My Testimony for the New Jersey Assembly Agriculture Committee Asking they Vote No on A6099
A6099 is a bill coming before the New Jersey Assembly's Agriculture Committee on Monday, January 3, 2022. I am strongly urging the committee to vote against the proposed changes to the animal cruelty laws. These changes are unconstitutional, for reasons explained the testimony and they seem to be trying to solve problems that don't exist. They will also end up in people's pets being wrongly killed.
Below are video and text versions of my testimony to the Committee asking they vote No.
"Mr. Chair and members of the committee, thank you for your time today. I am always glad to see important bodies such as yours take up topics related to animal issues. They are often complex and emotional because, according to the law, animals are property, while, on the other hand, many people feel that their pets are more like furry family members. That can make animal topics hot button issues.
My name is Mike Fry, I have worked in the field of animal sheltering for more than 20 years.
My family founded Minnesota’s first and largest No Kill animal shelter, which I ran for more
than 15 years. I have also worked and consulted with animal shelters across the USA,
including some in New Jersey, where I have family ties.
It is a sad fact that people commit animal cruelty. It is also sad that people are sometimes
improperly charged with animal cruelty. We basically have an imperfect system enforcing
imperfect laws, which is why adhering strictly to US Constitution is important. That
Constitution prohibits the taking of property from people without due process of the law, which is, unfortunately, exactly what will occur if these proposed changes are enacted.
That is not just my opinion. That question has already been asked and answered in our
nation’s court system. In the documents I sent to committee members in advance of this
hearing, I referenced one such case: Louisville Kennel Club, Inc. v. Louisville/Jefferson
County Metro Government. In that case the US District Court examined a similar law. In that
decision the Court wrote:
“Under the scheme set up in [the Statute], if such a person was unable to put up [the fee]
immediately upon the probable cause finding, his pet is forfeit and he has no apparent
recourse for its recovery, even if he is ultimately found innocent of the underlying charge.
There is thus a high risk of erroneous deprivation, which some sort of additional hearing,appeal, or late-payment process could remedy.”
The Court then concluded, “Consequently we must hold that the portion of [the statute] that
would permanently deprive a pet owner of his property, absent a finding of guilt, is
Like the nullified law in that decision, the proposed changes in this bill will require people
simply accused of violating laws to pay up-front undefined and arbitrary costs of care for
animals. This will force people who cannot afford these fees to forfeit their animals before due process has occurred. In some ways, the proposed changes you are considering are much worse than the law thrown out in Louisville. That law imposed a set fine of $450. This
proposed change sets an entirely ambiguous and undefined fee. It refers only to “reasonable” fees, without saying what that even means. As a side-note, that would likely void this law under the “Void for Vagueness Doctrine” of the US Constitution. And, again, that is not just my opinion. What is “reasonable?” Who gets to decide? The people collecting the money? Furthermore, if these changes become law, these pets taken from families will be put into an animal sheltering system that I and many New Jersey residents believe to be badly broken. State inspection reports for New Jersey animal shelters show that it is not uncommon for the shelters themselves to be in violation of your cruelty laws. Additionally, many of the very shelters pushing for these changes have shockingly high kill rates. And, while they often try to blame the bogyman of “pet overpopulation” for the killing they do, they actually have lower intake rates than open-admission shelters in other states that stopped killing years ago.
These proposed changes will – without a doubt – result in some pets being taken away from
families and killed before your court system ultimately finds those families not guilty. That, of
course, will be an overt violation of the US Constitution, which prohibits the taking of property without due process. Again, that is a question that has been asked and answered by our court system already.
Furthermore, if you look at the finances of the organizations pushing for these changes, it is
clear they do not need this money to be paid to them before these cases are adjudicated in a court of law. It is not as though these organizations are living month-to-month, pay check-to-pay check.
In spite of the general public perception that animal shelters need money, they frequently
have hefty bank accounts and pay their executives enormous salaries, into the multiple
hundreds of thousands of dollars annually.
Furthermore, one of the dirty secrets of the animal sheltering industry is that animal cruelty
cases are already cash cows for these agencies. They provide the best marketing, public
relations and fundraising of any of the other situations they handle. Almost nothing will get
donors to open their pocket books like the sensational news stories that surround cruelty
cases. Therefore, these proposed changes will undoubtedly create enormous problems trying to solve an issues that does not really exist.
There is a stunning irony here that I cannot help but point out: the very organizations pushing for these changes to give them more power and money in the these cases have come before this Assembly previously to vehemently oppose proposed common sense regulations that would increase their own accountability and transparency, regulations that have been implemented elsewhere and that almost immediately ended what some animal advocates have called “the assembly line of death” that far too many animal shelters remain.
I urge you to vote no, for the Constitution, for the sake of the animals, and the families who