New Jersey legislators -- a week after knocking it out of the park with the first U.S. law to entirely ban sales of ivory and rhino horn -- are taking aim at pet owners who want to tattoo or pierce their pets. A recently-introduced bill would make tattooing or piercing pets illegal and tantamount to animal cruelty.
"It's important to protect animals from those who see them not as living beings, but as a doll or a toy which they can play with, harm or discard," Carmelo Garcia, the bill's lead sponsor, tells The Star-Ledger.
The potential New Jersey law is modeled after a similar bill recently passed in New York, which is awaiting New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's signature.
There's no record of pierced or tattooed pets in New Jersey, but Garcia referred to the 2011 case of a Pennsylvania animal groomer who sold "gothic kittens" on eBay. Pennsylvania judges ruled that piercing kittens' necks, ears and bodies was animal cruelty.
The New Jersey law would still allow farmers to mark their animals for identification, although The Star Ledger reports that the bill does not make an exception for small ID tattoos on pets.
The ASPCA and other animal welfare organizations make an important distinction between a microchip or small tattoo used to identify a pet, versus turning a non-consenting animal to a piece of artwork. As part of the backlash against a Brooklyn artist who gave his dog a heart-shaped tattoo, the ASPCA released the following statement:
The ASPCA condones the use of tattooing for only identification purposes following spay or neuter surgery. This practice helps animal welfare professionals clearly identify animals that have been altered, thereby preventing unnecessary future surgeries. This painless procedure is performed by a licensed veterinarian or veterinary technician while the animal is under anesthesia. The marks are very small and have a specific purpose, which is to avoid inflicting undue pain and stress later if that animal is unknowingly brought in for a spay surgery a second time.
Tattooing an animal for the vain sake of joy and entertainment of the owner -- without any regard for the well-being of the animal -- is not at all comparable to the incident in question and is not something the ASPCA supports.
If you really want to celebrate your pet in ink, there's certainly nothing stopping you from getting a tattoo of your dog or cat.