TRENTON, N.J. (FOX 29) - On Tuesday, Gov. Phil Murphy signed a pair of bills into law that aim to further protect animals across New Jersey.
The laws, which the state Legislature overwhelmingly passed, address outdoor shelter and tethering restrictions, the treatment of animals seized from dogfighting rings and the ease with which law enforcement can step in to save animals in danger.
"As long-time dog owners, animal welfare is close to my and Tammy's hearts," Murphy said in a statement. "I am proud to sign these bills that will protect animals in danger of abuse and treat our four-legged residents with the compassion they deserve."
The first law, S2674, revises existing legislation to make it easier for law enforcement officers to rescue animals whose life or health are in danger.
"Animal cruelty is abuse, plain and simple," said Assemblyman Matt Milam. "We will not tolerate animal cruelty in New Jersey, and this law will strengthen our efforts to bring abused animals to safety by enabling law enforcement to intervene when necessary."
The second law, S1923, changes municipal court requirements to allow more consideration of abusive circumstances in cases where dogs are at risk of euthanasia. The bill also prohibits courts from declaring a dog to be potentially dangerous for causing bodily injury when defending its owner from someone committing or attempting to commit a crime against them.
Sponsors say that New Jersey was one of only nine states that allowed dogs forced to participate in dogfighting to be euthanized without consideration for the dog's actual behavior.
"It isn't fair or humane to punish a dog so severely if they may not pose a real threat to other animals or people," said Assemblywoman Carol Murphy. "With this new law, the determination process of euthanization will be far more just."
"There is a negative stigma associated with dogs who have suffered through dog fighting and because of this, they cannot be adopted due to the assumption they will harm people," said Sen. Troy Singleton. "Yet, many of these former fighting dogs pose no threat to humans. They want to be loved like every other dog. By dropping the stigma, we will see more of these former fighting dogs re-adapt to society and find loving homes."
"S2674 strengthens our state's proper outdoor shelter and tethering restriction law for pets left outdoors, passed two years ago, making it the strongest and most comprehensive in the country," said HSUS New Jersey State Director Brian Hackett. "S1923 joins New Jersey with 41 other states which have ensured that canine victims of illegal dogfighting are treated humanely after being seized from cruel fighting rings."
"Hundreds of canine lives will be saved under this new law," said Assemblyman Benjie Wimberly. "And they'll have chance to find forever, caring homes."