New Jersey Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals v. New Jersey Department of Agriculture

955 A.2d 886, 196 N.J. 366 (2008)

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New Jersey Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals v. New Jersey Department of Agriculture

New Jersey Supreme Court
955 A.2d 886, 196 N.J. 366 (2008)

Facts

In 1996 the New Jersey legislature authorized the New Jersey Department of Agriculture (the department) (defendant) to promulgate regulations concerning standards for the humane treatment of domestic livestock. Among the regulations promulgated was a safe harbor exemption, under which routine husbandry practices were deemed humane. The department received several public comments expressing concern that many routine husbandry practices were inhumane. In response, the department changed the definition of routine husbandry practices in the final regulation to those techniques commonly taught by veterinary schools and agricultural agents. The department did not research whether the institutions taught humane practices. The department also promulgated regulations deeming specific practices as humane, such as tail docking cattle and certain crating and transportation methods. The department also deemed as humane certain castration methods and the debeaking and toe-trimming of poultry if performed by a knowledgeable individual in a way that minimizes pain. The department was able to support some, but not all, of its decisions with credible evidence. The New Jersey Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (the society) sued the department. The society argued that the department had acted arbitrarily and capriciously by failing to develop workable humane-treatment standards. The society claimed that the safe harbor exemption allowed inhumane routine practices to continue and that certain standards promulgated were too broad to enforce. The society also argued that some of the practices the department deemed as humane were not. The New Jersey Appellate Division found that the department had failed to comply with the legislature’s authorization and held that the regulations were invalid. The matter was appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Hoens, J.)

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