TRENTON — New Jersey on Friday became the first state to ban wild and exotic animals from circus acts.

Gov. Phil Murphy signed Nosey's Law, named after a 36-year-old African elephant that was abused as it traveled the country, including New Jersey. The law was championed by former state Sen. Ray Lesniak, D-Union.

"These animals belong in their natural habitats or in wildlife sanctuaries, not in performances where their safety and the safety of others is at risk," Murphy said Friday in a statement.

The New Jersey chapter of the Humane Society of the United States said circus animals endure cruelty in training and constant confinement. Nosey was forced to perform despite health problems.

"Nosey is now safe in an animal sanctuary, but the law protects other animals from being abused like she was," state Sen. Nilsa Cruz-Perez, D-Camden, said. "Today, New Jersey is taking a stand for animal rights and I hope that other states will follow our example so that this sort of abuse can be eliminated everywhere in the country."

The law was passed by the Legislature during Gov. Chris Christie's term, but the Republican governor pocket vetoed it.

The bill passed 71-3 in the Assembly. Voting no were Michael Patrick Carroll, R-Morris; Jay Webber, R-Morris; and Harold Wirths, R-Sussex. Three abstained: Minority Leader Jon Bramnick, R-Union; Erik Peterson, R-Warren; and Parker Space, R-Sussex. And three didn't vote: Mila Jasey, D-Essex; James Kennedy, D-Union; and Pamela Lampitt, D-Camden.

In the state Senate, the bill passed 38-0 with Michael Doherty, R-Warren, and Fred Madden Jr., D-Gloucester, not voting.

The law bans all non-domesticated wild animals excluding farm animals.

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