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January 10, 2019

New Jersey bill would allow some pets to have an attorney in courtrooms

The legislation would only cover cats and dogs, and supporters hope it brings more attention to animal abuse cases

Odd News Animals
dog Schuylkill River park Thom Carroll/PhillyVoice

A dog at the Schuylkill River dog park in Philadelphia.

Legislation proposed in the New Jersey Senate would give abused animals an attorney in court when their abusers face a judge. 

If the bill passes, attorneys and law students would be able to give the animals voices through pro bono work — meaning they would be able to volunteer their time to defend the animals' rights and best interests in a case. 

The attorneys' responsibilities would include monitoring and attending hearings, consulting with individuals with related information on the animal's welfare, reviewing records on the case, and presenting recommendations to a judge.

The bill's supporters say, too often, animal abuse cases do not end in a trial or conviction, and among those that do, the punishments imposed on offenders skew far closer to the minimum end of the sentencing range. In an effort to bring more attention to these cases and impose harsher sentences for abusers, the animal attorneys would fight for the rights of pets — but exclusively cats and dogs. 

According to the New Jersey Senate, the bill was proposed by Assemblywoman Annette Quijano, a Democrat representing Elizabeth in Union County. 

The idea is based on legislation in Connecticut called "Desmond's Law" that was the first of its kind imposed in 2016. A similar bill was proposed in New York on Wednesday.

Following enactment, the bill would take immediate effect. 

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