Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division
New Jersey Soc. for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals v. New Jersey Dept. of Agriculture
2007 WL 486764 (N.J.Super.A.D.,2007)
This New Jersey case concerns several challenges to the adoption of livestock regulations by the state Department of Agriculture. Specifically, several animal welfare groups contended that several of the regulations were inhumane and in violation of the state’s legislative mandate to issue humane livestock standards. These regulations in question allowed exemptions for “routine animal husbandry practices,” including the forced molting of egg-laying hens, the extreme confinement of animals such that they may not turn around, the castration of animals without anesthesia, the forced feeding of ducks and geese for foie gras purposes, among many others. The Department countered that it consulted with both scientific and practical experts prior to implementing the regulations, and that it was in full compliance with the legislative mandate. The Superior Court of New Jersey, appellate division, agreed with the Department, holding that the challenged regulations are consistent with the agency's legislative mandate, and are neither arbitrary, nor unreasonable.
delivered the opinion of the court.
Opinion of the Court:
*1 Appellants, various individuals, animal protection and environmental groups, appeal the promulgation by respondent New Jersey Department of Agriculture (the Department) of regulations that establish standards for the care of domestic livestock. The subject regulations were promulgated in response to legislation enacted in 1996 directing the Department to issue standards regarding the humane care, treatment, raising, keeping, marketing and sale of domestic livestock. N.J.S.A. 4:22-16.1. In response to that legislative mandate, on May 5, 2003, the Department proposed a set of initial regulations, codified as N.J.A.C. 2:8-1.1 to -8 .7. 35 N.J.R. 1873(a) (May 5, 2003). On June 7, 2004, the Department adopted these regulations. 36 N.J.R. 2637(a) (June 7, 2004). That same day, based on the public comments it received and on its own review of the original proposed rules, the Department amended its proposed rules by re-proposing the definition of “severe” and “minor violations” and by clarifying the “routine husbandry practices” exemption. 36 N.J.R. 2586(a) (June 7, 2004). The amendments were adopted on July 5, 2005. 37 N.J.R. 2465(b).
*1 On July 20, 2004, appellants filed a timely notice of appeal challenging the adoption of these regulations. The amendments proposed in June 2004 were pending at that time; therefore, we permitted the appeal to be dismissed without prejudice and then reinstated when the amendments were adopted. Appellants filed a second notice of appeal on July 25, 2005.
*1 On April 3, 2006, the Department proposed certain amendments to the regulations regarding forced molting of birds. 38 N.J.R. 1491(a) (April 3, 2006). Those amendments were adopted on December 4, 2006. 38 N.J.R. 4991(a) (December 4, 2006).FN1
FN1. At oral argument, appellants withdrew their challenge to the original regulation regarding forced molting, N.J.A.C. 2:8-4.2(c)(3), indicating that the amended regulation addressed the concerns they had originally raised.
*1 On appeal, appellants assert that a substantial number of these regulations authorize industry practices that are not humane, and are in violation of the legislative command. Accordingly, they argue the regulations cannot be sustained. The regulations also include an exemption for routine husbandry practices, namely, those practices that are taught at veterinary schools and other agricultural institutions, which appellants claim are not humane. Finally, appellants argue the regulations impermissibly curtail the enforcement authority of the New Jersey Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), the entity charged with enforcing the animal cruelty code.
*1 We list all of appellants' arguments:
I. THE REGULATIONS IMPERMISSIBLY AUTHORIZE PRACTICES THAT ARE NOT “HUMANE.”
*1 A. The Practice of “Forced Molting” Egg-Laying Hens Is Not “Humane.”
*1 B. Confining Animals So That They May Not Even Turn Around Is Not “Humane.”
*1 1. Veal Crates And Tethering Of Veal Calves Are Not “Humane.”
*1 2. Sow Gestation Crates And Tethering Of Sows Is Not “Humane.”
*1 C. Permitting Animal Producers to Mutilate Livestock Without Limitations That Prevent Animals From Feeling Pain Is Not “Humane.”
*2 1. Tail Docking Animals Is Not “Humane.”
*2 2. Castrating Animals Without Anesthesia Or Other Restrictions Is Not “Humane.”
*2 3. “De-beaking” Chickens and Turkeys Without Anesthesia Or Other Restrictions Is not “Humane.”
*2 4. “Toe-trimming” Turkeys Is Not “Humane.”
*2 5. The Regulations' Requirement That Mutilations So Performed In A Way That “Minimizes Pain” Is Not A “Standard.”
*2 D. Transporting Emaciated And Downed Animals To Slaughter Is Not “Humane.”
II. THE “ROUTINE HUSBANDRY PRACTICES” EXEMPTION IS INCONSISTENT WITH N.J.S.A. 4:22-16.1 AND IS ARBITRARY AND CAPRICIOUS.
*2 A. DOA May Not Delegate Its Statutory Obligation To Develop “Humane” Standards.
*2 B. The “Routine Husbandry Practices” Exemption Fails To Set A “Standard.”
*2 C. The Exemption of “Routine Husbandry Practices” Impermissibly Permits Practices That Are Not “Humane.”
*2 1. The Manipulation of Inappropriate Feeding Regimes.
*2 a. Forced Feeding Of Ducks and Geese For Foie Gras.
*2 b. The Use of Genetic Selection Practices That Significantly Compromise Animal Welfare In Chickens and Turkeys.
III. THE ENFORCEMENT REGULATIONS ARE BEYOND THE SCOPE OF DOA'S STATUTORY AUTHORITY AND IMPERMISSIBLY INFRINGE LAW ENFORCEMENT'S EXISTING STATUTORY POWERS.
*2 A. DOA Cannot Regulate Enforcement Of The Cruelty Laws.
*2 B. The Enforcement Regulations Are Inconsistent With The Statutory Authority Of Law Enforcement And Are Unduly Burdensome.
*2 Essentially, appellants argue that the animal husbandry practices adopted by the Department cause unnecessary pain to the animals; that many of the challenged practices provide no benefit to the animal itself and instead only provide convenience to the particular farmer or producer; and that the regulations are not “science-based” and are therefore arbitrary. Accordingly, they contend that the regulations violate the legislative mandate requiring the Department to specify standards for the “humane raising, keeping, care, treatment, marketing and sale of domestic livestock.” N.J.S.A. 4:22-16.1.
*2 The Department, in response, argues that in discharging its responsibilities in connection with the rulemaking, it embarked on a full and careful review of the 6,500 written and sixty-five oral comments it received prior to the close of the comment period. The Department argues that it examined scientific texts and journals, as well as reports of governments and academic institutions related to the keeping and care of domestic livestock. Agency staff met with the legislative committee of the State Board of Agriculture and with the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station,FN2 in order to ensure that the Department had appropriately addressed concerns raised by the thousands of individuals or groups submitting comments.
FN2. The New Jersey Agriculture Experiment Station is part of Rutgers University Cooperative Extension, and is based at Cook College in New Brunswick.
*2 The Department further argues that it has based the regulations on objective criteria to assess animal health, such as the maintaining of adequate body condition, assessment of the animal's ability to sustain its reproductive capacity, data measuring adrenal gland activity as an indicator of animal stress, manifestation of signs of injury or disease and the rate of animal morbidity and mortality. The Department further contends that where professionals were evenly divided on the advantages and disadvantages of a particular practice, it relied on its own expertise to make legitimate and protected judgments about the content of particular regulations. Finally, the Department asserts that an appellate court presented with a challenge to agency rulemaking is obliged to apply a deferential standard of review, and must avoid substituting its judgment for that of the agency. The Department argues that, when the proper standard of review is applied, the regulations will be found manifestly reasonable and in full compliance with the legislative mandate.
*3 We have carefully considered appellants' arguments in light of applicable law. Affording the regulations the presumption of reasonableness and validity to which they are entitled by settled law, we conclude that the challenged regulations are consistent with the agency's legislative mandate, and are neither arbitrary, nor unreasonable. Accordingly, we affirm. In re Distrib. of Liquid Assets upon Dissolution Reg'l High Sch. Dist. No. 1, 168 N.J. 1, 10 (2001).
*3 On January 5, 1998, the Legislature approved amendments to N.J.S.A. 4:22-16.1, to adopt standards for the humane “raising, keeping, care, treatment, marketing and sale of domestic livestock.” The 1996 amendments also directed the Department to enact regulations governing enforcement of those standards. The statute provides, in relevant part:
*3 The State Board of Agriculture and the Department of Agriculture, in consultation with the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station and within six months of the date of enactment of this act,FN3 shall develop and adopt, pursuant to the “Administrative Procedure Act” ... (1) standards for the humane raising, keeping, care, treatment, marketing, and sale of domestic livestock; and (2) rules and regulations governing the enforcement of those standards.
FN3. The Department did not adopt the regulations within the six month period specified by the Legislature. Instead, the promulgation was delayed for seven years. The Department attributes the delay to its competing obligations, which included “addressing issues related to West Nile Virus, Foot and Mouth Disease, anthrax, and ultimately post 9/11 terrorism concerns.”
*3 [N.J.S.A. 4:22-16.1a.]
*3 The next subsection, which appellants characterize as a “safe harbor,” provides an immunity from prosecution for any person engaging in an approved animal husbandry practice specified in the adopted regulations. It provides, in part:
*3 Notwithstanding any provision in this title to the contrary:
*3 (1) there shall exist a presumption that the raising, keeping, care, treatment, marketing, and sale of domestic livestock in accordance with the standards developed and adopted therefor [sic] pursuant to subsection a. of this section shall not constitute a violation of any provision of this title involving alleged cruelty to, or inhumane care or treatment of, domestic livestock.
*3 [N.J.S.A. 4:22-16.1b.]
*3 On June 7, 2004, the Department adopted its first set of regulations. The regulations established:
*3 the minimum level of care that can be considered to be humane. The standards in these rules are not best management practices, which generally are high industry standards many responsible New Jersey farmers meet or exceed. Instead, the standards are intended to serve as the baseline for determining inhumane treatment, ensuring that any act or treatment that falls below these standards can be accurately identified and swiftly addressed by all applicable law enforcement entities under N.J.S.A. 4:22-1 et seq.
*3 [35 N.J.R. at 1873-74.]
*3 The regulations expressly govern and establish requirements for humane treatment of domestic livestock.FN4 The regulations define a “humane” practice as one “marked by compassion, sympathy and consideration for the welfare of animals.” N.J.A.C. 2:8-1.2(a). The regulations define animal welfare as the “physical and psychological harmony between the animal and its surroundings, characterized by an absence of deprivation, aversive stimulation, over stimulation or any other imposed condition that adversely affects health and productivity of the animal.” N.J.A.C. 2:8-1.2(a). An animal's status is determined by a “holistic evaluation” of the animal. N.J.A.C. 2:8-1.1(a). “Holistic” is defined as the “consideration of the animal functioning as a complete, integrated unit,” and “well-being” is defined as “good health and welfare.” N.J.A.C. 2:8-1.2(a).
FN4. Domestic livestock includes “cattle, horses, donkeys, swine, sheep, goats, rabbits, poultry, fowl, and any other domesticated animal deemed by the State Board of Agriculture and the Department of Agriculture, in consultation with the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station, to be domestic livestock....” N.J.S.A. 4:22-16.1c.
*4 The regulations are divided into eight subchapters, five of which are relevant to this appeal.FN5 Those five are: Subchapter 1, “General Provisions,” which explains the purpose and applicability of the rules, and provides an extensive list of relevant definitions, N.J.A.C. 2:8-1.1 to -1.2; Subchapter 2, which specifies standards for cattle; Subchapter 4, which specifies standards for poultry; Subchapter 7, standards for swine; and Subchapter 8, entitled “The Investigation and Enforcement of Alleged Violations of Humane Standards,” which establishes the “procedural rules governing the investigation of complaints alleging the cruel and inhumane treatment of domestic livestock, and the commencement of actions for enforcement of the standards for the humane care and treatment of domestic livestock....” N.J.A.C. 2:8-8.1(a).
FN5. Appellants do not appeal any provision that relates to horses, N.J.A.C. 2:8-3.1 to -3.7; rabbits, N.J.A.C. 2:8-5.1 to -5.8; or small ruminants, N.J.A.C. 2:8-6.1 to -6.7.
*4 We analyze the challenge to these regulations under our standard of review. It is well established that agency regulations are presumed valid and are accorded a presumption of reasonableness. In re N.J. Am. Water Co., 169 N.J. 181, 188 (2001); N.J. State League of Municipalities v. Dep't of Cmty. Affairs, 158 N.J. 211, 222 (1999).
*4 An appellate court's review of the actions of state agencies is “severely limited.” In re Musick, 143 N.J. 206, 216 (1996). “Courts can intervene only in those rare circumstances in which an agency action is clearly inconsistent with its statutory mission or other state policy.” Ibid. Further, a court may not substitute its judgment for the expertise of an agency, “so long as that action is statutorily authorized and not otherwise defective because arbitrary or unreasonable.” In re Distrib. of Liquid Assets, supra, 168 N.J. at 10. On appeal, a court may reverse agency action only if the regulations: (1) violate the enabling statute's express or implied legislative policies; (2) are unsupported by substantial evidence in the record; or (3) result from an unreasonable application of the legislative policy to the facts, and the agency clearly erred by reaching a conclusion that could not reasonably have been made upon a showing of the relevant factors. In re Rulemaking, N.J.A.C. 10:82-1.2 and 10:85-4.1, 117 N.J. 311, 325 (1989). The party challenging the regulation bears the burden of proving its invalidity. N.J. State League of Municipalities, supra, 158 N.J. at 222.
*4 Reviewing courts accord substantial deference to the interpretation an agency gives to a statute that it is charged with enforcing because “agencies have the specialized expertise necessary to enact regulations dealing with technical matters and are particularly well equipped to read and understand the massive documents and to evaluate the factual and technical issues that ... rulemaking would invite.” Ibid.
*4 The process of administrative rulemaking does not require findings of fact sufficient to justify the regulations. Heir v. Degnan, 82 N.J. 109, 119 (1980). Instead, “facts sufficient to justify the regulation must be presumed. The burden is not upon the Commissioner [or administrative agency] to establish that the requisite facts exist; [r]ather, the burden is on petitioners to establish that they do not.” In re Adoption of N.J.A.C. 10:52-5.14(d) 2 & 3, 276 N.J.Super. 568, 575 (App.Div.1994), certif. denied, 142 N.J. 448 (1995). As we have previously explained:
*5 Findings may be based on an agency's expertise, without supporting evidence, and findings resting on an agency's expertise may be especially important to the judicial review process when the court does not share the agency's expertise.... This is especially true of determinations which, as here, are primarily of a judgmental or predictive nature.
*5 [In re Regulation of Operator Serv. Providers, 343 N.J.Super. 282, 332 (App.Div.2001).]
*5 It is against this deferential standard that we consider appellants' challenge to these regulations.
*5 Appellants first argue that “the final regulations codify numerous existing factory farming practices that the record overwhelmingly demonstrates cause severe hunger, pain, stress, disease, and even mortality in animals.” They assert that because the regulations are at odds with the expressed purpose of the enabling statute, they must be invalidated.
A. Veal Calves.
*5 The regulation at issue, N.J.A.C. 2:8-2.4(g), permits farmers to tether veal calves in stalls so narrow that the animal cannot turn around, and that are, in appellant's words, “barely wider than the animals themselves.” The regulations incorporate the standards of the American Veal Association's Guide, and permit a 450-pound veal calf to be tethered and housed in an individual crate twenty-six inches wide. N.J.A.C. 2:8-2.4(h).
*5 Appellants argue that this inability to turn around causes abnormal coping behaviors in the calf, compromises its immune system and increases disease and mortality. Appellants claim it is arbitrary for the Department to permit other animals, such as poultry, the ability to turn around while denying calves sufficient space to do the same. They conclude that there is no basis in the record to conclude that the American Veal Association's Guide complies with the Department's definition of “humane.”
*5 The Department acknowledges that it has adopted the American Veal Association Guide, which provides producers with four alternative housing arrangements. These include individual stalls, individual pens, group rearing in pens and a combination of individual and group rearing.
*5 The Department states that it considered more than 100 studies on the subject of veal calf housing and considered the arguments both for and against tethering and individual stall housing, and ultimately concluded that science supported the practices permitted by the regulations.
*5 In its rule adoption, the Department specified the factors it relied on, and identified the scientists whose research underlies the veal tethering regulation.FN6 The Department also analyzed various opposing arguments:
FN6. The internal citation to various studies are those of the Department. While some of the citations are incomplete, we have retained them in order to demonstrate the breadth of sources relied upon.
*5 The Department has determined that tethering of calves is a tool used to protect them from disease, minimize injury, and allow social contact among calves. Advantages of tethering include:
*5 1) Tethering prevents the calf from defecating in its water and feed buckets-a common occurrence in calves that are allowed to freely move about their stalls. Additionally, tethering restricts the licking of back and rump of neighboring calves. (Sato et al, 1991). Prevention of these behaviors minimizes disease transmission among calves.
*6 2) Tethering allows for individual calf stalls to be larger (Sate et al, 1991) by preventing unwanted contact with the back and rump of neighboring calves.
*6 3) Tethering permits head and neck licking of neighboring calves (Sate et al, 1991), thus increasing social contact among calves.
*6 4) Tethers prevent unwanted or aggressive behaviors [because] [s]ome calves are more aggressive and antagonistic towards timid calves (Veissier, et al, 1994)....
*6 5) Among dairy calves, tethering allows them to become accustomed to the method of restraint they will experience as adult dairy cattle in the milking barn.
*6 Two major arguments against tethering include: confinement by tethering leads to increased stress on calves; and tethering leads to inhibition of muscular development. These arguments are not adequately supported by science. First, according to Dr. Carolyn Stull, an animal scientist and animal welfare specialist at the University of California, physiological data show that tethering is not a stressor as exhibited by health, growth, levels of the stress hormone cortisol, white blood cell levels, and changes in the stomach lining. (Stull and McDonough, 1992). Second, confining calves by tethering or crating does not inhibit muscular development. Tethered calves, when released into a large enclosure, actually perform more locomotive behavior than group housed calves-a strong indication that there is no delay in their muscular development (Warnick et al 1977; Dellmeier et al 1985; LeNiendre, 1993).
*6 [36 N.J.R. at 2648.]
*6 It is clear from the Department's comments surrounding the rule adoption that the agency thoroughly reviewed and evaluated a number of scientific studies regarding housing and tethering of veal calves. Where the technical and scientific data is in conflict, an agency is entitled to rely on its own expertise. In such circumstances, judicial deference to the agency is appropriate. N.J. State League of Municipalities, supra, 158 N.J. at 222. When, as here, the “appellants' arguments are merely plausible, and not clearly convincing, we will not interfere with the [agency's] determination on these scientific matters.” In re Adoption of N.J.A.C. 7:26E-1.13, 377 N.J.Super. 78, 101 (App.Div.2005), aff'd o.b., 186 N.J. 81 (2006).
B. Sow gestation crates and tethering of sows.
*6 Appellants argue that gestation crates “prevent pigs from exercising or performing even the most basic, natural movements, such as simply turning around.” This practice, they claim, causes the sow physical and psychological ailments, such as decreased muscle mass, decreased bone strength, cardiovascular disease, boredom, apathy and stereotypic behavior.FN7 They argue that pregnant sows should be raised in enclosures that permit them to turn around freely.
FN7. Stereotypies are repeated actions that have no obvious purpose. Examples include pacing the same route over and over, hopping from perch to perch following a pattern, rocking back and forth, crib-biting by horses and bar-biting by pigs.
*6 Appellants assert that several state and foreign governments have “denounced gestation crates ... as inhumane.” Moreover, they claim that the regulation does not establish any stall size or make it clear that a sow must have sufficient space to turn around in its crate. Therefore, they contend that the regulation is inhumane.
*7 The Department, in promulgating the regulations, consulted with the New Jersey Agricultural Extension Station, veterinarians, academicians, and animal scientists. Specifically, the agency relies on a European Commission report, FN8 entitled “Report on the Welfare of Intensively Kept Pigs,” to support its conclusion that individual stalls ensure that fighting between sows is minimized; provide each sow with a full ration of food; and permit swine producers to identify signs of morbidity, and treat the sow accordingly. As a result, the Department claims that the scientific community supports its conclusion that individual stall systems are not inhumane.
FN8. The report in question was adopted in 1976 by the Council of Europe during its “Convention on the Protection of Animals Kept for Family Purposes.”
*7 The Department also addressed gestation crates in the rule adoption. The comment to the regulation states:
*7 Publications which compared housing systems on the basis of relative changes in biological responses and corresponding decreases in fitness showed that all housing systems can meet these criteria....
*7 A review of the scientific literature suggests that overall welfare is not poorer for sows housed in stalls compared with traditional group pens. Although the science is equivocal with a variety of conclusions from a variety of experiments, stereotypies appear to develop for sows housed in either gestation stalls or group pens, although some studies have shown the frequency is greater for individually housed animals....
*7 Studies have shown that there are fewer injuries in sows individually housed. Group pens may result in increased aggression and biting which appears to increase stress levels. Reproductive performance is in general better in stall-housed versus group-penned sows.... In addition, the health of the animals is more easily monitored when housed individually.
*7 [36 N.J.R. at 2681.]
*7 The Department also points to the proceedings of the American Veterinary Medicine Association that reviewed the impact of gestation stalls on pregnant sows, concluding that “no one system is clearly better than others under all conditions and according to all criteria of animal welfare.” (AVMA Position Statement on Pregnant Sow Housing).
*7 As we concluded concerning tethering of veal calves, here the use of sow gestation crates finds support in the veterinary literature, and there is no evidence that this determination is arbitrary or unreasonable. In re Distrib. of Liquid Assets, supra, 168 N.J . at 10. Accordingly, we see no basis to interfere.
C. Mutilation Practices.
*7 Appellants assert that the regulations permit various inhumane practices, such as tail docking, castration, debeaking, and toe trimming, all without the use of anesthesia and without any benefit to the individual animal.
*7 The Department, in response, argues that appellants ignore the requirement set forth in the regulation that these “husbandry practices” must be performed “by a knowledgeable individual, in a sanitary manner, and in a way to minimize pain.” N.J.A.C. 2:8-2.6(f), -4.7(e), -7.6(d). The Department further contends that because these husbandry practices are taught at veterinary schools, land grant colleges and agricultural extension services by veterinarians and animal scientists, when a trained person conducts these practices any pain the animal experiences will be minimized. This, it claims, is a practical and desirable standard.
1.) Tail docking.
*8 Tail docking is the removal of the lower portion of a dairy cow's tail. The purpose is improved cow hygiene by reducing the incidence of udder infection and maintaining milk quality by reducing of fecal contamination. 36 N.J.R. at 2652. Appellants argue that the majority of scientists have concluded that there is no benefit to the animal and no human health justification for tail docking. Moreover, appellants assert that the practice causes pain and interferes with the cow's ability to perform natural behaviors, such as flicking its tail to swat at flies. Appellants explain that the American and Canadian Veterinary Medical Associations oppose tail docking. Accordingly, they argue that the Department's conclusion that the practice is humane violates the agency's own record.
*8 The Department acknowledges that there is a controversy regarding the practice of tail docking. It relies on the report prepared by the American Association of Bovine Practitioners, which concluded that there was not enough scientific evidence to condone or condemn the practice. The agency claims that there is a lack of evidence that the procedure, when performed in accordance with the regulations by a knowledgeable individual to minimize pain, is cruel or inhumane. Accordingly, it declined to deny cattle producers the option of tail docking.
*8 In reaching its conclusion that tail docking should be permitted, the Department reviewed and relied on materials from Penn State's College of Agricultural Studies, Purdue University, University of Wisconsin, the School of Veterinary Medicine at University of California, Davis, the North Mississippi Branch Experiment Station, and the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association.
*8 Here, too, the Department made a scientific judgment after considering arguments on both sides. Appellants' arguments fail to persuade us that our intervention is warranted. In re Distrib. of Liquid Assets, supra, 168 N.J. at 10.
2.) Castration without anesthesia.
*8 Appellants next assert that the record is clear that castration without anesthesia is “devastatingly painful.” They argue that scientists who have reviewed the issue have concluded that castration has no benefit to animal welfare. Accordingly, appellants argue that this regulation unquestionably is not humane.
*8 The regulation, N.J.A.C. 2:8-7.6(d), provides that castration may be performed by knowledgeable individuals in a manner that minimizes pain. The Department responded to this criticism at adoption in the following comment:
*8 The Department's rule requires that castrations be performed by a knowledgeable individual in a sanitary manner and in a way to minimize pain. Persons other than licensed veterinarians possess the knowledge and skills to perform this procedure. Moreover, the practice may be performed without analgesics and still be considered humane.... Castration is a routine husbandry practice taught by veterinary schools, land grant colleges and agricultural extension agents. When performed in accordance with the regulation and as taught by those schools, the procedure is humane.
*9 [36 N.J.R. at 2652.]
*9 On appeal, the Department again relies on the fact that this is a routine husbandry practice and may be performed only by individuals who have been trained by veterinarians and animal scientists. The agency also relies on studies by the National Pork Board, the American Association of Swine Veterinarians, the California Pork Industry Group and the University of California, Davis. Based on these scientific reports, and the fact that trained individuals will perform piglet castrations, the Department has concluded that the practice is not inhumane.
*9 There are two distinct issues here. One is the practice of castration itself; the other is performing it without anesthesia. Analytically, they are not intertwined. The practice of castration itself finds support in the record. Notably, the record contains a fact sheet authored by two university professors, who cite castration of male pigs before weaning as useful in avoiding the “tainting of pork with foul odors and off flavors” and in “reduc [ing] aggressiveness and handling problems associated with intact males.” Appellants argue that the principal purpose of castration is an economic one and that the procedure does not normally result in any benefit to pig welfare. We conclude the agency is entitled to determine that ease of management and avoiding “off flavors” are consistent with the Legislature's expressed mandate directing the Department to develop standards governing “marketing and sale of livestock.” That interpretation of its mandate is an exercise of agency discretion protected by law, and we decline to substitute our judgment on the relative benefits of castration for that of the agency. In re Distrib. of Liquid Assets, supra, 168 N.J. at 10.
*9 Turning to the issue of castration without anesthesia, materials in the record support the Department's conclusion that the short-term pain associated with the practice is reduced when performed prior to weaning by experienced handlers. Again, our deferential standard of review and our obligation to respect an agency's technical expertise persuade us that any interference by us with this practice would be unwarranted. In re License Issued to Zahl, 186 N.J. 341, 353-54 (2005).
3.) Debeaking of chickens and turkeys.
*9 Appellants challenge the section of the regulations permitting chicken and turkeys to undergo a procedure known as beak-trimming or “debeaking,” in which a hot blade is used to cauterize and remove part of the beak. N.J.A.C. 2:8-4.7(e). They claim the record shows that birds experience both short term and chronic pain as a result of the procedure. Additionally, appellants contend that alternatives such as providing birds with more space and selectively breeding birds to be less aggressive would reduce the incidence of pecking, and the need for beak trimming. The practice, they argue, is therefore not humane because it causes pain and stress in birds and turkeys.
*10 The Department, in turn, argues that beak trimming is not inhumane, although it may cause acute or transient pain. This pain is offset by the benefit to the animal and the flock as a whole. Beak trimming, the agency asserts, reduces the incidence of cannibalism and pecking within the flock. Although certain studies show that analgesics should be used, the Department relies on studies by the United Egg Producers, the California Poultry Working Group and the Cornell Cooperative Extension to conclude that as long as a knowledgeable person performs the trimming, that individual will be aware of the appropriate techniques and will be able to determine whether the particular bird will require an analgesic.
*10 Additionally, the Department asserts that it:
*10 wrote its rules after consideration of poultry science curricula at veterinary schools, land grant colleges and agricultural extension agents, as well as United Egg Producer standards.... [B]eak trimming provides benefits to the flock (for example, reduction in feather pulling, cannibalism, pecking). In the European Union beak trimming of chickens is to take place when chickens are less than 10 days old. The Department notes that in this State, the procedure is generally performed on chickens within 10 days of hatching. The rule reflects the possibility of regrowth and the need to trim again when necessary. The Department believes the time frames used in the rule, which are supported by science to ensure poultry health, provide for the humane treatment of poultry.
*10 [36 N.J.R. at 2667.]
*10 There is nothing to indicate that this response is arbitrary or unreasonable. In re Distrib. of Liquid Assets, supra, 168 N.J . at 10.
4.) Toe trimming of turkeys.
*10 N.J.A.C. 2:8-4.7(f) permits the practice of removing some of a turkey's toes so that the animal will be unable to scratch its handlers. Appellants claim the record demonstrates that this practice causes animals acute pain and stress for varying lengths of time. Accordingly, appellants argue the practice is not humane.
*10 The Department counters that the practice of toe trimming is necessary to prevent injury to other birds in a flock. It addressed the practice in the rule adoption, stating that:
*10 toe trimming is a practice employed to prevent injury to other birds in the flock (for example, turkeys will climb onto other birds). Such behavior is not necessarily remediated by the availability of space. Appropriate flock management may include the need for this routine husbandry practice which is taught in poultry science departments at agricultural colleges. The Department declines to prohibit this practice and believes its rules related to time in which the procedure may be performed is [sic] appropriate.
*10 [36 N.J.R. at 2667.]
*10 The Department states it “embarked on a full and careful” review of all of the submissions it received, and that it examined scientific texts and journals pertaining to toe-trimming, and it relies on its extensive adoption notice to establish its rationale for the rulemaking. We are unable to conclude that the Department's assessment of the benefits of toe-trimming is arbitrary or unreasonable. In re Distrib. of Liquid Assets, supra, 168 N.J . at 10.
5.) The requirement that mutilations be performed in a way that “minimizes pain.”
*11 The regulations provide that knowledgeable individuals may dehorn, disbud, remove extra teats, tail dock, tattoo, brand and castrate cattle, provided that these practices are performed in a sanitary manner in such a way as to minimize pain. N.J.A.C. 2:8-2.6(f). The regulations also provide that knowledgeable individuals may detusk, remove needle teeth, castrate, ear notch, tattoo and tail dock swine, again provided that these practices are performed in a sanitary manner in such a way as to minimize pain. N.J.A.C. 2:8-7.6(d). Finally, the regulations provide that knowledgeable individuals may trim the beaks of poultry, provided it is done in a sanitary manner in a way that minimizes pain. N.J.A.C. 2:8-4.7(e).
*11 Appellants argue the “minimize pain” requirement does not “establish any meaningful standard by which the regulated community, enforcement agents, or the courts can determine whether conduct actually complies” with the standard. Accordingly, they contend that the regulation does not meet the “baseline” standards the Department sought to promulgate so that enforcement agents could identify and address inhumane practices. Appellants argue these regulations are arbitrary and capricious because they “allow producers to mutilate livestock as long as they ‘minimize pain’ without any additional guidance.”
*11 The Department defends the regulation, arguing that because animal husbandry practices are taught in veterinary schools and to agricultural extension agents by veterinarians and animal scientists, individuals learn how to properly perform these routine practices. The Department's rules provide that a knowledgeable individual, i.e., one who has been trained, must perform these practices in a way that minimizes pain. The Department argues that each procedure must be evaluated in light of the individual animal and that it is not necessary to eliminate all pain in order for the practice to be “humane.” Instead, the agency argues that if the practice is beneficial to the animal or to the flock or herd as a whole, the transient pain may be assessed in a “holistic” way, looking at the benefits to the animal in light of its overall welfare.
*11 The Department's conclusion, which is supported by its expertise and vast experience, is neither arbitrary nor unreasonable. In re Distrib. of Liquid Assets, supra, 168 N.J. at 10.
D. Transport of downed and emaciated animals.
*11 Appellants next argue that the regulations permit producers to transport emaciated and downed animals even though the process of loading these animals onto transport trucks causes significant pain. They claim that, to reduce their suffering, these animals should be humanely euthanized at the farm instead of being transported to slaughter, adding that the animals suffer greatly when they are dragged from trucks or moved with bucket loaders or fork lifts. Appellants explain that this practice has been denounced by the European Commission's Scientific Committee on Animal Health and Animal Welfare. They assert that this part of the regulation is arbitrary and capricious and inconsistent with N.J.S.A. 4:22-16.1.
*12 For its part, the Department argues that because federal regulations already prohibit the slaughter of disabled cattle for use in the food chain, the transportation of sickly cattle for slaughter will be virtually eliminated. The agency argues that such animals will likely be euthanized on the farm, and therefore the only sick animals to be transported will be those taken for veterinary care. The agency also correctly notes that the regulation provides that non-ambulatory disabled cattle and swine may not be dragged while conscious and must be handled humanely at all times even if they are to be slaughtered or euthanized. N.J.A .C. 2:8-2.6(a)(3)(ii), (v); N.J.A.C. 2:8-7.6(a)(3)(ii), (v).
*12 Because most sickly animals will likely be euthanized on the farm, and because disabled animals cannot be dragged while conscious, we conclude that the agency's rationale is not arbitrary or unreasonable, and reject appellant's argument that the regulation in question authorizes an inhumane practice. In re Distrib. of Liquid Assets, supra, 168 N.J. at 10.
*12 Under the regulations, practices that are not expressly prohibited are permitted provided they are “routine husbandry practices” taught at veterinary schools, land grant colleges and agricultural extension agents. Appellants claim that this exemption is inconsistent with the Legislature's mandate because it creates a vast exemption for practices regardless of whether they are humane. They argue that “If the New Jersey Legislature had wanted to exempt ‘routine husbandry practices' from the reach of the State's animal cruelty statute it could clearly have amended the statute to accomplish this result.” Appellants further argue that the Department engaged in impermissible delegation of authority by violating the principle that it may not subdelegate a power or duty delegated by statute where the Legislature did not so intend.
*12 The Department argues that it has complied with the enabling legislation by adopting standards protecting animals from inhumane treatment and at the same time protecting public health, enhancing worker safety, ensuring a safe food supply and helping to sustain agriculture. This, the agency argues, is consistent with the legislative mandate. The humane routine husbandry practices permitted by the challenged regulation include techniques used in animal restraint, identification, training, manure management, restricted feeding, watering and exercising, vaccination, and fencing. N.J.A.C. 2:8-1.2(a). The Department explains that “[h]ealthy livestock and high-quality livestock products will maintain demand from the public for livestock and their products, thereby helping to maintain the viability of the livestock industry in New Jersey.” 36 N.J.R. at 2567.
*12 In its rule proposal, the Department explained that “[t]hese standards are not intended to modify those routine animal agriculture practices that are performed each day by farmers in New Jersey, but rather to protect animals from only those practices that are inhumane or cruel.” 35 N.J.R. at 1874.
A. Impermissible Delegation.
*13 Appellants rely on three cases, Mercer Council # 4, N.J. Civil Serv. Assoc., Inc. v. Alloway, 119 N.J.Super. 94, 99 (App.Div .), aff'd o.b., 61 N.J. 516 (1972); N.J. Dep't of Trans., Div. of Aeronautics v. Brzoska, 139 N.J.Super. 510, 512-14 (App.Div.1976); and Remedial Educ. & Diagnostics Servs., Inc. v. Essex Cty. Educ. Servs. Comm'n, 191 N.J.Super. 524, 527 (App . Div.1983), certif. denied, 97 N.J. 601 (1984), to support their argument that the Department has impermissibly delegated the Legislature's mandate to promulgate humane standards to veterinary schools, land grant colleges, and agricultural extension agents. These cases are distinguishable when applied to the present facts.
*13 In Mercer Council # 4, we held that the Civil Service Commission (Commission) had impermissibly delegated to various state operating departments outside of the Commission certain duties and functions that the Civil Service Act delegated to the Chief Examiner and Secretary of the Commission. 119 N.J.Super. at 101. There, we observed that it is “initially useful to consider the degree of specificity of existing legislative provisions for performance of the subdelegated functions in question....” Id . at 97. The Chief Examiner and Secretary of the Commission was required by statute to perform certain explicit functions, such as maintaining a roster of employees in the state classified service to study and report to the Commission on rates paid in the Civil Service, regulate schedules of compensation, and “to test and pass upon the qualifications of applicants for appointment to and promotion in the service....” Ibid.
*13 We found that these duties were expressly vested in the Commission itself and the Legislature did not intend these functions and duties to be transferred elsewhere. Id. at 98. There we applied the general rule that “a power or duty delegated by statute to an administrative agency cannot be subdelegated in the absence of any indication that the Legislature so intends,” id. at 99, and we relied on the specificity with which the subdelegated functions and duties had been allocated to the Commission. Id. at 100-01.
*13 Here, N.J.S.A. 4:22-16.1 provides that the State Board, the Department of Agriculture and the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station develop and adopt “standards for the humane raising, keeping, care, treatment, marketing, and sale of domestic livestock.” Unlike in Mercer County # 4, where the Commission delegated to operating agents the exact functions and duties it was specifically and expressly obligated to perform pursuant to the statute, here the statutory mandate is broad. The specificity of the statute that was of such critical importance to us in Mercer County # 4 is absent here.
*13 Appellant's reliance on Brzoska and Remedial Education is similarly unavailing. In Remedial Education, we invalidated the delegation at issue. We concluded that the legislation had established a special publicly-funded school district to provide remedial education, and that the district had impermissibly delegated to a private entity the very services it was brought into existence to provide and had done so in the absence of any statutory authorization. 191 N.J.Super. at 526-27.
*14 We applied the same reasoning in Brzoska, supra, to invalidate a regulation under which the Department of Transportation authorized a private individual to determine whether flight instructors should be licensed. 139 N.J.Super. at 514. We concluded that because the State Aviation Commission was specifically created for that purpose, it lacked the authority to transfer those duties elsewhere. Id. at 512.
*14 Here, the Department did not delegate to a private individual or private entity duties or functions it is required by statute to perform. Individual farmers are not creating the humane standards but are, rather, continuing to perform practices that are taught in veterinary schools, land grant colleges and agricultural extensions. These farmers must either be knowledgeable, or have a knowledgeable individual perform routine husbandry practices according to the regulations, and must perform them in a sanitary way that minimizes pain. If the farmer does not do so, he or she will violate the rules and be subject to enforcement. Routine husbandry practices are humane because of who teaches them and who may perform them.
*14 We agree with the Department's contention that it would be essentially impossible, and certainly impractical, for it to list every possible routine husbandry practice taught in veterinary schools, land grant college and agricultural extension schools, and then create specific humane standards for each and every practice. The Legislature has also expressly allowed the Department to draw upon agricultural educational sources. N.J.S.A. 4:21-16.1. There is nothing arbitrary or capricious about exempting routine husbandry practices commonly taught in veterinary schools, land grant colleges and agricultural extensions. There is no reason to invalidate the Department's reliance on the curricula and expertise of the veterinarians and animal scientists who develop and teach these routine husbandry practices, especially in light of the Department's clearly articulated twin goals to provide humane standards and also promote sustainable agriculture. As a result, the Department has not delegated its duty to set standards.
B. Whether the “routine husbandry practices” exemption fails to set a standard.
*14 Appellants next claim that the routine husbandry practices exemption is arbitrary and capricious because it fails to set a standard to inform enforcement agents, the courts or the public of exactly what conduct is prohibited. They argue that by failing to set such a standard, the Department has failed to meet the requirement of the enabling legislation. This is readily apparent, they claim, because there are hundreds of veterinary schools, land grant colleges and agricultural extensions in this country that “teach a wide variety of practices.” Accordingly, it is impossible to determine what practices are “commonly taught.” By extension, it is then impossible to determine which practices are sheltered by the “safe harbor” provisions of N.J.S.A. 4:22-16.1b, and thus, presumptively exempted from prosecution. They claim that the exemption leaves the regulated community and enforcement agents completely unclear as to which routine practices are permitted and which are prohibited.
*15 We agree with appellants' argument “that administrative agencies, particularly where the underlying statute is silent, should articulate the standards and principles that govern their discretionary decisions in as much detail as possible.” Lower Main Street Assocs. v. N.J. Hous. & Mortg. Fin. Agency, 114 N.J. 226, 235 (1989). Essentially, the public and any interested or affected party must have a firm knowledge of the “factors that the agency would deem relevant and that might influence its ultimate decision.” Crema v. N.J. Dep't of Envtl. Prot., 94 N.J. 286, 302 (1983). Regulations must provide objective standards to guide the enforcing authority when it assesses compliance. D.I.A.L., Inc. v. N.J. Dep't of Cmty. Affairs, 254 N.J.Super. 426, 443-44 (App.Div.1992).
*15 Here, contrary to appellants' arguments, the Department has provided sufficient guidance and objective standards in the regulations. The Department changed the definition of routine husbandry practices between proposal and adoption to provide that only those practices commonly taught in certain institutions are included in the definition. Routine husbandry practices was originally defined as follows:
*15 “Routine husbandry practices” means those techniques commonly employed and accepted as necessary or beneficial to raise, keep, care, treat, market and transport livestock, including, but not limited to, techniques involved with physical restraint; animal handling; animal identification; animal training; manure management; restricted feeding; restricted watering; restricted exercising; animal housing techniques; reproductive techniques; implantation; vaccination; and use of fencing materials, as long as all other State and Federal laws governing these practices are followed. It is acceptable to perform these practices with physical restraints only.
*15 [35 N.J.R. at 1877.]
*15 The definition was subsequently amended, in response to public comment, to recognize those
*15 techniques commonly taught by veterinary schools, land grant colleges, and agricultural extension agents for the benefit of animals, the livestock industry, animal handlers and the public health and which are employed to raise, keep, care, treat, market and transport livestock....
*15 [36 N.J.R. at 2587 (emphasis added).]
*15 In its response to comments, the Department explained:
*15 In response to the concern that the definition of routine husbandry practices was overly broad or deferred to industry practices, the Department proposed the current definition to reflect the Department's intent to limit those practices to those commonly taught by those institutions charged with training persons with primary responsibility for animal agriculture.... Those institutions base their curricula on scientific evidence of both the efficacy of those practices and the impact of such practices on animal welfare. The Department believes its amended definition addresses concerns that practices are not science based or that they fail to consider humaneness of the practices.
*16 [37 N.J.R. 2468 (emphasis added).]
*16 The Department relies on the American Veterinary Medical Association Handbook, which describes the curricula at veterinary schools. According to the Handbook, these schools provide “knowledge, skills, values, attitudes, aptitudes and behaviors necessary to address responsibly the health and well-being of animals.” By ensuring that only the practices taught at these institutions would be included, we conclude that the permitted practices are not so vague as to fail to constitute a standard. Moreover, we agree with the Department's assertion that because it would be impractical to list all of the potential routine husbandry practices performed on a working farm, this is a valid limitation. We are also persuaded by the argument that because the Department reviewed the curricula of these schools and was convinced that they teach the latest farming techniques and instruct students in the most recent scientific innovations, that a standard has indeed been established. N.J. State League of Municipalities, supra, 158 N.J. at 222.
*16 “Where there is room for two opinions, action is valid when exercised honestly and upon due consideration, even though it may be believed that an erroneous conclusion has been reached.” Worthington v. Fauver, 88 N.J. 183, 204-05 (1982). Here, the process reveals that the Department's actions were not unreasoned, and appellants have failed to satisfy their burden of establishing the invalidity of the “routine husbandry practices” regulation. This conclusion is entitled to our deference because the Department has the specialized knowledge to protect animal welfare. We defer to the Department's expertise in assessing the need for routine husbandry practices in the day to day operation of the farms. In re Zahl, supra, 186 N.J. at 353-54.
C. Whether the “routine husbandry practices” exemption created a vacuum that impermissibly authorizes practices that are not humane.
*16 In addition to their other challenges to the routine husbandry practices exemption, appellants argue that the regulation's failure to specifically identify practices that are authorized creates a vacuum, resulting in inhumane practices being allowed. They point to two such inhumane practices: forced feeding of ducks and geese for foie gras and genetic manipulation.
*16 1.) Forced feeding of ducks and geese for foie gras.
*16 Appellants argue that forced feeding of ducks and geese to produce foie gras is inhumane. In order to produce foie gras, a tube is forced down the bird's throat and food is pumped directly into its stomach. Appellants claim this unquestionably causes birds significant pain and suffering, but because it is not specifically addressed by the regulations, this inhumane practice is permitted under the regulations.
*16 The Department counters by explaining that the AVMA House of Delegates unanimously declined to prohibit the practice of force feeding birds for foie gras. The AVMA found that there was insufficient peer-reviewed evidence related to animal welfare during the production of foie gras. Accordingly, the Department refused to ban the practice because there is no scientific evidence that the procedure is detrimental to animal welfare. In the absence of such evidence, we are unable to conclude that the practice is not humane. Stated differently, because there is no conclusive evidence that the practice is detrimental to animal welfare, the agency's decision not to ban it cannot be considered arbitrary or unreasonable. In re Distrib. of Liquid Assets, supra, 168 N.J. at 10.
*17 The Department has consistently stated that, in the absence of evidence that a practice is detrimental to animal welfare, it will refuse to prohibit the practice but will continue to monitor the practice and propose amendments when appropriate. We conclude that it was not unreasonable or arbitrary for the Department to rely on the AVMA position on the production of foie gras and to continue to research the issue. Ibid. Accordingly, we reject appellants' claim that the routine husbandry exemption will allow inhumane practices.
2.) Genetic manipulation.
*17 Appellants claim that the routine husbandry exemption also permits producers to use intensive genetic selection, authorizing them, for example, to breed larger, faster-growing broiler chickens and turkeys. They assert that the record shows that these chickens and turkeys “suffer chronic pain from skeletal deformities, muscle disease, and cardio-pulmonary disease, increased susceptibility to painful contact dermatitis, reduced immune function and increased mortality.”
*17 There is only one article in the record that addresses genetic manipulation, namely the European Commission's Scientific Committee on Animal Health and Animal Welfare's 2000 Report entitled The Welfare of Chickens Kept for Meat Production (Broilers). According to this article, “a wide range of metabolic and behavioral traits in broilers have been changed by selection practices. Major concerns for animal welfare are the metabolic disorders resulting in leg problems, ascites FN9 and sudden death syndrome and other health problems.”
FN9. Ascites is a condition marked by accumulation of fluid in the abdomen. While a small accumulation generally is not problematic, large amounts can cause rapid weight gain, significant discomfort and shortness of breath. www.answers.com/topic/ascites.
*17 The Department addressed this concern by including in the regulations an obligation to adequately care for, feed and hydrate poultry. The regulation also requires prompt treatment of sick or injured chickens. N.J.A.C. 2:8-4.6(c). The Department argues that the regulation will ensure that poultry maintain adequate body condition, and that sound animal husbandry practices will avoid the pitfalls of genetic manipulation. The agency's determination is entitled to our deference and appellants' examples of genetic manipulation do not show that the routine husbandry practice exemption is arbitrary or capricious. N.J. State League of Municipalities, supra, 158 N.J. at 222.
*17 Appellants argue next that the enforcement provisions of the regulations are beyond the scope of the Department's authority because the Department has adopted regulations that modify “the enforcement of the entire animal cruelty code, as applied to livestock.” By so doing, they argue, the Department has curtailed the authority of the New Jersey SPCA and local law enforcement agencies and has created unnecessary barriers to enforcement. Appellants contend, therefore, that the Department has acted unreasonably, outside of its authority, and in a manner contrary to legislative policy. We review these claims individually.
A. Whether the Department can regulate enforcement of the cruelty laws.
*18 Appellants argue that when the Legislature directed the Department to promulgate rules and regulations to enforce humane standards, N.J.S.A. 4:22-16.1a(2), the Legislature did not authorize the Department to regulate cruelty investigations. They further argue that the Department cannot dictate to other agencies with primary enforcement authority “requirements for investigating and enforcing animal cruelty complaints and violations.”
*18 The Department explained its position by noting that:
*18 The statement accompanying the bill provided: “It is the intent of this bill that it should be construed to allow the New Jersey Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and its district (county) Societies, in cooperation with the Department of Agriculture, to continue in the SPCA's statutory capacity to enforce the State's animal cruelty laws.
*18 [36 N.J.R. at 2688 (emphasis added).]
*18 A determination of whether a regulation is within the agency's delegated authority begins with the terms of the enabling statute. N.J. State League of Municipalities, supra, 158 N.J. at 224. “When construing a statute, courts initially consider the statute's plain meaning.” Ibid. If a statute is clear and unambiguous on its face, courts will enforce the statute as written and need not review legislative history or extrinsic matters. Nobrega v. Edison Glen Assoc., 167 N.J. 520, 536 (2001).
*18 Here, the plain language of the statute makes it clear that the Department, in consultation with the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station, was charged to develop and adopt “(1) standards for the humane raising, keeping, care, treatment, marketing, and sale of domestic livestock; and (2) rules and regulations governing the enforcement of those standards.” N.J.S.A. 4:22-16.1a. The legislative history of this statute reveals that it was the intent of the bill “that it should be construed to allow the New Jersey Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and its [county] societies, in cooperation with the Department of Agriculture, to continue in the SPCA's statutory capacity to enforce the State's animal cruelty laws.” Senate Senior Citizens, Veterans Affairs and Agricultural Committee, Statement to S. 713 (June 2, 1994). Accordingly, we reject appellants' argument that the Department's enforcement provisions are beyond the scope of its authority.
B. Whether the enforcement regulations are inconsistent with the statutory authority of law enforcement and are unduly burdensome .
*18 Appellants claim that N.J.S.A. 4:22-16.1 does not authorize the Department to restrict the existing authority of the SPCA and that the regulations interfere with the SPCA's ability to investigate violations and enforce cruelty laws relating to farm animals. We disagree. The Legislature expressly provided that the SPCA and the Department cooperate in the enforcement of the prevention of cruelty laws. N.J.S.A. 4:22-16.1.
*19 Further, by amending the enforcement scheme for the protection of livestock in 2005, the Legislature placed new limits on the authority of the SPCA. Until 2005, any member, officer or agent of the SPCA could exercise and perform the powers and duties exercised and performed by agents of the society who had been deputized by a sheriff. N.J.S.A. 4:22-43, repealed by L.2005, c. 372, § 22 (eff.Jan.12, 2006). Additionally, any member, officer or agent of the SPCA could make arrests for violations of the animal cruelty law and arrest, without warrant, anyone violating any provision of the cruelty law in the presence of that member. N.J.S.A. 4:22-44a, b, amended by L.2005, c. 372, § 17 (eff.Jan.12, 2006).
*19 In 2005, the Legislature passed an act to supplement, amend and repeal certain portions of chapter 22 of Title 4. It essentially “reorganized” the State and county SPCAs. Senate and General Assembly, Statement to A3186 (September 13, 2004). The new Act created definitions for “agents” and “humane law enforcement officers” within the SPCA. N.J.S.A. 4:22-11.1. An “agent” is a member of a county or State SPCA who is recommended by the Chief Humane Law Enforcement Officer, and is empowered to “issue summons and direct humane law enforcement officers to make arrests and enforce all laws and ordinances enacted for the protection of animals, and to investigate alleged acts of cruelty to animals.” N.J.S.A. 4:22-11.1. A “humane law enforcement officer” is an agent authorized and appointed by the board of trustees of a county SPCA or State SPCA and commissioned by the Superintendent of the State Police to “possess, carry, or use a firearm while enforcing any law or ordinance for the protection of animals while on duty or on call, and who has satisfactorily completed the firearms training course [required or] approved by the Police Training Commission....” N.J.S.A. 4:22-11.1.
*19 The Department correctly argues that the reorganization of the SPCA imposes new limits on the authority of the SPCA. Now, not all of its members possess arrest authority, but rather only humane law enforcement officers may make arrests and arrests without warrants. N.J.S.A. 4:22-44b.
*19 These changes reflect the Legislature's intent to place humane enforcement in the hands of law enforcement. Stated differently, the SPCA no longer has unfettered discretion to enforce the cruelty laws but must now do so in cooperation with local law enforcement.
*19 The humane standards under review here also demonstrate the Legislature's trend toward more cooperative arrangements between the SPCA and other New Jersey agencies and entities. The Department, which understood this mandate, explained that it:
*19 has developed its standards so that farmers and law enforcement and the State and county SPCAs will have appropriate guidance to determine whether acts of cruelty are occurring. The rules' provisions for enforcement, including efforts to obtain consent before an inspection and the sharing of information with the Department regarding investigations, are designed to implement the Legislature's directive that the societies work cooperatively with the Department to ensure the standards are met. Law enforcement entities and the State and county SPCAs are obligated to exercise good faith in their enforcement activities.
*20 [36 N.J.R. at 2688 (emphasis added).]
*20 We find no basis upon which to disturb the Department's effort to work cooperatively with the SPCA.
*20 Appellants' final argument is that the regulations require “unnecessary procedures that do nothing to further the legislative mandate.” Specifically, appellants claim that the requirement that all investigations be conducted in accordance with biosecurity protocols will prevent investigators from walking among and inspecting animals at a facility. Appellants take issue with the reporting and notice requirements, claiming that they are senseless and deter “an already under-funded and understaffed New Jersey SPCA .” These arguments lack sufficient merit to warrant discussion in a written opinion. R. 2:11-3(e)(1)(E).
*20 Having carefully considered appellants' arguments, we conclude that many of their contentions find support in the literature and in the veterinary community. So, too, do those of the Department. When the material in the record presents such divergence of opinion, the agency's expertise and experience are entitled to our deference. N.J. State League of Municipalities, supra, 158 N.J. at 222. We are obliged to avoid encroaching on the Department's exercise of its expertise where, as here, that expertise is a pertinent factor in the enactment of the subject regulations. Ibid. The regulations are not arbitrary or unreasonable or in derogation of the statutory mandate. In re Distrib. of Liquid Assets, supra, 168 N.J. at 10. Accordingly, the challenged regulations are valid.