Now that our organization is no longer investigating reports of animal cruelty, there has been some confusion on whom to call when people have concerns about an animal’s welfare. If you suspect cruelty or neglect of a pet, your first call should be to your local police department. At that point, the initial response will probably be handled by the municipality’s animal control officer (ACO), and either corrected or turned over to a police officer if prosecution is required. The Cumberland County Prosecutor’s Office along with our state and local police departments are working hard to meet the demands of this new caseload. It will require an adjustment period as these agencies must receive training in regards to the statutes and acquire knowledge and assistance with pet health issues.
The ACOs in Cumberland and Salem counties are experienced professionals in companion animal welfare and laws. Although they do not have, and have not had, the authority to enforce animal cruelty laws, they have the knowledge to handle the preliminary stages of an investigation and call in the necessary powers. They are also responsible for laws and ordinances pertaining to licensing, animals running at large, bite cases, and lost and found pets.
To sum this all up, please keep these few things in mind:
- Call your local police department to report suspected cases of animal cruelty or neglect. Do not take matters into your own hands.
- Pets are considered property. You can be charged with theft if you keep a stray without going through the proper channels.
- The current enforcement system for animal cruelty laws is new in the state of New Jersey. It will take time for things to be ironed out and handled smoothly.
- The animals still need you to be their advocate and their voice. Don’t hesitate to call the shelter if you need advice or assistance in helping an animal in need.