To the Editor:
The authors of your recently published Letters to the Editor (Good News on Keeping Puppy Mill Pets Out of Westfield and Proposed Pet Store Ordinance is a Smart Move) are misguided in their overzealous pursuit of a ban on pet stores.
First and foremost, pet stores in New Jersey are strictly regulated. New Jersey’s Pet Purchase Protection Act is the strictest animal and consumer protection law of its kind in the country. This law requires pet stores to obtain our puppies only from breeders licensed and inspected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture with near perfect inspection reports. There are fewer than 1,500 USDA breeders in the entire country. They produce a mere fraction of the number of puppies cited in the Westfield Ordinance (which has many other inaccuracies as well). New Jersey’s law and our even stricter personal requirements further limit the number of breeders from whom we get our puppies.
Ask Mr. Cohen, the letter’s author, how many USDA kennels he has actually visited. How many USDA breeders he knows personally, or has interviewed or even attempted to call – NONE! I can tell you that collectively we have visited hundreds of them. We speak to them every day. Email, Facetime and text with them constantly about their puppies, their puppy’s parents, our clients’ questions and requests, etc. We have professional, working relationships with our breeders; these activists do not. All they have are outdated inspection reports which the USDA has unfortunately had to remove from public view because of people like Mr. Cohen and others who misrepresent the information contained in those reports. (NOTE: As stakeholders we have access to these reports and they are available in our stores).
To use Ms. Smith’s or Mr. Cohen’s terms, the breeders from whom we get our puppies are simply the most professional, “reputable” and “responsible” breeders in the country and they are proud to offer their beautiful animals to us to find loving homes. We are not “middle men,” we are colleagues working together to bring their puppies to loving families in suburban New Jersey. Just as rescues have been so successful in the Northeast that they are now able to transport dogs into the state from, mainly, the south and even outside of the United States.
This law works well and we have seen several pet stores shut down in recent years as a direct result. As reputable pet shops, we applaud the state and the municipalities where these substandard stores were located for ensuring that the highest standards for animal welfare prevail.
Not only does New Jersey’s law help keep puppy mill puppies out of the state, it also ensures that our customers are financially protected. Our dogs are seen regularly by qualified veterinarians and must pass a health inspection before they come into our stores and before they can leave our stores. If one of our puppies has a hereditary disease or becomes sick (which can happen with any puppy regardless of the source), the law requires that we pay for the dog’s veterinary care, refund the purchase price of the animal and, in some cases, provide the customer with another puppy at our cost.
There are many reputable shelters in New Jersey that offer great pets for adoption. And of course we fully support their efforts. However, stores like mine are regulated; shelters and rescues are not. There are no meaningful rules for shelters and rescues in New Jersey and no consumer protections required if your adopted puppy gets sick. The residents of Westfield should keep this in mind when they begin their search for a pet. Shop or adopt — the choice should be yours alone.
There are currently no shops in Westfield and there may never be. I share my concerns here because the lies that the Humane Society and other animal activists continue to tell, to promote their ultimate agenda of no pets. It is not right and as a pet industry professional I need to stand up for small businesses who may want to open up in the future, as well as for our customers who have a right to choose the pet that’s right for them. And while these activists will tell you that you can go to local hobby breeders you should know three things:
- There are not enough locally bred puppies to meet the demand of New Jersey’s residents. And purebred puppies are almost impossible to find in shelters and at rescues (understandably).
- These activists, at the same time they tell the public this, are working in other states, like New Hampshire, to place over-burdensome regulations on small, local breeders in order to put them out of business.
- And finally, back in 2015 when the current pet store law was passed, the activists sought to eliminate our ability to work with small, local breeders because they said they had no oversight; and therefore there could be no guarantees their operations were humane. It is clear the activists want neither option.
So what’s next? Is Westfield going to outright ban residents from buying a puppy from a pet store anywhere, or only allow shelter and rescue dogs to live within the town’s limits? Are you going to ban people from buying from a breeder of unknown quality? We ask town officials, can you ensure that the breeders your residents buy from directly are taking proper care of their animals simply because they are allegedly small hobby breeders?
In closing, we have thousands of happy customers – many from right here in Westfield, and we and our towns are happy to serve you. We have great reputations in our communities and have long-time clients who come to us for second, third and fourth puppies. Our businesses are thriving for a reason.