TRENTON, N.J.-A draft of the state's Animal Welfare Task Force report obtained by DVM Newsmagazine prior to publication has New Jersey Veterinary Medical Association (NJVMA) officials reeling.
TRENTON, N.J.—A draft of the state's Animal Welfare Task Force report obtained by DVM Newsmagazine prior to publication has New Jersey Veterinary Medical Association (NJVMA) officials reeling.
According to the report, the task force, charged by outgoing Gov. James McGreevey with overhauling the state's outdated animal welfare system, recommends all municipalities employ an animal cruelty investigator, prohibit banning the feeding of feral cats and outlaw euthanasia as a response to shelter overcrowding.
Furthermore, the task force, reportedly stacked with animal rights activists and attorneys, seeks to require a medical diagnosis before euthanizing animals, mandate microchips at shelters and institute teams of county prosecutors trained to handle animal abuse cases.
Rick Alampi, executive director of the New Jersey Veterinary Medical Association (NJVMA) says he's frustrated the group was not involved.
"I just got back from a meeting with the task force chair and vice chair, and I hammered down on them," he says. "As the state representation for the profession, I feel like we were predisposed to feel defensive, and if asked, would probably not have supported a number of the issues. We're not a stakeholder in this process, and that makes this stressful."
Dr. Nancy Halpern, director of the Division of Animal Health, New Jersey Department of Agriculture, was one of three veterinarians on the 28-member task force. Although the recommendations, if adopted, would likely impact her office, Halpern refused to comment on the report before its public release.
Dr. Faye Sorhage, a state public health veterinarian with the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services, and Gordon Stull, a private practitioner at a shelter in Tabernacle, N.J., were the only other representatives of the profession on the task force. Sorhage echoed Halpern in her refusal to discuss the report, and Stull did not return phone calls from DVM Newsmagazine seeking comment.
It's yet to be determined what impact, if any, the task force recommendations will have on the inner workings of New Jersey's animal welfare system. McGreevey, disgraced by scandal in August when he resigned over a gay affair, was scheduled at presstime to exit office Nov. 15. Whether or not democratic state Senate President Richard Codey, a career politician picking up the governor's seat, champions the report remains to be seen.
Alampi expects to draft a response to the document as soon as it's officially released.
"I think the number one thing that will come out of this is a bill to rewrite the New Jersey animal cruelty laws," Alampi says. "We would certainly have an interest in that as it's something we would have to review very carefully."