NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ – In May the Borough Council heard a plea to ban pet stores from the selling of puppies and kittens.  At the Monday, June 12 meeting a couple of pet store owners approached the council and provided council members with the other side of the issue.

Jeffrey Morton, President of Shake A Paw Pet stores as well as the owner of the Shake A Paw Center for Rescue and Adoption, a non-profit animal shelter, took the microphone first. Cindy Knowles, owner of an animal hospital and a puppy “boutique” also spoke to the council members urging them not to go ahead with the proposed ordinance.

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, noted that the ordinance, proposed by the Humane Society, requires pet stores to obtain pets only from animal shelters. He explained that the proposed ordinance would “change the industry’s distribution channel” and limit the selection of desired family pets. “Does every New Providence resident want to adopt a Pitt Bull?” he asked. He pointed out that rescue centers are rarely filled with Golden Retrievers, Poodles, Shih Tzu’s or other sought after dog breeds suitable for many families and life styles.

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Both Morton and Knowles told the council that New Jersey has the strictest regulations in the nation when it comes to pet stores. For example, New Jersey law requires pet stores to post detailed information about the pet’s breeder. “If we source from a shelter, we would then be in violation of state law, as the animal’s true history is almost always unknown. This proposed ordinance would subject the town to unnecessary and frankly, hard to resolve legal disputes,” Morton said.

Morton pointed out that rescue shelters can legally source from the same puppy mill the ordinance attempts to ban. “New Jersey shelters are totally without any sourcing regulations.” For example, one New Jersey shelter has imported over 4000 animals from all over the United States and from abroad. Only a very small percentage of animals are brought to shelters by local residents or picked up by animal control officers. “Everyone in this room is against sub-standard dog breeders, but this proposed ordinance will not close a single one, or save or re-home a single New Jersey animal,” Morton said.

It is already illegal for a New Jersey pet store to purchase pets from puppy mills, “despite what the animal activists say,” Morton said. ”After the Pet Protection Act of 2015 was passed, pet stores are required to provide detailed information on the dog’s breeder and even the distributor. Pet stores are required to have two years of detailed USDA inspection reports available for review. Pet stores are regulated by local health departments, and by the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs,” Morton told the council.

Knowles added that stores are required to have our animals examined by licensed New Jersey veterinarians every 14 days while the shelter animals are inspected once a year. The Pet Purchase Protection Act adopted in 2015 requires New Jersey pet stores to source their puppies only from the USDA licensed breeders “with zero violations of breeders accord” against the breeding animal or the puppies, Knowles said.

Pet buyers are also protected by New Jersey Consumer Affairs when they purchase a pet from a pet store. Should the puppy get sick the consumer has three options: to return the puppy for a full refund; return the puppy for a like puppy or have necessary medical bills covered up to double of the purchase price. Rescue shelters do not offer such protection.

Both Morton and Knowles pointed out that they sell pets only from reputable professional breeders whose information is shared with consumers.

Knowles also advised the council that the state did not pass the ordinance, and therefore the advocacy group is going from town to town. “They will tell you that 100 towns have adopted this ordinance, passing it in towns without pet stores and with no opposition. They won’t tell you that 435 towns have not passed this type of ordinance,” Morton said.

Morton suspects that the animal activists are driven by a political agenda. “Their continued attack on closing New Jersey pet stores is no different than their attacks on the Whales of Sea World, the NYC  Horse Drawn Carriage Industry, or the Ringling Brothers Circus, which recently closed its Doors”, he said.

The council was contemplating the introduction of an ordinance based on the Humane Society’s model at its next meeting. However, based on the information provided by Morton and Knowles, the council will reconsider the issue.