Business & Finance

Pet Store Ordinance Brings Opposing Views on Pet Stores to the September 12, 2017 Township Committee Meeting

L-R: Morgan Thompson of Prevention Links, Mayor Stampoulos, Officer Smith, Union County Community Law Enforcement Division of the Union County Sheriff’s office, and Springfield Chief of Police Cook Credits: Robert Kopacz
Brian Hackett, New Jersey State Director for the Humane Society of the United States, listens to others comment on Ordinance 2017-12 after speaking in favor of the ordinance Credits: Robert Kopacz
Ms. Cindy Knowles, owner of retail pet store Furrylicious in Whitehouse Station, NJ speaks in opposition to Ordinance 2017-12 Credits: Robert Kopacz
Township Committee listen to presentation on CLEAR program by Officer Victoria Smith, Union County Community Law Enforcement Division and Morgan Thompson, Director of Prevention Links Credits: Robert Kopacz
Officer Victoria Smith, Union County Community Law Enforcement Division describes Union County's CLEAR program while Morgan Thompson, Director of Prevention Links, looks on Credits: Robert Kopacz

SPRINGFIELD, NJ - Proponents and opponents to ordinance 2017-12 voiced their views on it at the September 12, 2017 Springfield, NJ Township Committee Meeting.

The ordinance, which was up for second reading at Tuesday’s meeting, sought to restrict the sources from which pet stores can obtain dogs and cats for retail sale. Under the ordinance, pet stores can only obtain cats and dogs from either an “animal care facility” or “animal rescue organization.”  Each organization, according to the definitions provided in the ordinance, involve rescue animals as the predominant source.

The ordinance effectively bars pet stores in the Township from obtaining their cats and dogs from so-called “puppy mills” and “kitten mills.” According to the recitals in the ordinance, such mills, popular with small retail pet stores nationwide as a source of puppies and kittens, breed the animals in substandard conditions, which can lead to health and behavioral problems later in the animal’s life.

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Brian Hackett, New Jersey State Director for the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), called for the adoption of the ordinance at its public hearing.

Mr. Hackett, who noted in a conversation after the meeting that the Humane Society offers guidance on drafting local ordinances for municipalities such as Springfield, said that “puppy mills present for the State of New Jersey a major problem, because we have pet stores in the state that are sourcing from them.”

“The responsible breeder does not sell from a pet store,” continued Mr. Hackett. “Your ordinance does not harm, hurt, or affect responsible breeders. Responsible breeders … want to meet you face-to-face and sell directly to you. They’re not shipping their dogs off in vans to some pet store somewhere to some people, to churn out the most profit they can out of that living creature.”

Cindy Knowles, owner of Furrylicious, a retail pet store in Whitehouse Station, NJ, also spoke at the meeting, and was critical of the proposed ordinance.

“The Humane Society of the United States’ agenda is extreme, and it goes too far,” said Ms. Knowles.

“They say that these are horrific places, you’ll see there’s a stark contrast to what the HSUS alleges. You see the adult dogs in their playground,” stated Ms. Knowles, presenting photographs of USDA breeders’ premises with which she does business, “In a beautiful play yard. They are nicer than most people's backyards,” continued Ms. Knowles.

This statement contrasted with an earlier statement by Mr. Hackett that USDA regulations for dog breeders fell short of protecting the animals.

She accused the lobbying group New Jersey Residents Against Puppy Mills of filing false complaints against pet store owners. “After completing a thorough investigation, please note that I found no violations, and all of your records were up to date and compliant.’ So this is what we are putting up with,” noted Ms. Knowles, reading from the report of an inspection on another New Jersey pet store that, according to Ms. Knowles, had been the subject of a complaint by New Jersey Residents Against Puppy Mills.

Ms. Knowles, who together with her sister Stephanie Earl own Furrylicious, clarified in a conversation with TAPInto Springfield after the meeting that they did not own a pet store in Springfield, but were seeking to comment at public meetings in all NJ towns which were considering a similar ordinance.

After public comment from Jean Clayton, who spoke as a co-founder of New Jersey Residents Against Puppy Mills in support of the ordinance, Mayor Diane Stampoulos interrupted another two people who sought to approach the dais for comment, including Ms. Knowles business partner, Ms. Earl. She then closed the public comment portion of the meeting.

“I’m going to stop this right here,” Mayor Stampoulos interjected. “I think we’ve each received at least two or three dozen emails [on this subject]. I don’t think we’re going to hear anything different from the public.”

A vote was immediately called and the ordinance passed by unanimous vote, without further Committee discussion.

Union County Efforts to Treat Opioid Addiction Detailed

Earlier in the evening, the Committee also heard a presentation by representatives of a new Union County program, Community Law Enforcement Addiction Recovery, or CLEAR for short.

The program, a partnership between Union County, the Union County Sheriff’s office, the Union County Prosecutor’s office, Union County Police and Prevention LInks seeks to destigmatize

Morgan Thompson, Director of Recovery Support Services for Prevention Links, together with Officer Victoria Smith, Union County Community Law Enforcement Division of the Union County Sheriff’s office, described the program as a way to face the opioid epidemic head on. Ms. Thompson described it as “one of an array of new initiatives that have come to union county to really help folks recover from addiction, rather than overdose.”

Ms. Thompson further observed that Union County is particularly vulnerable “because of the ports and our proximity to New York City.”

CLEAR is designed to destigmatize addiction and remove fear of arrest or prosecution. “It represents law enforcement embracing a public health approach to addiction,” added Ms. Thompson.

Under the program, individuals deemed eligible for the program are referred to a recovery coach, who interviews them and guide them to appropriate addiction treatment facilities contracted by the County.

Officer Smith emphasized that when they take an individual into the program they are dressed in plain clothes. “The reason we do plain clothes is that we don’t want to give them that fear of ‘I’m going to go speak to a police officer right now,’ ’’ further underscoring the public health approach.

Other Business

In other business before the Committee, Deputy Mayor Maria Vassallo proclaimed September as Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, reflecting on her mother’s own death from endometrial cancer, and Committeewoman Geri Bujnowski declared September 15, 2017 as POW/MIA Remembrance day.

The Committee also voted on and passed three other ordinances on second reading which were listed on the agenda, all without discussion or public comment, and accepted reports from Chief Financial Officer Michael Quick, Chief of Police John Cook and Fire Department Chief Carlo Palumbo.

The next Township Committee Meeting will take place on Tuesday, September 26, 2017 at 7 p.m.

NOTE:  On September 15, 2017, a letter to the editor was published providing clarification of some of the public comments made about pet store ordinance in New Jersey.

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