Everything in government is on hold now until we overcome the coronavirus, but there will be plenty to do when it’s back in action.
The coronavirus has highlighted the need for better safety requirements for farm animals. New Jersey can start with banning gestation crates which I got past both the Senate and Assembly only to have it vetoed by Governor Christie despite more than 100,000 petition signatures asking him to sign it. Even better, we should ban any sale of pork from pigs confined in a gestation crate anywhere in America or worldwide. Senator Vin Gopal has sponsored a ban on gestation crates, S1971.
The coronavirus has also highlighted the need to promote adoption of dogs and cats which served as companions to many during their home confinement. Another effort should be made to ban Puppy Mills which was also vetoed by Governor Christie and require pet stores to only sell dogs and cats from a certified rescue organization. Senator Brian Stack has sponsored S879 which mirrors legislation enacted in California, Maryland and Maine and would ban puppy mills from doing business in New Jersey.
Also awaiting legislative action is Desmond’s Law, named after legislation enacted in Connecticut, which would allow law students in clinics to represent the animal in cruelty prosecutions which too often result in minor penalties for the abuser despite proven statistics that an animal abuser is likely to be a human abuser. This legislation was released from the Senate Judiciary Committee last legislative session and awaits reintroduction by its sponsors.
Another health and animal welfare measure is trap, neuter, vaccinate and release programs which will contain the numbers and protect community cats, formerly called feral cats. All animals euthanized in NJ’s animal shelters in 2018 were cats. Community cat populations are the largest source of cat impoundments in NJ.
Throughout New Jersey, every single municipality faces the challenge of managing growing populations of unowned free-roaming cats, also known as community cats. For many decades, animal control officials have responded to nuisance complaints by trapping and impounding cats. Unfortunately, many of these cats are feral and so are not appropriate to adopt into a home as a pet. The outcome, after a mandatory seven-day hold, is nearly always death for the cat. Senator Brian Stack is sponsor of S1034 which establishes a “Compassion for Community Cats Fund” to provide TNVR program start-up grants to municipalities and counties.
Also coming up in the Fall is the yearly bear hunt which is unnecessary if the state enacted proven more effective non lethal means to keep bears from leaving their natural habitats and roaming into communities. Baiting to make it easier for hunters to kill only makes bears acclimated to look for human food. A requirement in bear country communities to use bear resistant trash containers will also limit bear incursions into communities better than killings.
Senator Stack has sponsored S1250 which would ban bear baiting, a good first step.
Ending the cruelty of wild animals in circuses nationwide is legislation sponsored by Senator Menendez. Modeled after New Jersey’s Nosey’s law, S2121, the Traveling Exotic Animals and Public Safety Protection Act (TEAPSPA) is a Federal Bill that will amend the Animal Welfare Act. This bill will stop the inhumane treatment of exotic animals by restricting the use of exoctic animals in traveling performances such as circuses, carnivals, and parades. Once enacted, the bill will minimize the abuse of exotic animals, remove safety risks not adequately addressed by current regulations, and save taxpayer money used for exotic animal related costs.
Worldwide advocacy is also needed for an end to the brutal slaughter of dogs at the infamous Yulin Festival in China where dogs are cooked alive!
As Mahatma Gandhi said, “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” Let’s strive for greatness.
Ray Lesniak is the former 20th Distrit State Senator and founder of the Lesniak Institute for American Leadership.