By David Levinsky
TRENTON — Legislation inspired by a Burlington County animal cruelty case still has a chance to become law.
The bill, called “Moose’s Law” in honor of a Delran family’s dead Labrador retriever, is one of several dozen measures scheduled to be voted on by the New Jersey Senate on Monday during its final voting day before the end of the current legislative session.
It would give judges discretion to bar people convicted of animal cruelty in any state from obtaining or owning pets or from working in animal care jobs, such as veterinarian offices, dog training centers, rescue groups, kennels or groomers.
The measure, which is sponsored by Sen. Diane Allen and Assemblymen Herb Conaway and Troy Singleton, was written in response to the 2012 animal cruelty case involving Moose, who went missing May 31 after jumping a fence outside his owner’s Delran home. The dog’s body was returned more than a month later by Delran resident Jacqueline Lockard, who claimed to have found the family’s pet beneath a tank outside the American Legion Post No. 146 in Riverside.
Delran police said an investigation later revealed that Lockard, who was a self-proclaimed dog trainer, found the dog alive shortly after its disappearance and that she had given the animal to a Pennsylvania family who agreed to pay her to train it.
The dog died after Lockard left it inside her car on a hot July afternoon, police said.
Lockard later pleaded guilty to theft and animal cruelty offenses, one related to her failure to provide proper shelter for her own dog. She was sentenced to two years of probation and 150 hours of community service. She was also barred from having contact with domesticated animals in New Jersey.
The bill was approved by the Assembly in March, but it remained stuck before the Senate Economic Growth Committee until Thursday, when the committee met for the final time of the current legislative session and voted to release it to the Senate floor.
A committee voted unanimously despite concerns from the New Jersey Bar Association, which warned that most animal cruelty convictions are not as clearly defined as Moose’s death.
“People get the impression all prosecutions by the SPCA rise to that level of horrible and undeniable cruelty,” said Gina Calogero, a lawyer who chairs the bar association’s animal law committee. “(But) they can be very low-level offenses.”
Bills not approved by both the Assembly and Senate by the end of the session Tuesday must be reintroduced and sent back to legislative committees. Allen and Singleton were optimistic about the bill’s chances of becoming law.
“Moose’s death was a senseless act and a tragedy for his loving owners,” said Allen, R-7th of Edgewater Park, on Thursday after the Economic Growth Committee released it. “With this legislation, hopefully Moose’s story will now help to protect other pets from handlers or owners who have a propensity for abuse.”
Moose’s owner, Sissy Workman, was also encouraged after the bill was posted for a vote Monday.
“I’m ecstatic. … It’s been a long emotional year,” Workman said Friday after the bill was listed on the Senate’s Monday voting schedule. “Hopefully, everything will go perfectly and it will be signed into law.”