CRANFORD, NJ – Public comments grew contentious at Tuesday night’s Cranford Township Committee meeting as the committee approved an ordinance to restrict the sales of dogs and cats.
The ordinance requires that a pet shop may only offer for sale cats and dogs that the pet shop has obtained from an animal care facility or animal rescue organization. Additionally, a pet shop may not offer for sale a dog or cat this is younger than eight weeks old.
As such, a pet shop must maintain records with the name and address of the organization that each animal was obtained from for at least two years following the date of acquisition.
Although Cranford does not house a pet store that sells dogs and cats, pet store owners from neighboring towns sparred with representatives from the Humane Society and other animal welfare organizations.
According to Jeff Morton, president of Shake-a-Paw pet stores, the data provided by the Humane Society is “filled with lies.”
“In Union County, 290 dogs were euthanized, according to the Humane Society,” Morton said. “The real number of dogs euthanized in Union County is 34. That’s a big difference.”
Morton, who is also a member of the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council as well as a Certified Animal Control Officer and Cruelty Investigator by the State of New Jersey, said the ordinance is driven by animal activists with a political agenda.
New Jersey already has the strictest regulations in the state when it comes to pet stores, according to Morton. His statements were supported by Cindy Knowles, owner of Furrylicious Pet Salon & Boutique. According to Knowles, the state did not pass the ordinance, so the Humane Society is going from town to town.
On the opposing side, representatives from the Humane Society claim that Morton and Knowles do not tell the whole story and take dogs from breeders who do not care about the welfare of their animals.
“Legitimate pet stores do not want to sell dogs and cats that come from breeders,” Larry Cohen from the Humane Society argued. “Mr. Morton wants to bring up numbers. He does not want to add that after the Pet Protection Act was enabled, the state went out and inspected the pet stores to see if they were in compliance. 26 of them were not, including his. He signed a consent agreement for a fine for not following that law.”
Commissioner Ann Dooley asked for a clarification of the data from Cohen. Cohen said he only had information from 2015.
“I don’t know who to believe here,” Dooley said. “I cannot vote to enact a law based upon such widely divergent data and important facts, no matter how noble the cause.”
Others against the ordinance told the township committee that there are too many regulations put in place that make it nearly impossible to adopt a pet and that doing so prevents them from owning their desired breed.
“I work very hard trying to get a lot of dogs and cats adopted and it’s virtually impossible,” Denise Archer, who works in the veterinary field, said. “You can’t tell someone that they cannot buy the dog of their choice because there are people that don’t agree with it, and that’s what’s happening in this country. Everybody’s telling us what we can and cannot do. They [Morton and Knowles] have a business. If they’re doing something wrong and it’s a violation, then you get inspectors in there. Don’t take someone’s livelihood away because you don’t agree.”
The ordinance ultimately passed, with Dooley and Deputy Mayor Patrick Giblin abstaining. Mayor Thomas Hannen Jr. and Commissioner Mary O’Connor voted yes, and Commissioner Andis Kalnins was absent.
“I must tell you that I am very, very concerned about how different organizations have made adopting a dog almost out of reach with inspections that the adopting agencies have now put in place,” Hannen said. “I am going to support this ordinance reluctantly, but I have to tell you people that you’ve got to clean up your act if you want more dogs adopted.”