About The NJSPCA
The New Jersey Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (NJSPCA) was created in 1868 and is the second oldest SPCA in the country. It was established as a law enforcement agency responsible for investigating and, as appropriate, charging persons believed to have committed criminal animal abuse and/or neglect. NJSPCA officers are Police Training Commission Certified and authorized to carry weapons and hold statewide police powers specifically with respect to animal abuse and neglect violations or offenses.
NJSPCA’s Authority, its Limits, and Training
NJSPCA officers and agents respond to calls from individuals about alleged animal abuse and neglect as well as allegations of abuse and neglect that come to our attention through other means, including the public and media. However, it’s important to remember that the NJSPCA, like any other law enforcement agency, does not actually prosecute alleged offenders. NJSPCA officers and agents investigate potential cases of abuse and neglect, prepare reports and charge alleged violators with offenses as appropriate based on their findings. The actual prosecution of persons charged with offenses is the province and responsibility of state, county or municipal prosecutors depending on the alleged offense and location, and the court system. The authority of the NJSPCA as a law enforcement agency originates from the original 1868 legislation, updated in 2006, and gives our officers and agents the authority to enforce New Jersey statutes known as Title IV. NJSPCA Humane Law Enforcement officers are trained at Police Training Commission Certified Police Academies in New Jersey and receive extensive firearms, legal and arrest techniques training that is identical to any NJ state or municipal police trainee. NJSPCA agents, as opposed to NJSPCA officers, are trained and authorized to investigate and write summonses, but do not have arrest authority and do not carry firearms. Both officers and agents receive specialized training in animal abuse, investigation, and care.
Many NJSPCA officers and agents are also certified and licensed NJ Animal Control Officers (ACOs) or certified and licensed NJ Animal Cruelty Investigators (ACIs). However, ACOs do not have the same level of law enforcement authority nor may they carry weapons. Certified Animal Cruelty Investigators (ACI’s) that have been appointed by a NJ municipality have law enforcement authority but are limited in jurisdiction by the appointing municipality compared to the statewide jurisdiction of the NJSPCA.
Education and Animal Welfare Advocacy
In addition, the NJSPCA is committed to educating the public on responsible pet ownership and humane animal practices. Our officers and agents give generously of their personal time to hold and/or participate in dozens of public events, public and private seminars, school visits, and other activities every year across NJ.
County SPCA Chapters
Some New Jersey counties— Atlantic, Bergen, Burlington, Cumberland, Middlesex, Monmouth, Somerset, Passaic and Union Counties— maintain subordinate county charters. In those counties, the NJSPCA maintains concurrent jurisdiction with the county SPCA and works with municipal and county prosecutors to enforce the law. In counties where there is no SPCA Chapter, or where the Chapter has no trained and sworn SPCA officers, the NJSPCA is responsible for providing humane law enforcement services.
Unlike all other law enforcement agencies in the state of New Jersey, the NJSPCA receives no funding from the state, from any county or any municipality. We are uniquely funded solely by donations, grants, bequests, fines levied and collected, and dues from the County SPCA chapters based on those counties’ SPCA Charters. Our officers and agents receive very little compensation—some take none—and are in the business of professional humane law enforcement because they care about animals and their quality of life.
Although NJSPCA maintains a headquarters in New Brunswick, NJSPCA officers and agents typically operate out of their own homes and offices. Most NJSPCA officers and agents have a fulltime job, and most of what they do in humane law enforcement amounts to donated time. Moreover, the NJSPCA does not own or operate an animal shelter, and depends on relationships with and available space in existing municipal shelters to provide safe harbor and care for animals that we take into our care as a result of our investigations and responses.
Oversight by the Board
The NJSPCA is governed by a Board of Trustees that includes 9 members elected by the broad membership of the State Society, three members elected from the county charters and three members appointed by the Governor of New Jersey. The Governor’s appointees must be confirmed by the NJ Senate. The Board members themselves create and appoint committees such as the Law Committee, Membership Committee and Finance Committee, and they appoint a Chief Humane Law Enforcement Officer (The Chief of the Humane Police Division) as well as Board President, Vice President , Secretary and Treasurer. Board members’ terms are six (6) years (Governor-appointee terms are five years) and Board members, except Governor appointees, may run for re-election. Of the 12 elected trustees, at least one is a member of a County Society for the prevention of cruelty to animals in the northern part of the State, at least one is a member of a County Society for the prevention of cruelty to animals in the central part of the State, and at least one shall also be a member of a County Society for the prevention of cruelty to animals in the southern part of the State. This ensures representation from across the State.
The names and email addresses of Board Members and Senior officers of the Humane Law Enforcement Division are listed on the NJSPCA Website.
NJSPCA Board of Trustees meetings are held on the second Tuesday of each month except July and August, and are open to the public. Both NJSPCA members and the public are given time to speak at the end of each meeting. Meeting and other event schedules can also be found on the NJSPCA website.
Involvement of State and Local Health Departments in Animal Shelters and Facilities
The New Jersey Department of Health’s (NJDOH) Office of Animal Welfare does have some specific authority to enforce standards and regulations pertaining to the proper and sanitary operation of animal shelters. Licensed shelters (incomplete list) are listed here and Registered Animal Rescue organizations are listed here (also incomplete list). State law grants the NJDOH the authority to inspect those facilities.
However, local health Departments inspect and approve animal facilities (shelters, pet shops, kennels and pounds) for annual licensure by the municipality. The municipality in which the facility is located is responsible for issuing the license. All licenses must be renewed each year. The licensing year is from July 1st to June 30th. The State does not license these facilities.
In order for municipalities to issue licenses for the operation of shelters, pet shops, kennels and pounds, the facilities must be inspected by the local health department and found in compliance with all applicable laws, rules and ordinances. The requirements for sanitary operation of animal facilities are listed in the State rules (N.J.A.C. 8:23A-1.1 through 1.12), which expire in 2021.
The municipality in which the facility is located can revoke the license to operate on recommendation from the State Department of Health or the local health department for failure to comply with the State laws and regulations, after the facility owner has been afforded a hearing by either the State or local health department. In these cases, the NJSPCA may or may not get involved, depending on the situation.
If you have a concern regarding the sanitary condition of a shelter, pet shop, kennels or pounds, you can contact the NJDOH at 609-826-4872 or 609-826-5964. You can also contact the appropriate local agency. A list of agencies is posted here. A comprehensive list of New Jersey animal-related contacts is located here.