KIYC: Counties ask for more time to fully replace troubled NJSPCA

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TRENTON -

With six weeks until the NJ Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals must give up its law enforcement authority, some New Jersey counties are asking lawmakers for a little more time to fully replace the troubled “animal police.”

In January, lawmakers voted to strip power from the NJSPCA after a 14-month Kane In Your Corner investigation uncovered numerous issues, including no-bid contracts involving board members and questionable law enforcement. Many of those findings were echoed in a scathing report from the NJ State Commission of Investigation, which called the group “wolves in sheep’s clothing” and “a haven for wannabe cops.”

Since then, all 21 counties have designated official animal prosecutors, and all municipalities have designated humane law enforcement officers, as the law requires. But Mercer County Prosecutor Angelo Onofri, who also heads the state prosecutors’ association, says some counties have yet to get those new officers fully trained.

A new bill, advanced by Sen. Joseph Cryan (D – East Orange), seeks to give counties more time. While the NJSPCA would still have to cease law enforcement activities as scheduled on Aug. 1, counties would be given until Feb. 1 to finalize the training and shelter issues. Until then, existing animal control officers could continue to pursue animal cruelty cases. The bill cleared the Senate Energy and Environment committee on Monday.

“People who aren’t ready, we need to make sure that they get it right,” Cryan says. “And for those who are already ahead of the game, great. They’re good to go.”  

The compromise is acceptable to several groups who have long opposed the NJSPCA. “The NJSPCA is still gone as of Aug. 1,” says Collene Wronko, founder of “Reformers NJ.” “It’s just extending what everyone else is being asked to put into place permanently.”

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