Courtroom Animal Advocate Program Bill Passes New Jersey Senate
Bill allows volunteer attorneys to advocate for animal victims in criminal cruelty cases
TRENTON, NJ — A Courtroom Animal Advocate Program (CAAP) bill, S.2868/A.4533, which would allow law students and volunteer lawyers to advocate for animal victims in cruelty criminal cases, unanimously passed the New Jersey Senate. The bill is sponsored by Senator Nicholas Scutari and Assemblyman Raj Mukherji and endorsed by the Animal Legal Defense Fund.
“Animals are living, breathing creatures and these cases shouldn’t be treated lightly,” said Senator Scutari (D-Middlesex/Somerset/Union). “Animal crime victims need an advocate in their corner, providing a voice for them in the courtroom.”
“The unfortunate reality is that too many animal abusers go unpunished for their appalling and inhumane crimes simply because the victims lack an advocate,” says Assemblyman Raj Mukherji (D-Hudson). “This bill, modeled off a successful implementation in Connecticut, ensures that animal victims are given their day in court and animal abusers face justice for their unlawful actions.”
“Giving animals a dedicated advocate in the courtroom is critical to the legal system reaching fair outcomes and give victims a greater chance at achieving justice,” says Animal Legal Defense Fund Executive Director Stephen Wells. “We applaud the New Jersey State Senate for their unanimous vote in support of the Courtroom Animal Advocate Program bill and look forward to it moving in the Assembly.”
A.4533/S.2868 provides for an advocate in criminal cases concerning the welfare or care of an animal. Dozens of studies document the strong link between animal cruelty and violence against humans, particularly The Link between animal abuse and elder abuse, child abuse, and domestic violence. This link makes it critically important that cruelty toward animals be taken seriously by law enforcement, and by society at large. CAAP laws help ensure fair legal outcomes and prevent future abuse against animals and others from occurring.
In order to ensure there’s a strong volunteer base for a CAAP law, former New Jersey Senator Raymond J. Lesniak, is developing a pro bono organization to train attorneys and law students as Courtroom Animal Advocates. Founder of the Lesniak Institute for American Leadership, Senator Lesniak championed numerous protection bills during his time in office.
The CAAP bill now moves to the New Jersey Assembly for consideration.
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