MADISON, NJ - The Madison Borough Council at its last meeting passed Ordinance 20-2019 which prohibits the retail sale of dogs and cats in the Borough. Members Astri Baillie, Carmela Vitale, Maureen Byrne and Debra Coen voted in favor of the ordinance. Member Patrick Rowe voted against it and John Hoover was not present.

The vote followed comments by members of the audience both in favor and against the ban. Jeff Morton, owner of pet stores in Union and Green Brook and a member of the Coalition of Responsible Pet Store Owners, posited that it is unconstitutional for a town to allow some organizations to provide pets but not retail stores. He said that the majority of New Jersey towns have not adopted ordinances banning retail sale of dogs and pets and that the Borough Council of Madison has refused to sit down and discuss the issue with pet store owners while it has sat down with animal rights activists. He said “this is will be a $100,000 vote (to pass the ordinance) because it will cost Madison that much to fight a lawsuit against it.” He concluded that passing the ordinance is “a solution looking for a problem”.

Janice Fisher, of Friends of Animals United of New Jersey, a Manasquan resident, explained that 130 ordinances banning the retail sale of dogs and cats have passed in New Jersey. Seven of these ordinances have been challenged on constitutional grounds but all seven passed.

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Madison resident Kathy Bailey stated that all her pets have been adopted, not purchased, but she feels that passing the ordinance would set a dangerous precedent restricting trade.

Nora Parker of St. Hubert’s explained that animal shelters do follow rules and regulations, contrary to arguments made by pet shop owners, and that it removes animals from areas of need to areas of opportunity. A goal is to stop sourcing dogs from puppy mills.

Council member Rowe explained that he was voting against the ban because (1) he feels that there is not universal support in the community for the ordinance, (2) it is not fair to restrict one type of industry in the borough, and (3) the issue should be determined by the state legislature and not town-by-town. Council member Byrne was disturbed by threats she received via email regarding this issue and reminded all that the Board members serve as volunteers. Member Baillie said the ban had lots of support from Madison residents and that the pet stores in Madison have no problem with the ordinance. Member Coen opined that the ordinance will prevent pet stores from moving to the Borough to sell dogs and cats. Member Vitale stated that it is one of her greatest pleasures to make a decision for the “town she loves and wants to protect.”