Patrick’s Law, which toughens the civil and criminal penalties for animal cruelty, passed the state Senate this afternoon.
The bill is named after Patrick the Pitbull, a dog that was starved, thrown down a garbage chute and left for dead in Newark in 2011. The legislation was praised by animal rights activists during a committee hearing last month, and it received unanimous support in the Senate today.
If the bill becomes law, abusing an animal or depriving it of food, water or other necessities would be a fourth-degree crime. It is currently a disorderly persons offense. If the animal dies as a result of the abuse, the crime would be increased to the third degree.
The law would increase the civil penalty for animal abuse to a fine of $1,000 to $3,000 for a first offense, and $3,000 to $5,000 for a subsequent offense.
The bill was sponsored by Sen. Tom Kean, R-Union, and Sen. Dick Codey, D-Essex. It heads to the Assembly for consideration next.
“How someone treats animals in their care is a window into his or her soul,” Kean said in a statement after the Senate vote. “Caring for an animal comes with basic responsibilities that include finding a safe, humane environment for that animal if you cannot or do not wish to care for it any longer. Patrick’s Law will make the penalties for those who shirk those responsibilities appropriately more severe.”
Patrick’s Law would fight “extreme neglect” of animals, Kathleen Schatzmann, the New Jersey state director of the Humane Society, told the Senate Economic Growth Committee in September.
“Most acts of animal cruelty come not from high-profile torture cases, but from neglect,” she said.
Read more: NorthJersey.com