Action Alert: New Jersey

Via Nathan Winograd:

Legislation (A3825) has been introduced in New Jersey that would eliminate holding periods and allow shelters to kill animals immediately if the shelter determines, in its sole discretion, that an animal is not fit for adoption. Specifically, if “the animal is inappropriate for adoption as determined by the owner or operator of the shelter, pound or kennel operating as a shelter or pound, because of the animal’s medical, physical, or other condition, or aggressive or dangerous behavior.” The term “other condition” is not defined and there are no standards of any kind:

A similar bill was vetoed by the governor in 2011 because it would have killed savable animals. Please contact the Assembly Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee and urge a No vote:

Assemblyman Nelson Albano, Email:
Assemblyman Gilbert L. Wilson, Email:
Assemblywoman Marlene Caride, Email:
Assemblyman Robert D. Clifton, Email: 
Assemblyman Ronald S. Dancer, Email:

Please share with your NJ contacts.

13 thoughts on “Action Alert: New Jersey

  1. This is immoral and should be illegal. Aren’t shelters already bad enough? Now they just want to kill outright! Shame on those legislators. SHAME!

  2. Government employees should not be deciding when money is tight,,to save money by killing animals.

  3. — here’s the entire language of the bill. The changes are underlined.

    This isn’t a perfectly worded bill, but it kind of seems like a lot of things — if someone is a dead-beat shelter manager, it’s going to make killing easier. However, if they’re a compassionate shelter director, there are a good number of reasons they might support this bill. I can honestly say that as someone who is working with a shelter that has been no kill for 8 consecutive months now that there are a good number of reasons why this bill would make the lives easier for us.

    The biggest issue many shelters face in trying to maintain no kill is capacity issues. Being able to prevent ill, dangerous dogs from being a part of that shelter population for an entire week would help compassionate shelter directors — and there is a provision in the law to allow them to send animals elsewhere for the 7 days (which would be really important for shelters with limited vet resources). Someone please help me understand what the concerns are with this…because I’d support this in our community.

    1. Since this post is unusual in that it consists entirely of a quote from Nathan Winograd, I went directly to him to request a more detailed explanation of what the concerns are with the bill. This is his reply:

      The bill would allow shelter directors to kill animals with no holding period of any kind if they “believe” the animal “is inappropriate for adoption as determined by the owner or operator of the shelter, pound or kennel operating as a shelter or pound, because of the animal’s medical, physical, or other condition, or aggressive or dangerous behavior.” The term “other condition” is not defined and there are no standards of any kind, giving shelters unfettered discretion to kill animals. Shelters will be allowed to kill animals with no holding period of any kind even based on the animals’ perceived state of mind (a claim for example that animals are in “psychological pain”), giving regressive shelter bureaucrats unlimited discretion to immediately kill animals based on unenforceable, unknowable, and completely subjective criteria. Not only is this a real and immediate threat to shy and scared animals, as well as feral cats, but it is a very dangerous precedent to introduce in the animal control laws of our nation. Shelters will be allowed to kill animals if a director says a dog lunged or a cat is too old or is blind, deaf or missing limbs. Shelters will be allowed to kill animals for virtually any reason. In fact, excluding holding periods, they already do.

      Excluding laws imposed by health departments regarding the use of controlled substances, the disposition of rabid and potentially aggressive animals and mandated holding periods, shelter directors in this country have essentially unlimited discretion as to how they operate their facilities. If a shelter director decides to kill each and every animal even if there are empty cages, it is legal for him to do so. In fact, many shelters routinely keep banks of cages intentionally empty so that their staff does not have to clean those cages or feed the animals inside them. If a non-profit rescue organization wants to save an animal on death row at a shelter, the shelter director has the authority in every state but two to deny the group the ability to do so, and they frequently do. Likewise, shelter directors can kill orphaned kittens and puppies rather than work with volunteers who want to provide foster care. They can ban volunteers from walking dogs and socializing cats. And they can limit the number of hours they are open to the public for adoptions, or have hours that make it difficult for working people to reclaim their lost animals or adopt new ones.

      In short, there are no checks and balances to ensure that our shelters are run in line with the most up-to-date sheltering policies and procedures. Instead, our shelters are run on the honor system, and it is a discretion shelter directors abuse time and again by failing to implement readily available lifesaving alternatives or to work cooperatively with those who want to help them save lives. We need more regulations, not less. And to suggest that we give directors virtually unfettered discretion to eliminate what few protections those animals have–holding periods–which is often the only thing standing between life and death, is beyond the bounds of reason.

      New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s vetoed similar legislation in 2011. That an animal may lack objective beauty, or be older in years, does not mean that that animal isn’t deeply loved by his or her family; it does not mean someone else might not deeply love that animal if they were offered for adoption; and, it certainly does not mean that the animal isn’t worthy of compassion and lifesaving. Killing for convenience is never compassionate. In fact, it is the ultimate form of violence, a violation of the animal’s most basic rights. In his veto message, Governor Christie stated that the provision “creates the potential that older or mildly injured animals could be [killed] immediately and before even a diligent search by an owner could locate a lost pet.” He is absolutely right.

      1. I guess I would say that a regressive shelter director is going to kill the animals one way or the other — either immediately, or after the mandated 7 day hold — with little effort in that 7 days to do anything different.

        Meanwhile, such a law could provide more opportunities to a progressive shelter director to find better options for that individual animal (like being able to euthanize clearly very injured animals immediately, or for small shelters with limited vet resources to send to offsite facilities with better treatment options) or to euthanize very sick/dying animals that could jeopardize overall herd health.

        I guess I’d rather an emphasize finding compassionate leadership. You can’t legalize compassion, and it seems that in the effort to do so we can put more handcuffs on the leaders that are trying to do right by the animals.

      2. I want to provide a little texture to a couple of things:

        #1) Many public shelters do perform public requests for euthanasia. Many urban shelters often serve low-income communities where there are limited veterinary options, and what exists are fairly expensive. Our shelter does perform these services for the public when it is warranted. I’ve seen more than a few people use this service as a final option (one of whom came to US as a second opinion when his vet told him it was time). It seems cruel to force these animals to live another 7 days in these circumstances — and most wouldn’t survive and would die in a shelter environment.

        #2) The bill also allows for animals who need extra care to get it. Here’s a direct quote: “the animal’s health is at risk in such a way or to such a degree that the animal would be best cared for in another setting, such as a foster home, rather than in the shelter, pound, or kennel operating as a shelter or pound, as determined by a licensed veterinarian, in which case the animal may be relocated to the setting determined by the shelter, pound, or kennel operating as a shelter or pound to be more appropriate for the animal’s recovery”. This seems very prefered to me to ensuring that the animal has to stay in the shelter for 7 days, even if the shelter may a) be bad for its health condition or b) be bad for its mental state (as would be the case for fearful or highly arroused dogs).

        Again, I don’t think you can legislate compassion, and in the process of doing so, may make the compassionate thing even harder to do for compassionate leaders.

  4. Unless an animal enters the shelter in the last end stage of a terminal illness, it takes time to determine when an animal is truly dangerous and when they are simply fearful of a new frightening environment. In any event, shelter employees are not qualified to make those judgments and it WILL end more lives that could have been saved. Those trained specifically in behavior and vets need to make the determinations that an animal cannot do well even in a sanctuary environment and even with good medical intervention – and they need the time necessary to make those decisions since they involve a good bit of interaction with the animal (especially when dealing with behavior). Bad bill. No way will this lead to lives being spared.

  5. Brent, I urge you to reconsider your position. The argument you are making comes down to nothing more than we should make it easier for 99 out of 100 shelter directors to kill animals by eliminating (or at least creating a loophole big enough to drive the proverbial Mack truck through) what few protections animals have (a holding period)–to cause more heartbreak when someone comes to the shelter to reclaim their lost companion, only to find out their animal is dead because the law now allows shelters to kill them with no holding period of any kind if the director determines they are not fit for adoption–because they are just going to kill them anyway after seven days anyway. And all of this to make it easier for the 1 in 100 shelter directors who don’t need regulations because they will do the right thing regardless. Under that logic, why regulate any businesses? Why not make it easier for bad doctors, bad hospitals, bad oil companies, bad coal plants, bad nuclear plants to cause harm so that we do not “burden” the good ones with regulations, even though those regulations are designed to save lives and ensure that protections are not subject to the whims and discretion of individuals?

    Holding periods are important. They allow people the opportunity to reclaim their missing animals. That an animal may lack objective beauty, or be older in years, or have other impediments (including acting fractious in a shelter environment) does not mean someone might not deeply love that animal. NJ shelters are currently able to kill irremediably suffering animals without a holding period. What they want now is the ability to kill even more and that is something we should not allow.

    I also take issue with the notion that “you can’t legislate compassion.” It reminds me of the other clichés people used to throw around such as “there’s too many animals, not enough homes” or “you can’t adopt your way out of killing” as if it is true by definition and beyond question. But like the others, it isn’t self-evident. In fact, it is factually wrong. You absolutely can legislate compassion, though over the long term. The decline in racism in the U.S. is a direct result of the Civil Rights Act. We change the environment in which people have to operate and new generations not schooled in old mantras develop a different set of ethical principles.

    And even if it were not true, it doesn’t change anything. We’re not trying to legislate compassion, we’re trying to prevent a mass slaughter. You might not be able to pass a law that will make shelter directors love animals, but you can pass laws that prevent them from killing them. And to paraphrase the great MLK: I might not be able to pass a law that will make the white man love me, but I can pass one that will prevent him from lynching me, and I think that is pretty damn important.

    I am grateful for the good work you are doing in Kansas City, but it would be a mistake not to oppose a law because a good director’s job is made easier, when our country isn’t filled with them. More people finding their beloved animals dead when they come to reclaim them isn’t the price we have to pay to make someone else’s job easier.

    For those who want more information, here is my letter to the legislative author encouraging him to reconsider:

  6. First of all, I don’t buy the notion that 99 out of 100 shelter directors would just use it to kill more animals.

    That said, maybe you should work with them to keep the changes on page 3, lines 12-18 and 34-39 (which we had to fight for in our community and has been a literal life-saver for us) and eliminate lines 20-23 and 40 and 41.

    1. Change it to 90-10, 80-20, 50-50, that’s not the point. But as to your second point, several of us are working to keep the ability to transfer animals during the holding period, to tighten the language allowing exceptions for irremediably suffering animals, and to bifurcate holding periods to accomplish the goal. All of that is covered in the letter linked to above, and all of it is being discussed this morning with the Governor’s office, a sponsoring Senator, and with the Assembly Member.

  7. The legislation has been withdrawn. The author has indicated a willingness to reintroduce the bill, without the quick kill provision. If he does, the new bill will allow shelters to transfer animals to rescue within the holding period with the same rights of redemption by the family. That would be a good thing.

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