In New Jersey You Can’t Trap and Shoot a Cat Just Because it is on Your Property

This is a specific criminal case which confirms that a property owner cannot take the law into his own hands and trap a cat which he believes is trespassing on his property and then shoot the cat dead, without punishment. People search for answers to ‘Can I shoot a cat on my property, New Jersey?’

New Jersey's Statehouse

Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles:- Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

I am writing this brief article because it represents a very typical scenario and one which cat haters often, conveniently misrepresent. They will normally claim that they can shoot to kill cats on their property. They vehemently claim that they have the right to do this as landowners but they haven’t. It’s a constant battle to get the message across. However, I feel that it is a battle worth fighting because there are misconceptions about ‘trespassing’ cats both domestic and feral.

The case concerns a man, Tom Brown, 55, of Newark, New Jersey. He trapped a cat because it was on his property. He shot the cat. He threw the cat into a dumpster. A neighbor witnessed it and reported him to the authorities. He was visited by Animal Control officer, Toby Wills.

Toby Wills asked Brown to look inside the dumpster but he wouldn’t do it. He said that there were things in there that he didn’t want the Animal Control officer to see.

Eventually, Brown admitted to trapping and shooting the cat, it is reported on the Newark Advocate website.

As a consequence Brown has been charged with a first-degree misdemeanor. The charge would have been filed under the New Jersey animal welfare laws which are very typical of those across all the states of America. It’s a crime in New Jersey to abuse animals including killing an animal needlessly. New Jersey has decent animal protection laws.

Although I can’t find the exact name of the statute involved, I do know that it is clause 4:22-17. Cruelty; disorderly persons offense….

“A person who shall needlessly kill a living animal or creature… Shall be guilty of a disorderly persons offense, and shall be fined not less than $250 nor more than $1000, or be imprisoned for a term of not more than six months with both in the discretion of the court.”.

I’m surprised that the offense is described as a “disorderly persons offence”. I think that description undermines the true nature of this crime which is animal cruelty. Normally a disorderly persons offence is concerned with people who are inebriated in public places causing disturbances to other people.

It is reported that the cat was feral. If the cat was owned by somebody that person would have a claim against Brown in the civil courts for damages. The state also allows civil lawsuits based on animal cruelty requiring the violator to pay up to $5000 plus costs (N.J. Stat. §§ 4:22-17, 4:22-26.).

Note 1: I use ‘offence’ (US) and ‘offense’ (UK) interchangeably as they have the same meaning.

Note 2: Cats hating trolls cannot comment.

2 thoughts on “In New Jersey You Can’t Trap and Shoot a Cat Just Because it is on Your Property”

  1. If New Jersey uses this “disorderly conduct,” then what do the other states use, Michael? What does England use when a domestic feline, feral or otherwise, is killed by a civilian?
    This is our job as citizens of any state, country or city to define current day issues a lot more specifically? Based on current needs. Is this what we need to do? I’m asking, because I care.

    • Hi Caroline. The other states use similar law to UK law with respect to animal protection. The charge is filed under animal cruelty; so, for example, a person would be charged with an animal cruelty misdemeanour or felony as opposed to, in this case, a public disorder offence.

      As I mentioned, I find it rather peculiar that New Jersey categorises animal cruelty under “public disorder”. This appears to be the case unless I have missed something. Of course, animal cruelty is a form of public disorder but it needs to have its own category. It should not fall under an umbrella term such as public disorder.

      It is interesting to note too that I could not find the actual statute. Normally I’m able to find animal cruelty statutes with respect to the states of the USA. The difficulty in finding the statute is perhaps because, as mentioned, animal cruelty is listed under public disorder.


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