NUTLEY, NJ - Questions were raised for a possible pet shop ordinance during the Tuesday, Aug. 15 public meeting.

A possible pet shop ordinance triggered questions during the Tuesday, Aug. 15 public meeting. Ordinance No. 3368 regarding puppy and kitten mills was tabled by Public Affairs Commissioner Steven L. Rogers due to further questions about the ordinance that will prevent the retail sale of puppies and kittens in pet shops. Commissioner Thomas J. Evans, who was present via phone, also questioned the ordinance and how it would save the township money. It should be noted, as of now, Nutley does not have a pet shop.

It should be noted, as of now, Nutley does not have a pet shop.

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Larry Cohen, volunteer legislative leader of the Humane Society of the United States explained the reasoning for the ordinance was to “dry up the demand for dogs that come from large commercial breeders mostly in the Midwest, referred to as puppy mills, because the conditions in which they are bred.”

New Jersey law mandates that pet stores get their animals from U.S. Department of Agriculture licensed breeders. According to Cohen, NJ has only two USDA license breeders and they don’t sell to NJ pet stores. NJ pet stores can’t receive their dogs from hobby or backyard breeders.

“They are legislative by the animal welfare act which… allows the confinement of dogs 24/7 and allows dogs to be bred at their first heat cycle and everyone thereafter, does not mandate continuous water for dogs or socialize or human contact; it allows for dogs when a breeder is done with them to be killed.  …used as puppy slaves,” said Cohen.

Cohen claims the USDA does not do a good job of inspecting these licensed breeders. He also said inspection reports he tried getting from the USDA are now wiped from the website and have to be obtained by the filing out the Open Public Records Act request form. Cohen presented the commissioners a packet of his findings including the inspection reports he received with a full page redacted.

“There is absolutely no way at this point to know what is happening with any breeder that any pet store in NJ is using. If a store were to open in Nutley and decided to sell puppies you would have no idea what kind of breeders they were sourcing those puppies from even if the breeder is in compliance with the animal welfare act,” said Cohen.

Cohen believes the animal welfare act has horrendous standards of care.

Rogers read from the ordinance, ‘No pet store shall sell, deliver, offer for sale, barter, auction, give away, or otherwise transfer or dispose of dogs or cats.’ “It’s almost saying to a pet store owner you can’t sell dogs or cats period. If they’re getting these dogs and cats within the guidelines that you have here from animal care facilities and rescue organizations can they not sell them,” asked Rogers.

“Correct that’s the intent. The pet supply industry is a billion dollar industry, 24 of the 25 largest pet store chains in the nation do not sell dogs or cats,” said Cohen.

Cohen explained that it won’t harm a responsible hobby breeder “If you know a responsible breeder we encourage you to go to them. A responsible breeder wants to meet the owner,” he said.

 “The intent of this law is to insure that the animals are protected that we are not getting animals with inhumane treatment from puppy mills etc. We are heightening public awareness of the problem, It’s not going to hurt businesses because they are not selling them anyway,” said Rogers.

Rogers wants to discuss this further with Cohen and refine the ordinance before it is presented for review to the commissioners and residents.

The next Board of Commissioners meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 5.