TRENTON, NJ - Gov. Chris Christie has signed legislation sponsored by Sen.Christopher “Kip” Bateman (R-16) establishing pet trafficking as a third-degree crime.
“No one should be able to sell an innocent animal to a medical research facility or a puppy mill and walk away with a slap on the wrist,” Bateman said. “I am pleased to see that the law finally recognizes that our pets are family, not pieces of stolen property. The penalties we have created for pet trafficking will ensure that anyone who is cruel enough to steal and deal a pet gets the punishment they deserve.”
The new law establishes criminal penalties for an increasingly pervasive practice known as “dog flipping,” where pets are stolen and sold for a variety of reasons, including breeding, medical research, and dog fighting.
Prior to the Governor’s July 21st signing of the bill, there was no law establishing a specific crime for trafficking stolen animals. Under previous law, stolen animals were considered “stolen property,” which meant that the penalties would be determined by the animal’s “pet store value.” Usually, that would only range from a disorderly persons offense up to a second degree crime.
Under Bateman's legislation, anyone that traffics, initiates, organizes, plans, finances, directs, manages, or supervises trafficking in stolen domestic animals would automatically be guilty of a third degree crime.
Third-degree crimes are punishable by a fine of up to $15,000 and a term of imprisonment of three to five years, or both.
Stealing domestic animals is a crime on the rise in the United States, with the country experiencing 31 percent increase in pet thefts in just one year, according to the most recent statistics available from the American Kennel Club.