TRENTON – A pair of bills sponsored by state Sen. Raymond J. Lesniak which would crack down on the illegal trade of tigers and prohibit inhumane ‘gestation crates’ which restrict pigs’ freedom of movement was approved by the Senate Thursday.
The bills are part of a larger legislative push by Lesniak to address animal cruelty in the Garden State.
“Animals are God’s creations as much as humans,” said Lesniak (D-Union.) “These bills recognize that cruelty to animals and threats to their extinction need to be eliminated. If we’re serious about justice, fairness and compassion for all living beings, we have to extend those same considerations in our dealings with people as well as with animals.”
The first bill, S-945, would require the State Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to administer a system in which private owners or zoos which own tigers would register certain information with the state. Under the bill, tiger owners would be required to provide their name, address and telephone number, the address and exact location where the tiger is kept, the birth date, weight and sex of the tiger, a description of any distinguishing marks and a digital color photograph of the tiger, a hair sample or other tissue sample sufficient to provide DNA analysis of the tiger, and the name, address and telephone number of the veterinarian who cares for the tiger. The bill would also require private owners to have a subcutaneous microchip implanted in the tiger’s neck with the tiger’s identifying information.
The bill also stipulates that within five days of a tiger’s death, the tiger’s owner would be required to submit the tiger’s remains to a qualified disposal agent or directly to the Department to dispose of the remains properly, and the owner would be required to submit a sworn affidavit to DEP detailing the time and cause of death.
Lesniak noted that the black market for tiger body parts, among other factors, has resulted in the animals being hunted to near-extinction worldwide. Over the last century, the world’s tiger population has fallen from about 100,000 to just 3,200 in the wild according to the World Wildlife Fund. Tigers are hunted, bought and sold not only for their teeth, skins and claws, but also for their body parts, which are used in many traditional Asian medicines. Lesniak added that the body parts of a single tiger can be sold for a sum of $10,000 or more on the black market.
“This bill puts New Jersey at the forefront – nationally and internationally – in efforts to protect tigers from extinction,” said Lesniak. “This is one small step for the New Jersey tiger population, but one giant step for the recognition of the cruelty of trading in tiger parts and the worldwide threat of extinction of one of God’s magnificent creations. Today, we’re sending a message to the international community that New Jersey will not be complicit in the eradication of tigers, and that we will make sure that the illegal trade in tiger body parts does not take place within our borders.”
S-945 was approved by a vote of 37-0, and now heads to the Governor to be signed into law.
The second bill in the package, S-1921, would establish an animal cruelty offense of cruel confinement of a gestating pig as a disorderly persons charge. The bill would define cruel confinement as crating, confining or tethering a gestating sow in order to prevent the free range of motion. Under the bill, a violator would be guilty of a disorderly persons offense, punishable by a fine of between $250 and $1,000 and up to six months imprisonment – and each gestating sow that is cruelly confined would be considered a separate offense. The bill would also subject violators to an additional civil penalty of between $250 and $1,000 to be recovered in the name of the New Jersey Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals or a county society for the prevention of animal cruelty.
The bill would create exemptions for medical research, veterinary examination or treatment, transportation, education or exhibition, animal husbandry, humane slaughter, or the proper care of the animal during the seven-day period prior to the expected date of the animal giving birth.
The “gestation crate” or sow stall, is a small metal enclosure used in intensive pig farming, in which female breeding pigs are enclosed in a space so small as to prohibit the pig from turning around or lying down comfortably. Shortly after giving birth, the piglets are taken away and the sow is re-impregnated to start the whole process over again. Pork producers argue that the crates are necessary because sows that are housed together in pens will fight – but opponents note that immobilizing animals in crates increases the animals’ stress levels, and can cause other health problems.
“In practice, gestation crates lead to animal overcrowding and inhumane treatment for pregnant sows,” said Lesniak. “There are certainly other, more humane alternatives to allow pregnant pigs to maintain free range of motion while separating animals which may be prone to aggression during their pregnancies. This bill calls on pig farmers in the Garden State to adopt more humane options to undersized gestation crates which lead to undue stress and inhumane treatment of the animals.”
S-1921 was approved by a vote of 35-1, and now heads to the Assembly for consideration.
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