What can you do to prevent animal cruelty?
In New Jersey, failure to provide necessary care to a living animal constitutes animal cruelty. Necessary care involves access to food, water, shelter, and, when needed, veterinary care. Neglect, abandonment, and intentional abuse are also all violations of New Jersey law. Sadly, these examples of animal cruelty, in addition to cases of animal hoarding, are all too common in our area. In 2017, the Bergen County SPCA’s Humane Law Enforcement Officers conducted over 300 new cruelty investigations. It’s alarming to think of the many more thousands of animals around the country who experience distress, yet the abuse goes undetected or unreported.
The good news is that everyone can take action to further provide a safe environment for our County’s vulnerable animals. Let’s work to prevent animal abuse before it ever begins.
Here are five things you can do to help:
- If you see something, say something! If you are concerned that an animal may be in distress, do not ignore it. Your actions could help save a life. Report animal cruelty to the Bergen County SPCA’s hotline at 201-573-8900. If the animal in distress is outside of Bergen County, contact the local area’s SPCA.
- Take responsibility for the animals in your life. Pets, wildlife, and farm animals can all benefit from our awareness and action. Learn to be a responsible pet owner and protect wildlife by maintaining your distance.
- Speak up for animals. Send a message to your local officials to let them know how important it is to have strong animal cruelty legislation. Let them know that resources are needed for animal cruelty law enforcement and prevention work. Also consider joining the Bergen County SPCA as a Society or Law Enforcement member and become part of our effort.
- Teach the kids in your life that kindness counts. Early prevention is our best weapon in the fight against animal abuse.
- Learn about the link between animal cruelty and other forms of violence. Frequently, animals are not the only victims of abuse. There is a strong connection between animal abuse, domestic violence, and other serious crimes.
New Jersey’s new care requirements for dogs and other pets and service animals has already proven an effective tool for animal control and law enforcement trying to save animals from exposure to bad weather and inhumane tethering. The new law signed August 7, 2017 amends Title 4, Chapter 19 of New Jersey statutes and provides:
a. No dog, domestic companion animal, or service animal may be exposed to “adverse environmental conditions” for more than 30 minutes unless the animal has continuous access to shelter which means an enclosed, insulated structure with a solid roof, walls and floor with an opening no larger than to allow the animal to enter and exit comfortably, provide shade, and keep the animal at a normal body temperature.
(“Adverse environmental conditions” means (1) when the ambient temperature is 32 degrees F or below, or there are other conditions, such as wind, rain, snow, ice, sleet, or hail, such that a person should reasonably know would pose an adverse risk to the health or safety of the animal, based on the animal’s size, age, physical condition, or thickness of the animal’s hair or fur; or (2) when the temperature is 90 degrees F or above, or the animal is exposed to direct sunlight or hot pavement, such that a person should reasonably know would pose an adverse risk to the health or safety of the animal, based on the animal’s size, age, physical condition, or thickness of thickness of the animal’s fur.)
b. In the event of an evacuation order, it is now illegal not to make every effort to take pets to a safe location. They may not be left indoors unattended or tied up outside.
c. All dogs and other pets and service animals must have access to proper shelter regardless of the weather. If the animal is not in the house, he or she must have access to a structure that (1) has ventilation, (2) allows the animal to remain dry and maintain a normal body temperature, (3) allows access to clean, nonfrozen water, (4) provides exposure to natural or artificial light according to a regular cycle of day and night, (5) has sufficient space so that the animal can easily turn around in a full circle and lie down on the animal’s side with limbs outstretched, and (6) has at least three inches of empty space above the head of the animal when the animal is in a normal sitting or standing position in the shelter;
The shelter must be maintained in a manner to minimize the accumulation of any waste, other debris, precipitation, or other moisture inside, surrounding, and underneath the shelter, and to provide reasonable protection from flooding. The shelter must remain upright at all times and be soundly constructed to prevent the sagging or collapse and with no sharp points or edges.
Crawl spaces, areas under a vehicle, structures made with pressure treated wood, cardboard, or other materials easily degraded by the elements won’t comply. And no wire or chain link flooring or really any flooring with openings that allow a paw or hoof to fall through.
These shelter requirements do not apply to breeders, kennels, pet shops, shelters or pounds.
Those laws that have time limits on tethering dogs have in some cases proven difficult if not impossible to enforce. California’s 3 hour limit on tethering is an example. In this New Jersey law, persons are prohibited from tethering dogs from 11 p.m. until 5 a.m. outside and must allow the dog to move 15 feet in any one direction. There are exceptions if the person is outside with the dog or can see the dog at all times. The new law also prohibits tethering outside in adverse weather conditions for more than 30 minutes. Any dog tethered more than 30 minutes must have access to clean non frozen water.
There is also a ban on tethering nursing females and puppies less than four months old.
There are restrictions on the types of collar and tethers that can be used, a ban on tethering with other dogs or on vacant lots or in abandoned buildings.
What You Can Do
The assistance of the public is vital in reporting such acts of animal cruelty and neglect to the authorities immediately. You are requested to contact your local law enforcement agency in your town or county. Some counties like Bergen and Monmouth have active SPCA Law Enforcement Divisions where complaints can be lodged directly otherwise call your local police and / or sheriffs department. If you see something, say something. Be their voice!
Want to do more?
Get involved! Join our community of dedicated supporters by dedicating your time, energy and talents to animal cruelty prevention and investigation in Bergen County.
- Volunteer your time with our organization to assist with fundraising and cruelty investigations.
- Adopt an animal from the Bergen County Animal Shelter & Adoption Center.
- Teachers: Book a school presentation.
- Make a donation to support our animal cruelty prevention and law enforcement programs.