Giving animals a voice: Proposed law would allow animals to be represented in court

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TRENTON -

A bill making its way through the state Legislature would give a voice to abused animals.

“Desmond’s Law” is named for an abused dog from Connecticut which sparked a similar law in that state.

“The dog Desmond was starved, beaten and killed,” says New Jersey Assemblywoman Annette Quijano. “And yet his owner served no jail time.”

Quijano says that the bill is about holding animal abusers accountable and making sure that those who harm animals are tried in court and convicted if they are guilty.

The law would provide the animals a lawyer or law student to represent their interests. They would be working on a volunteer basis and assigned by a judge.

“There are so many attorneys that provide pro bono services,” Quijano says. “There’ll be a list and a judge will pick from that list.”

The Monmouth County SPCA often takes in abused animals. Executive Director Ross Licitra says that he believes Desmond's Law is long overdue.

"These animals are living beings and they deserve the same rights as any other living being on this planet,” Licitra says.

The Monmouth County SPCA shelter recently took in 32 dogs rescued from a Burlington County home. Owner Donna Robertson was charged with animal cruelty after 44 dogs were found dead on her property. If the law was enacted, a representative could be asked to stand for those dogs. Licitra says once people are punished, then the law will act as a deterrent.

“Any time there is a punishment for a crime there is going to be deterrence,” he says.

Desmond’s Law has been introduced in the state Assembly. It's expected to reach committee for discussion in the near future.

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