Most pet-lovers would be horrified at the thought of keeping their beloved family dog in a dirty, wire cage that is only six inches longer than their body for a minute, let alone for years. Yet that's the fate of breeding dogs in thousands of puppy mills across the nation, including the mother dogs of many puppies sold in pet shops.
Sen. Raymond Lesniak, D-20, and Assemblyman Dan Benson, D-14, are sponsoring bipartisan legislation (S3041/A2338) to keep this cruelty out of New Jersey.
This legislation has come a long way from where it started, as the sponsors bent over backwards to ensure the bill was more than fair to all regulated entities, including pet stores. The legislation levels the playing field between pet stores and other sellers of commercially raised puppies by bringing all pet dealers under regulation of the Pet Purchase Protection Act, which currently only regulates pet stores.
Nonetheless, a few New Jersey puppy-selling pet stores continue to oppose the legislation by presenting a faulty portrayal of it.
The Humane Society of the United States named these same pet stores in a 2016 investigation, “New Jersey Pet Store Report: Puppy Mills and Poor Conditions.” The investigation revealed stores in New Jersey continue to source from inhumane puppy mills with egregious violations of the Animal Welfare Act. These puppy mills incurred citations for shooting dogs in the head and failing to provide veterinary care to severely injured dogs, including those with gaping, bleeding wounds. The HSUS report, combined with a plethora of complaints filed with Consumer Affairs against New Jersey pet stores, demonstrate the urgent need to improve the existing law.
This legislation would simply prevent those who violate its sourcing provisions three times from selling puppies and kittens to New Jersey consumers. The sourcing provisions are the heart of the bill, as they ensure the worst puppy mills cannot sell in New Jersey and offer peace of mind to consumers. Pet stores that follow the law and only source from breeders who adhere to USDA standards, which are embarrassingly low, will continue selling puppies.
Pet stores relying on the sales of supplies instead of selling animals have found that their businesses thrive. In fact, the majority of pet stores, including the largest and most successful chains, do not sell puppies, but rather profit from offering quality products and services.
Only those who profit from puppy mill abuse have reason to oppose this legislation. New Jersey residents will continue to seek out the pet of their choice from responsible breeders that are largely exempt from the requirements of this bill, law abiding pet dealers and shelters and rescues. Soon they’ll be able to do so with a little more peace of mind.
Brian R. Hackett is the New Jersey state director for The Humane Society of the United States.