To close a loophole in New Jersey law regarding animal fighting, legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Carol Murphy, Jamel Holley, Daniel Benson and Paul Moriarty to criminalize the possession of animal fighting paraphernalia was signed into law Friday, Aug. 9 by Governor Phil Murphy.
The new law makes it illegal to possess animal fighting paraphernalia for the purpose of promoting, facilitating or participating in animal fighting or baiting. Owning, possessing, selling, transferring or manufacturing such materials will be a crime of the third degree under State animal cruelty statutes, punishable by three to five years in prison or a fine of up to $15,000, or both.
Animal fighting is a felony in New Jersey, but it previously was not illegal to possess paraphernalia used in animal fighting activities.
“Dog fighting, cock fighting and animal combat of any kind is downright cruel,” said Murphy. “We do not condone or tolerate this behavior in New Jersey. However, it can be difficult for law enforcement to charge suspects without actually having seen them facilitate animal fighting. By criminalizing paraphernalia, we will make it easier for officers to gather evidence and hold violators accountable.”
“Animal fighting is among the most callous and inhumane forms of animal cruelty,” said Holley. “We must do all we can to end this practice in our state, starting with ensuring law enforcement are able to charge suspects accordingly when they see signs of trouble.”
“This law takes a comprehensive approach to combating animal fighting in our State,” said Benson. “If officers find clear evidence of fighting activity, they should be able to charge a suspect regardless of whether they’ve seen the act take place. When more abusers are brought to justice, the lives of more animals will be saved.”
“No domesticated animal is born knowing how to viciously fight another animal; they are trained to do so by people who want nothing more than to profit off of their suffering,” said Moriarty. “Strengthening our animal cruelty laws will undoubtedly help us reduce incidents in New Jersey and rescue animals from abusive situations.”
Additionally, the law establishes a civil penalty of between $3,000 and $5,000 for owning, possessing, buying, selling, transferring or manufacturing animal fighting paraphernalia.
The measure passed the Assembly in June, 76-0, and the Senate in May, 38-0.