KIYC: State Senate holds hearing on NJSPCA practices

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TRENTON -

A state Senate committee held a hearing at the state Capitol Monday to discuss the future of the NJSPCA, which serves as the state’s “animal police” and has been the subject of a yearlong Kane In Your Corner investigation. 

“We will have legislation to either reform or replace the current system,” said Sen. Raymond Lesniak (D – Elizabeth), who chaired the hearing under the authority of the Senate Economic Growth Committee.

The hearing comes after a scathing report last month from the New Jersey State Commission of Investigation. The SCI cited many of the same issues first cited by Kane In Your Corner, including a backlog of seemingly uninvestigated cases and lucrative contracts between the group and companies owned by its board of trustees.

Lesniak, however, insists there is blame to go around.

“Yes, the wrongdoing is on the SPCA,” he said, “but the law gave both the governor’s office and his appointees, and the attorney general’s office authority over it and they did nothing about it.”

Numerous speakers gave testimony, urging lawmakers to disband the NJSPCA as a law enforcement entity.

“Requiring additional oversight won’t work,” animal law attorney Tracy Rolph said. “Requiring more accountability won’t work. All of that has been tried in the past and all failed.”

“Volunteer law enforcement may have worked well in the 1800s but we’re talking a new century here," Ed Wengryn, with the New Jersey Farm Bureau, said.

NJSPCA President Steve Shatkin took exception to the criticism of his group.

“The SCI has an agenda: Get rid of the SPCA,” he said. “When the SCI couldn’t fund a scintilla of corruption or anything illegal, they stared to cherry pick information to justify their actions. They were going to get from point A to point B no matter what it took.”

Shatkin said his officers would welcome more state oversight, along with additional state funding.

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