By Mary Lou Byrd
New legislation looks to impose harsh penalties on those caught abusing animals
Patrick the Miracle Dog has captured the hearts of people across the world, but unfortunately the abused pit bull’s story is not unique.
Patrick is one lucky dog—rescued from the bottom of a Newark garbage chute in March—no one can dispute that. Having St. Patrick as a namesake, and the luck of the Irish, may or may not have played a role in his remarkable progress.
Patrick’s plight has called attention to animal cruelty in New Jersey and throughout the country and has inspired animal rights activists to call for tougher penalties for animal abusers.
The alleged accuser of Patrick appeared in court on May 6 and pleaded not guilty. Hundreds of protesters appeared outside the courthouse on Patrick’s behalf, attracting considerable media attention.
But a recent bill approved the day before the alleged accuser’s appearance in court didn’t get as much press. The New Jersey Assembly’s Judiciary Committee approved a bill, modeled on a recently enacted Maine law, which would allow courts to include animals in domestic violence restraining orders. Connie Wagner (D-Bergen), deputy speaker of the assembly and Assemblywoman Charlotte Vandervalk (R-Bergen) sponsored the bill.
The Humane Society of the U.S. (HSUS) applauded the committee for approving the bill and for “voting to protect all survivors of domestic violence,” said N.J. State Director of HSUS Kathleen Schatzmann in a statement.
Studies show that violent abusers in domestic violence cases often target their victims’ animals to maintain control over their victim, according to the HSUS. “Permitting judges to prohibit abusers from contact with animals, protects those animals and provides peace of mind to human survivors of domestic violence since abusers often threaten, injure or kill family pets,” according to a release issued by the HSUS.
“We’ve heard so many stories of pets being abused or even killed as retaliation against a partner when a relationship goes sour,” said Wagner in a press release issued by the New Jersey Assembly Democrats. “Oftentimes, it’s done without thinking of an attempt to hurt the other partner, but whether it’s intentional or not, animals should not have to suffer.”
The HSUS said that it is now encouraging the Senate Judiciary Committee to post its version of the bill for a committee vote, which is sponsored by Senate Minority Leader Thomas Kean Jr., (R-Morris) and Senator Jeff Van Drew (D-Cape May).
On Monday, legislation calling for stricter penalties for killing a police dog will be on the agenda in the New Jersey Assembly. The legislation stems from a recent incident in Gloucester County in which a police dog named Schultz was killed, according to the Assembly Democrats.