is determined to have a moderate or high risk of re-offense, notification of the offender's presence in the community would be provided to law enforcement agencies likely to encounter the offender, as well as to members of the public likely to encounter the offender, and to animal shelters, pet adoption societies, humane societies, veterinarian's offices, and other animal welfare or control groups in the offender's community. Furthermore, registration information for offenders having a moderate to high risk of re-offense would be made available for public viewing, without limitation, on the Internet registry. The bill would require the Attorney General's regulations to ensure that an offender will be provided with notice of the results of the risk assessment and will be afforded an opportunity to have that determination reviewed prior to Internet publication or any notification of community members. Because the courts have found that there may be some limited privacy interest in the disclosure of the offender's exact address, the bill would allow disclosure of the offender's exact address only to individuals and businesses in the offender's community having a particular need for the information, and would prohibit publication of this information on the Internet registry - providing, instead, for the Internet publication only of the general vicinity of the offender's address. Moreover, private citizens and businesses in the offender's community would be entitled to obtain the offender's exact address only after signing a receipt of notice form, prepared by the Attorney General, which explicitly prohibits the disclosure of the offender's exact address to persons who are not members of the household or employees of the business, as the case may be, and which provides express notice that any harassment or harming of the offender, the offender's family, or the offender's property is prohibited and punishable by law. Any information disclosed pursuant to the bill's provisions could be used by any person in any manner to protect an animal at risk, or for any other lawful purpose consistent with the enhancement of public safety. Except in the case of willful or wanton misconduct, any person who provides or fails to provide information to the community, or who discloses or fails to disclose information on the Internet registry in accordance with the bill's provisions, would be immune from civil or criminal action. The bill would provide, however, that any person using the information disclosed pursuant thereto to commit a crime would be guilty of a crime of the third degree, and that any person using the information disclosed to commit a disorderly persons or petty disorderly persons offense would be guilty of a disorderly persons offense and subject to pay a fine of $500 to $1,000, in addition to any other penalty imposed. Evidence that a person obtained information about an offender from law enforcement or from the Internet registry within one year prior to committing a criminal offense against that offender would give rise to an inference that the person used information in violation of the bill's provisions. The bill would also provide that any person who uses any information disclosed pursuant to the bill's provisions to encourage, solicit, or assist a registered animal cruelty offender or other person to engage in criminal activity or an animal cruelty offense would be guilty of a crime of the third degree and, in addition to any other penalties provided by law, subject to pay a fine of $2,500. The bill would additionally prevent the use of information disclosed pursuant thereto for purposes of health or other insurance; loans; credit; education, scholarships, or fellowships; benefits, privileges, or services provided by a business establishment, unless consistent with enhancement of the public safety; or housing and accommodations. However, the bill would specifically allow a humane society, animal welfare organization, or other similar group to use the information disclosed pursuant to its provisions in order to screen applicants for employment or for pet adoption services. The use of any information disclosed pursuant to the bill's provisions for any of the specifically prohibited purposes would make the user of the information liable for actual damages, attorney's fees, and any amount that may be determined by a jury or a court sitting without a jury, which is not less than $250, and not more than three times the amount of actual damage, or for a civil penalty of not more than $25,000. Furthermore, the bill would authorize civil action for injunctive or other preventative relief in the case that there is reasonable cause to believe that any person or group is engaged in a pattern of misuse of information disclosed pursuant to the bill's provisions. The bill would establish the "Animal Cruelty Offender Registration Fund," separate and distinct from the General Fund, in order to provide a dedicated source of moneys by which to finance the ongoing administrative and maintenance costs associated with the Animal Cruelty Offender Registry and the expenses associated with the community notifications required under the bill. The fund would be credited with: (1) fifty percent of all civil and criminal fines collected by a court in relation to the animal cruelty offenses for which registration is required; (2) any excess fines collected by a court as a result of an offender's failure to register, failure to notify authorities of a change in address, failure to timely verify the offender's address, or falsification of any information in the course of complying with the bill's requirements in this regard; (3) any excess fines collected by a court from the unlawful use of information disclosed pursuant to the act's provisions to encourage, solicit, or assist a registered animal cruelty offender or other person to engage in criminal activity or commit an animal cruelty offense; (4) any interest or other investment income accrued on moneys deposited in the account; (5) any moneys gifted to the fund; and (6) any other moneys appropriated by the Legislature and allocated to the fund for its purposes. Finally, the bill would provide that a registered animal cruelty offender may make application to the Superior Court to terminate the obligation to register under this bill upon proof that the person has not committed an animal cruelty offense or an offense constituting violence against humans within 15 years following conviction or release from a correctional facility for any term of imprisonment imposed, whichever is later, and is not likely to pose a threat to the safety of others. A registered animal cruelty offender would also be able to make application to the Attorney General to terminate the obligation to register under this bill upon the submission of evidence, sufficient in the determination of the Attorney General, to establish that the offender no longer maintains primary residence or secondary residence in this State, and will not be present in the State for more than 14 consecutive days, or for an aggregate period of 30 days or more. However, such an offender would be required to re-register with the State in the event that he re-establishes primary residence or secondary residence in the State or re-establishes physical presence therein for the requisite period of time.
Agriculture and Natural Resources
Introduced, Referred to Assembly Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee  (on 1/27/2016)
 
 

Date Chamber Action Description
1/27/2016 A Introduced, Referred to Assembly Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee
Date Motion Yea Nay Other
None specified