An ambitious three-bill package that would protect animals from abuse and inhumane conditions, help fight crimes against service dogs and help ward off dog and cat overpopulation was approved by the full Assembly on Monday.

The various bills are sponsored by Assembly Democratic lawmakers Nelson T. Albano, Matthew W. Milam, Annette Quijano, Reed Gusciora, John J. Burzichelli and Connie Wagner.

The first bill (A-832), sponsored by Albano, Milam and Quijano and approved by a vote of 77-0-1, would create new crimes for purposefully killing, maiming or interfering with service dogs and other animals that help persons with disabilities and law enforcement.

“Overwhelming evidence indicates that people who cruelly abuse or torture animals are very likely to act violently toward humans,” said Albano (D-Atlantic/Cape May/Cumberland). “I see these bills as a compassionate step forward in our treatment of animals that offer us not only their friendship and companionship, but in many cases help drive our agricultural economy.”

“The harsh reality is that people who abuse animals also often engage in other crimes associated with violence, and will often continue to engage in violent offenses even after serving jail time,” said Milam (D-Atlantic/Cape May/Cumberland). “Animal abuse, quite simply, cannot be taken lightly.”

The second bill (A-1083), sponsored by Gusciora, Milam, Albano and Wagner and approved by a vote of 78-0, would amend animal cruelty law to clarify that failure to provide minimum care is a criminal offense and a civil offense under the state’s animal cruelty laws.

The third bill (A-3205), sponsored by Burzichelli and approved by a vote of 57-15-4, would require that no cat or dog be released from a shelter or pound in the state unless it has been sterilized, unless an owner of a cat or dog who is reclaiming it submits an exemption application to the shelter or pound.

The bills head to the Senate for final approval.

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