The full Assembly on Thursday approved legislation (ACR-25) sponsored by Assembly Democrats Troy Singleton, Reed Gusciora, Daniel Benson, Andrew Zwicker and Joe Danielsen that would overturn the Christie administration's decision to resurrect a cruel and inhumane hunting practice that the Legislature outlawed over 30 years ago.
"This is yet another blatant attempt by the Christie administration to circumvent existing state law," said Singleton (D-Burlington). "Enclosed foothold traps are cruel and inhumane. The Legislature made that clear in 1984 when it passed a law prohibiting the use of steel-jaw, leg-hold animal traps in order to improve animal welfare and prevent extreme cruelty."
"This is more about politics than it is about New Jersey's fishing and gaming policies," said Gusciora (D-Mercer/Hunterdon). "This rule was first proposed when the Governor was pandering to right wing conservatives in battleground states during the presidential primary. We're not going to take a step backwards as a state in the wake of his failed presidential aspirations. This practice is barbaric, plain and simple."
The legislation was first introduced last fall in response to a new rule adopted at the time by the State Fish and Game Council that allows the use of "enclosed foothold traps." The measure was approved by the Assembly but failed to gain Senate approval before the legislative session expired in January. The measure was then reintroduced earlier this year.
"Like the steel-jaw, leg-hold trap the Legislature outlawed, enclosed foothold traps clutch the limb of an animal with a clamping force that inflicts trauma, restricts blood flow, and results in significant injury to the animal in a cruel and inhumane way," said Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex). "This is a cruel practice, period, and our state should not turn the clock back by employing this method of inhumanity."
The proposal went into effect last November despite attempts by a coalition of conservation, environmental and animal welfare groups to appeal to the courts for a stay. The lawmakers noted that fur traders have been lobbying for use of the enclosed foothold traps.
"In addition to being cruel and inhumane, these traps also pose a threat to unsuspecting people and their pets, as well as many other species that are dexterous and can be wrongly captured by these traps," said Zwicker (D-Somerset/Mercer/ Middlesex/Hunterdon). "This inhumane method goes against the will of the Legislature and should never have been resurrected in the first place."
"The Legislature made its intent very clear several decades ago when it outlawed these types of cruel hunting traps," said Danielsen (D-Middlesex/Somerset). "The vast majority of New Jerseyans frown upon these inhumane tactics and our laws should reflect that."
Under New Jersey's Constitution (Article V, Section IV, paragraph 6), the Legislature may review any rule or regulation adopted or proposed by an administrative agency to determine if it is consistent with the intent of the Legislature as expressed in the language of the statute which the rule or regulation is intended to implement.
Upon a finding that the rule or regulation is not consistent with legislative intent, the Legislature may transmit the finding to the Governor and the head of the appropriate agency or agencies. Once the legislation that was advanced today receives approval from the full Assembly and Senate it will be transmitted to the Chair of the Fish and Game Council and the Commissioner of Environmental Protection.
The Fish and Game Council and the Commissioner of Environmental Protection will then have 30 days to amend or withdraw the adopted rules and regulations or the Legislature may, by passage of another concurrent resolution, exercise its authority under the Constitution to invalidate the rules and regulations in whole or in part.
The measure was approved 51-10-11 by the Assembly and now heads to the Senate for consideration.