NJ lawmaker moves to increase penalties for stealing then selling pets

 Instances of valuable dogs being stolen to be resold or sent to dog-fighting rings have prompted legislation for tougher penalties in New Jersey. (<a href=http://www.shutterstock.com/pic-306892937/stock-photo-white-samoyed-puppy-dog-relax-at-garden.html?src=14vg4mohJ0LgoBkCILt18A-1-61Photo via ShutterStock) " title="shutterstock_306892937" width="640" height="360"/>

Instances of valuable dogs being stolen to be resold or sent to dog-fighting rings have prompted legislation for tougher penalties in New Jersey. (Photo via ShutterStock)

A New Jersey lawmaker wants to make the theft and resale of pets a third-degree crime punishable by up to five years in prison and a $15,000 fine.

Sen. Nick Scutari introduced the legislation in response to the trend of “dog flipping.”

“It’s not a problem that is widespread, but it’s increasing right now. We see that there have been increased incidents of domestic animal theft, mainly dogs,” said Scutari, D-Union. “There have been instances where these animals have been stolen and then placed into dog fighting rings or resold if they’re of certain breeds.”

Current law treats stolen pets as stolen property. Scutari said that makes it hard to determine their value and the appropriate punishment for the theft.

“We recognize that domestic animals are part of our family, and it’s not just property,” he said. “It ascribes to it a certain level of morality in our communities and gives people a sense of fairness if their animals are stolen and fenced.”

He said a new law could deter animal thieves and prevent the traumatic effect the loss of an animal has on pet owners.

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