Bill Creates Third Degree Criminal Offense for Trafficking Stolen Pets
Legislation sponsored Senator Christopher “Kip” Bateman establishing strong criminal penalties for trafficking stolen pets has passed the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee.
Sen. Kip Bateman’s bill creates a third degree criminal offense for trafficking stolen pets. There is no current law addressing dealing in stolen animals. (©iStock.com)
“Losing your pet is traumatic enough, but fearing that they might be suffering at a puppy mill, dog fighting, or subjected to medical research is more than any loving caregiver can bare,” Senator Bateman (R-16) said. “We have to do something to deter people from committing this heartless crime and the penalties established under current law are not nearly strong enough to do so. Anyone who is cruel enough to steal and deal an innocent animal must be subjected to the harshest punishment possible.”
Senator Bateman’s bill, S-332, 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 at puppy mills, medical research, and dog fighting. Under S-332, anyone who traffics a stolen pet would automatically be guilty of a third degree crime.
Although existing State law addresses trafficking stolen property in general, there is no law establishing a specific crime for trafficking stolen animals. Under the law, stolen animals would be considered “stolen property,” which means that the penalties would be determined by the animal’s “pet store value.” Usually, this only ranges from a disorderly persons offense up to a second degree crime.
Under S-332, 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 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.
S-332 has passed the Assembly and now heads to the Senate floor for final legislative approval. Tips for protecting your animal from pet theft can be found here.
“Treating a beloved animal companion as stolen property ignores the fact that they are truly members of the family. You cannot put a price on the love we have for our pets,” Senator Bateman (R-16) said. “It is our responsibility as legislators to identify where the law is lacking and make the corrections necessary to ensure families get the justice they deserve. That is exactly what this bill does and I am hopeful it will swiftly be signed into law.”
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