KIYC: Bill advances to strip NJSPCA of law enforcement authority
A state Senate committee has unanimously advanced a bill to strip law enforcement authority from the New Jersey Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and the bill’s sponsor credits a yearlong Kane In Your Corner investigation for alerting him that something needed to be done.
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Ray Lesniak (D – Elizabeth), would allow the NJSPCA to continue to exist as a nonprofit, but without any authority. County prosecutors and sheriff’s departments would be charged with investigating animal cruelty law instead.
“I looked at this [issue] very, very closely and the only way to do it was just to abolish the NJSPCA and put it in the hands of law enforcement,” Lesniak says.
An NJSPCA representative, Tim Martin, spoke in opposition to the bill, saying “We believe we can still do the job,” and adding the group “would welcome the opportunity to have a closer relationship with the state and more oversight.”
But speaker after speaker applauded Lesniak’s legislation, with some calling it long overdue. Brian Hackett, New Jersey director of the Humane Society of the United States, says “We're relying on a system that was created in 1868. It's outdated, inefficient and in need of updating.”
Lesniak’s legislation comes after a yearlong Kane In Your Corner investigation exposed problems at the NJSPCA, including hundreds of cases sitting, apparently uninvestigated, with many still assigned to officers who'd left the agency. The group also spent six figures a year on contracts with companies owned by its officers and trustees. In October, a report from the state Commission of Investigation found many of the same issues first exposed by Kane In Your Corner.
“News 12 and your reporting brought this to my attention and the public's attention and really got us moving to really make sure we did it right,” Lesniak says. “Thank you for your work on this.”
Lesniak says the bill has bipartisan support and he expects it to pass. It could be one of the last big pieces of legislation of his career. Lesniak will retire from the Legislature in January, after 40 years in office.