May 30, 2023
Efforts to create a New Jersey license plate that honors the state animal, the horse, have reached a galloping speed.
The license plate would feature an emblem identifying the horse as New Jersey's state animal; proceeds would benefit horse welfare and therapeutic riding programs, according to legislation unanimously passed in the state Assembly last week. The bill must pass the state Senate before heading to Gov. Phil Murphy to sign into law.
The horse, which is included on the state seal, was named the state animal in 1977. New Jersey has more horses per square mile than any other state, and the U.S. Equestrian Team is headquartered in Gladstone, Somerset County.
Application fees for the state animal plate would cost $50; annual renewal fees would cost $10. Proceeds would be deposited into a fund that would be used to support the health and wellbeing of horses. It also would provide fund therapeutic riding programs for residents with certain health conditions, including veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Therapeutic riding is an equine-assisted activity that has cognitive, physical, emotional and social benefits. The therapy has been shown to be effective for people with PTSD, autism, dementia, muscular dystrophy, learning challenges and brain injuries.
The bill was introduced in January 2022. It cleared its second reading in the Assembly Transportation Committee on May 11 before passing the Assembly on Thursday by a 73-0 vote.
"The monies generated from the sale of this license plate will not only help our beautiful state animal, the horse, but also people with special needs and veterans who benefit from programs that combine riding and therapy," said Assemblyman Kevin J. Rooney, a Republican from Bergen County and one of the bill's three prime sponsors. "Deserving residents experiencing disabling mental and physical health conditions will be able to experience a horse's healing gifts thanks to this bill."
This wouldn't be the first license plate New Jersey has issued to raise money for furry friends. The state also offers the "Animal Friendly" special plates, which help fund the N.J. Department of Health's Animal Population Control Program, and the "Conserve Wildlife" plates that benefit the state's Endangered and Nongame Species Program.
A similar bill to issue State Animal license plates was introduced in 2018, passing the Assembly Transportation and Independent Authorities Committee the next year. That bill passed the Assembly in early 2020, but died in the state Senate.
Should the State Animal plates move forward this time, 500 drivers would have to complete applications for the plates before they would be produced. The plates would be discontinued if the average cost to produce each plate surpassed the $50 application fee during two consecutive years.