New Jersey lawmakers gave final approval to a bill stripping the New Jersey Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals of its police powers after a series of reports alleging mismanagement and dysfunction.
The state Assembly voted 63-0 with 4 abstentions to turn over the enforcement of animal cruelty laws to local police and county prosecutors, a measure approved by the Senate in December.
The bill now heads to Gov. Chris Christie‘s desk.
The NJSPCA is a nonprofit granted police powers to investigate animal abuse in New Jersey, which supporters say frees up local police to focus on other crimes and saves taxpayers money.
But the group was the subject of a scathing October report from the State Commission of Investigation, which described the NJSPCA as a rogue, private police force run by “gun-carrying wannabe cops.”
The new bill hands over jurisdiction to county prosecutors and local police, who would have to designate “humane law enforcement” officers and prosecutors. It would allow some counties to continue to delegate enforcement to county SPCA chapters, which would be under the supervision of the prosecutor’s office.
A spokesman for the NJSCPA, Matt Stanton, said the measure “will place unnecessary financial strains” on local police and prosecutors calling criticism of the agency “unconscionable and misguided.”
The SCI report and a series of stories from News 12 New Jersey last year highlighted allegations of financial mismanagement and long delays responding to calls reporting animal abuse.
In a last-ditch effort to stop the bill, one officer encouraged members to write lawmakers using fake names expressing opposition to the legislation, according to News 12.
Stanton said the group’s leaders “urge the governor to veto the bill.”
Key sponsor Sen. Raymond Lesniak, D-Union, said he worked closely with the Attorney General’s Office and county prosecutors to draft the bill and “would be quite a surprised” if Christie vetoed the measure.
“We’re going to have accountability in the enforcement of animal cruelty laws, where virtually none of it exists now,” Lesniak said Monday.
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Read the original article at NJ.com True Jersey