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New Jersey's Responsible Dog Ownership Act Could Require Owners Of Large Dogs To Have Fences

LINCOLN PARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) - If you own a dog in New Jersey, you could soon be forced to put up a fence around your property.

That's if some lawmakers get their way.

As CBS2's Nick Caloway reports, after a 3-year-old boy was mauled to death by pit bulls in his back yard in Carteret in March, there's a new push for legislation to prevent similar attacks. A group of New Jersey lawmakers introduced a bill that would require owners of large dogs to install fencing.

At All Creatures Great and Small Animal Hospital in Fairfield, some pet owners resisted the idea.

"I can't get most people to call me back to even put up a deck or anything like that. So to be fined for not having a fence would definitely be a burden," said Donna Sheerin of West Caldwell.

It would be a huge burden for low income families to come up with thousands of dollars to erect a new fence.

The bill would also create fines for recklessly allowing a dog to roam without a leash.

Tanya Kudlacik and Stephanie DeVivo cofounded Brick City Rescue, a foster-based dog rescue group.

"I don't think that owning a fence makes a dog owner responsible," DeVivo said.

She says fence requirements and fines will force some families to give up their pets.

"So they're going to be dumping their dogs in shelters, or giving dogs away, or euthanizing them," DeVivo said.

The bill's main sponsor, Assemblyman Benjie Wimberly, a Democrat from Paterson, did not respond to our requests for comment, but earlier this month he defended the proposal in a committee meeting, citing public safety.

"I am a dog owner and have been for most of my life. But you cannot put the price on a human in this position," he said.

Pet advocates Caloway spoke to said education would be more effective.

"Teaching people to be a responsible pet owner and educating them would be more helpful than just putting a fence around a yard," Kudlacik said.

A slew of animal advocacy groups in New Jersey and nationwide have come out against this proposed law, and now the legislation is under review by the Assembly speaker.

"Protecting pets, the public, and particularly our kids and vulnerable neighbors has been the goal of this legislation. To ensure everyone is and can be responsibly protected, the speaker is moving the Responsible Dog Ownership Act for full Assembly consideration on Thursday," a spokesperson for the speaker said.

Nick Caloway contributed to this report. 

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