A new bill has been proposed by New Jersey State Assemblywoman Annette Quijano that would provide attorney representation for dogs and cats in court. Law students and attorneys could volunteer to represent the pets pro bono and to address the judge in a courtroom when alleged animal abusers are brought to trial.
According to Inside New Jersey, John DeCando, the chief animal control officer for the City of Paterson, agrees that animals need someone to speak for them. DeCando stated he has never lost an animal abuse in decades, but he did say most of the criminals found guilty don’t get nearly the punishments the court guidelines allow.
The Bill (A-4840) would allow the court to appoint an advocate for the dog or cat in cases involving animal abuse. A volunteer representative would be provided from a list by the Administrative Director of the Courts who are familiar with animal issues and the legal system.
“Far too many animal cruelty cases in New Jersey and across the country end without trial or conviction. These are pets who’ve faced unthinkable abuse, and yet don’t receive the justice they deserve,” said Quijano. “This bill will not only benefit animals in need, but also give law students a chance to advocate for a great cause and to gain valuable courtroom experience before they graduate.”
Quijano’s bill is modeled after a Connecticut law called Desmond’s Law – named after a dog that had been killed by his owner, yet his owner received no jail time. Desmond had been brutally beaten, strangled and starved, and even though the dog’s owner pleaded guilty, he was sentenced to a four-month rehabilitation program.
In addition to the proposed bill in New Jersey, New York Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal will introduce a similar bill, A25, this week. Legal advocates will be able to represent dogs and cats in cases ranging from divorce to the worst animal abuse trials and finally give these animals a voice.
In 2018, Rosenthal announced her “No Pet Left Behind” bill was signed into law. It will ensure that no pet gets left behind or locked inside when its owner gets evicted.
“The law may treat animals like property, but cats are not like couches and dogs are not like dining tables,” said Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal. “Animals are sentient beings, members of the family who rely on human care for survival. Plans must be made for their care in the event of an eviction, and this law will ensure that they are.”
The law requires a marshal who executes an eviction order to check the premises for companion animals and to coordinate with the person getting evicted for care of the animal. If that person cannot be found, then the marshal would be required to connect the animal with the local municipal animal shelter or society for the prevention of cruelty.
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