Well, last week certainly was interesting – first in terms of animal sheltering in Cumberland and Salem counties, and then animal cruelty law enforcement in New Jersey.The State Commission of Investigation report on the New Jersey Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals was dismal on all counts. Although we received our initial charter from them back in the 1940s, we are a completely separate entity and are not a subject of those findings. The SCI has suggested that enforcement powers should be placed in the hands of animal control officers (ACOs) that work under the auspices of police or health departments. The Legislature will have to decide how to move forward to ensure that the enforcement powers are in the hands of trained people with the resources and oversight necessary to meet the extreme demands of animal cruelty investigations in today’s world.
There is no simple answer, but it’s time for some serious consideration from the state of New Jersey on these matters. If the state and county SPCAs are to remain in charge of upholding these laws, they must be properly organized and overseen as all other law enforcement entities in the state are. They must be afforded the resources to properly investigate and prosecute when necessary. They cannot remain in this blurred atmosphere of being a nonprofit, volunteer organization and an instrumentality of the government at the same time.More: Here’s why the SPCA shelter can’t survive
If the SPCAs are disbanded, it’s not just a simple matter of having animal control officers take over their duties. Unless counties provide county-run animal control for their cities, many municipalities contract out with private ACOs. These private contractors do not fall under the police or health departments, and would therefore not meet the criteria suggested in the SCI report. Counties and cities that provide animal control, such as Gloucester and Vineland, would need to have their ACOs go through training for humane law enforcement and would most probably need to increase the number of officers they have available. Humane law enforcement officers (HLEOs) work long days conducting investigations as well as time spent preparing and going to court. It can’t be accomplished on an 8-to-4 basis, and there would also need to be an HLEO on call for emergencies.
In the case of humane law enforcement, the state of New Jersey has failed to step up to enforcing today’s standards of protecting our animals by leaving a system in place that has not been changed since its inception during the mid-1800s. In the case of our South Jersey Regional Animal Shelter, we need our local government entities to take some responsibility and reflect the compassionate nature of our residents that have put them in office. No matter how or what happens, it will take money to address the needs and protections of our animals; perhaps that’s why these things haven’t been properly dealt with in the past. Ya think?