N.J. Pet Professionals Granted Small Reprieve from Threatening Bill, PIJAC Reports
Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC) has commended a New Jersey state senator for withdrawing a veto override of a bill that the organization has deemed as a threat to ethical cat and dog retailers. According to PIJAC president Mike Bober, the move, made by Senator Raymond Lesniak, is good news for those involved in the care of companion animals.
“While no official vote was counted, Senator Lesniak’s withdrawal of his misguided veto override effort is a sure sign that Republicans and Democrats alike are standing with all who care for and about pets,” Bober said. “Pet professionals, cat and dog lovers, and pets can breathe easier for another day.”
Lesniak, the lone senate sponsor of the bill, had intended to hold a vote to attempt to override Governor Chris Christie’s conditional veto of Senate Bill 3041. The bill intended to further strengthen New Jersey’s Pet Purchase Protection Act—the most stringent set of pet and consumer protection laws in the country, according to PIJAC. According to Bober, S3041 threatened the sale of dogs and cats from reputable breeders and retailers. He also said that it was unnecessarily punitive, with a “three strikes” measure for paperwork errors unrelated to animal welfare that was specifically criticized by Christie when the veto was issued.
“Regretfully, New Jersey’s pet professionals, the pet-loving public, and pets cannot rest easy,” Bober said. “Senator Lesniak has already said that he plans to bring the bill back up at a later date, which is unfortunate since S3041 offers almost none of the pet and consumer protections claimed by proponents, and risked the closure of ethical partners in pet care across the state.”
“The responsible pet trade is proud to stand behind New Jersey’s existing, top-in-the-nation pet and consumer protections—which would be undermined by S3041,” Bober said. “We at PIJAC urge state Senators to stand strong.”
In a press conference call held on May 24, several pet industry participants offered their perspectives on the bill, which would undermine New Jersey’s Pet Purchase Protection Act. Four New Jersey pet care professionals and a national leader in animal advocacy today called on state Senators to support Christie’s conditional veto of the bill.
“I hope that New Jersey’s Senators will recognize…overriding Governor Christie’s veto is tantamount to putting your constituents out of work, and undermining the pet protection law that was enacted just two years ago. Our four-legged friends deserve better than being put at risk by misguided legislation,” said Cindy Knowles, owner of Furrylicious.
Knowles, who employs 10 people, described how her company differentiates between unethical breeders who put profits before pets, and responsible breeders who provide healthy cats and dogs to her store and others.
Jeff Morton, owner and president of Shake-A-Paw, which has three locations in New Jersey, said that Senate Bill 3041 is going after the state’s “most highly regulated source of cats and dogs…” According to Morton, “online, street and other sales are not regulated at all, yet S3041 does nothing to stop these illegal sales where animals are abused, malnourished and otherwise made second to profits.
“At Shake-A-Paw, we are proud to put pets first,” Morton said. “We cannot do this if S3041 becomes law, and so I urge the Senate to uphold Governor Christie’s conditional veto.”
Bark Avenue owner Gary Hager said that customers rely on his store for pets that have specific traits to fit their needs. According to Hager, “we’ve placed probably over 2,700 puppies in their forever homes with loving families, with ones that specifically wanted access to hypoallergenic, very specific breeds…”
Hager added that Senate Bill 3041 “doesn’t serve the state, it doesn’t serve the constituents, it doesn’t serve the consumers.”
Animal cruelty investigator, New Jersey Federation of Dog Clubs president, and dog education expert Jeffrey Ball said that hobby breeders like himself are at risk if the governor’s veto is overridden.
“The [bill’s]…vague language in the ‘pet dealer’ definition would force many families, responsible owners, and enthusiasts into the category of ‘commercial enterprise,’ just because they were in a situation to transfer 10 pets in any one year,” said Ball, whose Great Danes can sometimes have more than 10 pets in a single litter. “An even bigger issue is that most municipalities do not allow commercial enterprises such as animal “dealers” in residential zones. This means if you are a hobby breeder or your family has a one-time litter of puppies or kittens, you could be in violation of state and local zoning laws, and forced to choose between your home and your hobby.”
Bober said PIJAC was supporting the state-based small businesses, and he praised Christie for the conditional veto because Senate Bill 3041 “has an online reporting requirement that may be illegal—and, therefore, risks putting taxpayers on the hook for lawsuits against the state.”
Bober, whose organization advocates on behalf of animals across the country, also told a reporter that New Jersey’s pet shops are under strict state provisions related to transparency, animal health and warranties, in addition to federal restrictions on breeder sourcing.