N.J. Legislature has finally gone to the dogs

Scooter Robertson, a miniature poodle is securely harnessed. (Elizabeth Robertson / Staff Photographer)

Have New Jersey’s nanny-staters finally run out of ways to overregulate the lives of people? The question has to be asked now that at least one state legislator has moved on to other mammals.

Assemblywoman Grace Spencer (D., Essex) has introduced the nation’s toughest seat-belt law — for dogs. With nothing even close to it in another state, Spencer’s bill threatens to catapult New Jersey into the vanguard of canine micro-legislation. And given all the pictures of them smoking and playing poker, one wonders if vice laws for dogs are far behind.

Saturday Night Live fans who remember the disastrous adventures of “Toonces the Driving Cat” needn’t worry: The bill also applies to “Felis catus or Felis domesticus” — whether they’re driving or not.

It will surprise few to learn that this bill was suggested by fourth graders. No, really: Spencer got the idea at a school in her Newark district — a place that, incidentally, offers plenty of policy challenges related to humans.

Meanwhile, proving the frivolous legislation multiplier effect, Assemblyman Jay Webber (R., Morris) — allegedly alarmed that transporting unharnessed pets can be construed as animal cruelty under current law — has floated a bill to clarify that it is not.

Luckily, Spencer’s dog may not hunt. State Sen. Raymond Lesniak (D., Union) told the Star-Ledger that his chamber has “bigger fish to fry” — presumably before his colleagues turn their attention to aquatic animal safety. It’s a reminder that lawmakers should show restraint before they mandate it.