MAYS LANDING— October is observed as National Animal Safety and Protection Month and reminds us of the responsibility that comes with having, protecting and caring for domesticated animals and pets. This month—and every month of the year— the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office is committed to protecting animals from abuse and neglect.
Under Governor Chris Christie, legislation was passed that NJSPCA ceased law enforcement operations by August 1, 2018, giving the authority to investigate Animal Cruelty cases to the County Prosecutors and/or municipalities.
On Feb. 8, 2019, the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office assigned personnel to the Animal Cruelty Investigations Unit. From 2020-2021, the Animal Cruelty Investigations Unit has 9 open investigations assigned to ACPO’s HLEOs. At this time 15 cases are currently going through the Grand Jury process. The defendant of one case entered into Pretrial Intervention. In another case a defendant pleaded guilty to a 3rd degree Animal Cruelty charge. In 2020. ACPO assisted municipal police departments with 23 cases and aided in the investigations of another 49 cases in 2021.
“The function of the ACPO Animal Cruelty Investigations Unit is a necessary component of this agency in order to protect animals from abuse and neglect. The partnerships that ACPO has with Humane Law Enforcement Officers from our county’s municipal police departments will provide us with the ability to effectively investigate and prosecute animal cruelty in Atlantic County,” said Acting Atlantic County Prosecutor Cary Shill.
The ACPO Animal Cruelty Investigations Unit includes Unit Commander Captain Kevin Hincks, Chief Humane Law Enforcement Officer, Assistant Prosecutor Lynn Heyer, Animal Cruelty Prosecutor and Detectives Caryn Campanelli, Denise Manino and Grace Long, Humane Law Enforcement Officers. Each municipality is also required to have trained Animal Cruelty Law Enforcement Officers. All law enforcement officers tasked with animal cruelty investigations must be certified by the New Jersey Police Training Commission. Any police officer certified by the New Jersey Police Training Commission may respond to or take the initial report of a suspected animal cruelty incident. The initial responding officer, if not an HLEO, must forward the information to a HLEO for review and follow-up investigation, if warranted.
The law also requires each County Prosecutor to designate an Animal Cruelty Prosecutor to prosecute and take other legal action as appropriate for violations of the animal cruelty laws of the state under N.J.S.A. Title 4, Chapter 22. Municipal, County, and State HLEOs are charged with the responsibility of enforcing the State of New Jersey Animal Cruelty Laws.
Assistant Prosecutor Lynn Heyer, Animal Cruelty Prosecutor said, that she as well as the officers who have undertaken the additional training of the Humane Law Enforcement Officers are privileged to be tasked with enforcing the Animal Cruelty Statutes and prosecuting individuals who violate those laws.
“Our office represents all of the citizens of Atlantic County, as well as the animals who also live here. We are the voice for those victims who have none. Individuals who beat, kill, mistreat and/or neglect animals, wildlife or birds will frequently manifest cruelty towards all living things, progressing to domestic partners, children, aging parents. Very frequently, a victim of domestic abuse will report that their pet was killed or cruelly beaten by their abuser,” said Assistant Prosecutor Lynn Heyer, Animal Cruelty Prosecutor.
Assistant Prosecutor Heyer said that if you see animal cruelty or neglect, law enforcement urges you to report what you have witnessed to your local police.
HLEOs assist in rescuing animals from abuse and insure proper medical attention is provided by a licensed veterinarian. In addition to investigating allegations of animal cruelty, HLEOs aid in educating the public on the humane treatment of animals. New Jersey law requires that animals have adequate shelter, food, and water.
Atlantic County residents and visitors are encouraged to report suspected animal cruelty to the law enforcement agency that services their community. The abuse and/or cruelty of livestock should immediately be reported to local/state law enforcement. Additional notification can be made to the New Jersey Department of Agriculture, Division of Animal Health by calling 609-671-6400 or via email: email@example.com.
Not only does National Animal Safety and Protection Month raise awareness, but it provides tips and tools to help us be more prepared in the event of an emergency or illness. The following definitions are an outline of some potential violations of New Jersey Animal Cruelty or Neglect Laws:
- Animal cruelty can be either deliberate abuse or simply the failure to take care of an animal.
- Animal Neglect is the failure to provide basic care required for an animal to thrive.
- Adverse Environmental Conditions refer to conditions in which the ambient temperature is 35 degrees Fahrenheit or below in the immediate vicinity of a dog, domestic companion animal, or service animal; or where other cold weather or precipitation-related environmental conditions exist. Similarly, adverse environmental conditions exist when the ambient temperature is 90 degrees Fahrenheit or above in the immediate vicinity of a dog, domestic companion animal, or service animal; or when an animal is exposed to direct sunlight, hot pavement, or any other hot surface.
- Bodily Injury means physical pain, illness, or any impairment of physical condition.
- Cruel Conditions are defined as any treatment that is devoid of any human compassion and considered cruel to the point that may pose a danger to the life or wellbeing of an animal. This includes, but is not limited to, cruelly retraining a dog, i.e. using a chain with metal links that are more than ¼” thick or a tether, collar or harness to which a weight is attached; tethering a nursing female dog or a dog less than 4-months old; or tethering a dog in a manner that does not permit the dog continuous access to water in a sanitary and liquid state whenever the dog is tethered for more than 30 minutes.
Anyone with information, regarding serious crimes is asked to contact the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office at 609-909-7800 or go to the Prosecutor’s Office Web site at https://www.acpo.org/tips.html and provide information by filling out the form anonymously on the Submit a Tip page. People can also call Crime Stoppers at 609-652-1234 or 1-800-658-8477 (TIPS) or visit the Crime Stoppers Website at http://www.crimestoppersatlantic.com/. Crime Stoppers offers cash rewards for information leading to the arrest and indictment of those who commit crimes in Atlantic County.