Seantor Declan O’Scanlon announced this morning that he plans to introduce legislation that would make aggravated animal abuse a second or third degree crime, depending on the severity of the offense.
Second degree crime convictions carry sentences of 5-10 years in state prison and fines of up to $150,000. Third degree crime convictions do not carry the presumption of incarceration but can carry sentences of 3-5 in state prison and fines up to $15,000.
Senator O’Scanlon said his legislation is spurred by recent reports of animal abuse in Monmouth and Ocean Counties. Last month Aaron Davis of Long Branch was arrested and accused of leaving a caged pit bull to die on the banks for the Shrewsbury River in Highlands. Davis was charged with a third degree crime, which does not presume incarceration, though he is in the custody of the Monmouth County Correctional Institution pending trial.
In 2014, Clifford Robbins of Toms River was arrested for killing his dog, Mocha, by gassing it with car exhaust while caged in a sealed animal travel carrier. Robbins was released with a summons upon his arrest and was eventually sentenced to two years probation, 30 days of community service, and ordered to give up his cat.
“It is widely recognized that the penalties for animal abuse are not nearly severe enough to deter people in New Jersey from committing these atrocious crimes. It’s placing the lives of pets and people risk. 65 percent of animal abusers have also been arrested for battery,” O’Scanlon said. “Anyone who abuses an animal should not be able to walk away with a slap on the wrist.”
“Only a cruel coward would have the audacity to abuse or kill an innocent dog. No living creature should suffer through such catastrophic levels of abuse,” Senator O’Scanlon said. “For many of us our pets are family. Regardless, these are living creatures. We have to do everything we can to stop malicious people from endangering them. It is high time that the punishment for animal cruelty fits the crime. The cases we have seen throughout New Jersey prove that a stronger deterrent is necessary to keep our pets out of harm’s way.”