(TRENTON) - An Assembly panel on Thursday approved legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Troy Singleton and Reed Gusciora 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 presidential politics than it is about New Jersey's fishing and gaming policies," said Gusciora (D-Mercer/Hunterdon). "We're not going to take a step backwards as a state so the governor can pander to right wing conservatives in battleground primary states. This practice is barbaric, plain and simple. This is New Jersey and we're better than that."
The legislation comes in response to a new rule adopted by the State Fish and Game Council in August that allows the use of "enclosed foothold traps," which, like the outlawed, steel-jaw, leg-hold animal trap, clutches 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.
Additionally, the traps pose a threat to unsuspecting people and their pets, as well as many other species, such as mink, river otter, and domestic cats, which are equally as dexterous as target species such as raccoon and opossum, and therefore can also be wrongly captured by these traps.
The proposal went into effect in 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.
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 bill was approved today by the Assembly Regulatory Oversight Committee chaired by Gusciora.