Animal Cruelty

What is animal cruelty?

Illegal animal cruelty can include intentional abuse, such as beating or mutilating an animal, but it can also include neglect, such as failing to provide proper shelter, food, or medical care. In New Jersey, the relevant laws can be found under Title 4 of our statutes.


It is unlawful to:

• Directly or indirectly abuse, torment, overwork, torture, maim, poison, or cause serious bodily injury or the death of a living animal, including through the use of another living animal.
• Fail as the person charged with the care of an animal to provide the living animal with necessary care, including grooming, food, water, shelter, veterinary care, and a safe environment.
• Use or procure the use of an animal in any kind of sexual manner.
• Own, possess, keep, train, promote, purchase, or sell an animal for fighting or baiting purposes, or to arrange, witness, gamble on, or assist with animal fighting or baiting.
• Abandon a domesticated animal or a sick or disabled animal to die in a public place.
• Sell an animal with a contagious or infectious disease.


Pursuant to N.J.S.A. 4:22-17.2 and 17.5, it is unlawful to

• Expose a dog, pet, or service animal to harsh weather conditions for more than 30 minutes.
• Leave an animal unattended in a vehicle under inhumane conditions adverse to the health of the animal. Never leave pets in a hot car.


What qualifies as harsh weather condition?

• 32 degrees or below, or 90 degrees or above
• Rain, snow, or sleet In order to avoid a violation of this law, an owner or caretaker must provide an animal with proper shelter if the animal will be outside longer than 30 minutes.


What is proper shelter?

• Must be soundly built, in good repair, with adequate ventilation, water, light, and space to move and sit.
• Must be enclosed, have a solid roof and walls with a single opening, a floor which is not on the ground, insulation, dry bedding, and a windbreak at the entrance that is sufficient to keep the animal dry and maintain the animal’s normal body temperatures.
• Must have adequate shade or a cooling area by natural or artificial means during times of excessive heat.


What is not proper shelter?

A crawl space under a building, or under steps, a deck, a stoop, in a parked car, in a shelter made with pressure-treated wood containing chemicals arsenic or chromium, or with a floor with wire or chain link, or if made of cardboard (4:22-17.3).


What must an owner or caretaker of a dog, pet, or service animal do during evacuations to avoid animal cruelty charges? N.J.S.A. 4:22-17.2

• When the State or local officials issue an order of evacuation due to emergency conditions, the owner or caretaker of the animal must make every effort to evacuate with the animal.
• If that is not possible, the animal must be delivered to a safe area not impacted by the emergency or taken to an indoor area free of hazards that is as protective of the animals as possible.
• If this occurs, local emergency responders must be alerted to the animal’s location. It is unlawful to cruelly restrain your dog. What is unlawful restraint?
• Tethering/tying up a female dog in heat or a dog less than four months old
• Tethering a dog between the hours of 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. (effective February 2019)
• Tethering a dog in an unoccupied building or in vacant property
• Tethering a dog in a manner that does not permit the dog continuous access to water
• Tethering a dog during harsh weather conditions for more than 30 minutes
• Tethering a dog with a choke collar, prong collar, head harness, or any other type of similar device other than a properly fitted body harness or buckle-type collar
• Tethering a dog with a chain with metal links or with a harness attached to a weight
• Tethering a dog with another dog
• Tethering a dog with a tether that is less than 15 feet long or doesn’t allow the dog to walk at least 15 feet in any direction
• Tethering a dog that permits the dog to reach another dog or an object or location that poses a risk of entanglement, strangulation, drowning, or other harm


What should you do if you see animal cruelty?

Each police department has an assigned humane law enforcement officer, but any police officer can respond to reports of animal cruelty. Contact your local police and relay as many details as you can, including the location, date and time, and description of the people and animals involved. Video and photographic documentation can help bolster your case. It is also useful to give the names of others who may have witnessed the incident


NJ’s Tethering Restriction and Proper Outdoor Shelter Law:
Title 4 revised, and signed into law, on August 7th, 2017

Adverse Environmental Conditions:
It is unlawful to expose any dog, domestic companion animal, or service animal to adverse environmental conditions for more than 30 minutes, unless the animal has continuous access to proper shelter as set forth below. The act also specifies tethering requirements and what constitutes “adverse environmental conditions.” The law advises on corrective actions to be taken before issuing punitive summonses to the pet owner. (C.4:22-17.1 Definitions relative to care, tethering of certain animals)

Adverse Environmental Conditions means any of the following:
• 32degrees Fahrenheit or below, or 90 degrees Fahrenheit or above;
• Exposure to direct sunlight, hot pavement, or any other hot surfaces that would pose a risk to the health or safety of the animal; cold weather or precipitation-related environmental conditions, including, but not limited to, wind, rain, snow, ice, sleet, or hail;

Prohibited Tethering and Restraints: (C.4:22-17.3 Unlawful to cruelly restrain a dog)
It is illegal to tether a dog in any of the following manners:
• With a tether on which more than one dog is restrained,
• With a tether less than 15 feet in length or which doesn’t permit the dog to walk at least 15’ in a direction*
• With a tether that permits the dog to reach another dog or an object or location that poses a risk of entanglement, strangulation, drowning, or other harm to the health or safety of the dog,*
• In a manner that exposes the dog to adverse environmental conditions for more than 30 minutes,
• With the use of a choke collar, prong collar, head harness, a chain with metal links that are more than one quarter of an inch thick, or a tether, collar, or harness to which a weight is attached
• In a manner that prevents the dog’s access tosanitary and liquid water when the dog is tethered more than 30 minutes
• If the dog is a nursing female, or is less than four months old
• Outdoors between the hours of 11p.m. and 5a.m. (shall not take effect until 18 months after enactment)*
*Note:does not apply if person in position to care for animal is present with the animal at all times, or can see the animal at all times. This law does not apply to transport, shows, or if indoors.

Proper Outdoor Shelter Requirements: (C.4:22-17.5 Proper shelter for certain animals)
Proper shelter must at all times:
• Be adequately ventilated so animal remains dry and maintains a normal body temperature, UPRIGHT position.
• Allow animal access to clean, potable water, and exposure to natural or artificial light per a regular cycle of day and night, Be soundly constructed, in good repair, no sharp points or edges, maintained from waste and debris,
• Provide sufficient space for animal to easily turn around in a full circle and lie down on its side with limbs outstretched, and when the animal is in a normal sitting position, the top of the animal’s head cannot touch the shelter ceiling. Must be reasonably away from flood areas, be cleared of snow, precipitation, and debris.
• MUST HAVE A FLOOR, insulation to maintain normal body temperature, and if under 32 degrees, a windbreak.
Proper shelter DOES NOT include a crawl space, under a vehicle, a structure made with pressure treated wood containing arsenic or chromium, or with a wire, chain link type construction, or one made from materials that can easily denigrate from the elements. Even if shelter requirements are met, if the size, type, condition or type of animal puts the animal in danger of the elements, and normal body temperature cannot be maintained, it can be ordered to be taken inside.
While animal control officers (ACOs) and humane police (HLEOs) are primarily tasked with enforcement, state law gives authority to any local law enforcement official to enforce these provisions of Title 4 in the event ACOs or HLEOs are not available!

Enforcement of the law’s provisions: (C.4:22-17.7)

• A person shall be issued a correction warning prior to being cited for a violation of this act unless there is reasonable assumption of the responding law enforcement officer that the animal’s life is in imminent danger, in which case the animal can be immediately seized.
• If not immediately seized, a court of competent jurisdiction may issue upon request an order to any law enforcement officer to enter onto the property and take physical custody of the animal upon showing probable cause of a violation of this act and submission of proof of issuance of a summons
• A summons shall be served on the alleged violator as soon as practicable if: (1) after the seven days have elapsed from the date a correction warning is issued, no correction has been made; or (2) the animal was seized immediately pursuant to the above imminent danger (subsection b. of this law).

Upon taking physical custody of the animal:
• The person taking physical custody of the animal shall: (1) post immediately, in a conspicuous place at the location from which the animal was taken, and (2) send by registered or certified mail and by ordinary mail notice which contains the following:
• A description of the animal seized, and state the animal could be euthanized as a medical necessity if, upon a veterinarian’s written determination, because the animal is in intractable and extreme pain and beyond any reasonable hope of recovery with reasonable veterinary medical treatment.
• Statement of the statutory authority and reason for taking custody of the animal and provide contact information, including at least the name of any applicable entity, the name of a person that entity, and a telephone number, and the location where it was impounded.
• If the alleged violator is not the owner of the animal, the person issuing the correction warning or summons, as applicable, shall also notify the owner of the animal of the violation and provide the owner with a copy of the issued correction warning or summons.
• If physical custody is taken, the animal shall be placed in a licensed shelter, pound, or kennel operating as a shelter or pound to ensure the humane care and treatment of the animal. At any time while the licensed shelter, pound, or kennel operating as a shelter or pound has custody or control of the animal, it may place the animal in an animal rescue organization facility or a foster home if it determines the placement is in the best interest of the animal.
• A summons shall include a description of the violation and statutory authority used, and contact info for the issuing entity. Additional notices must be provided as specified in subsection h of the law.

DISCLAIMER: This is not a legal document and solely intended to provide NJ residents a ‘quick reference’ summary of the new law. Please refer to the statute and state legislative website for the full text of the law, which you can find at this link. Anyone who believes there is a violation occurring should first contact the local police department or local animal control officer.

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