Undercover at NJ pet shops: Advocates push for ‘puppy mill’ law
An undercover investigation of 29 pet stores that sell puppies in New Jersey found that some are getting their animals from so-called puppy mills and not providing customers with proper breeding information for their dogs.
The report released this week by the Humane Society of the United States comes as lawmakers in Trenton consider toughening the state's pet shop regulations — already considered among the strictest in the nation — in order to restrict the sale of pets from unscrupulous breeders who raise animals in inhumane conditions.
Humane Society acknowledged that many Garden State pet stores don't appear to be violating any laws. But the group is worried that even many of the licensed breeders without violations "can still be considered puppy mills."
The legislation is opposed by an industry group who says the proposed law is an overreach that will hurt businesses.
Mike Bober, president of the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council, says the report was filled with errors and is little more than a "marketing" ploy to promote legislation that “creates a de facto ban on pet stores.”
Animal cruelty charges
The report comes after several months of bad publicity for some of the state's pet shop owners.
The owner of Just Pups in East Brunswick, Emerson and Paramus is facing hundreds of animal cruelty charges as well as charges that he mislead customers about the heath of his dogs and refused to reimburse customers for puppies that died or required veterinary care.
Officials in Woodbridge shut down Fancy Pups in December and arrested its owner citing deplorable conditions in the store.
More than 60 municipalities in the state ban the sale of commercially-raised puppies in pet stores.
The Humane Society report tied several of the pet stores to 53 breeders that the nonprofit advocacy group says have raised dogs in filthy, sickening conditions. One of the breeders had been cited for euthanizing dogs by shooting their heads.
State law prohibits stores from obtaining pets from breeders that that violated federal animal welfare laws in the past two years.
The report also faulted pet stores themselves for poor conditions, including tight cages and neglect.
Inside the pet stores
Among other allegations:
—— Carmona Pet Shop in Union City, Oh My Dog in Kearny, Fashionable Pets in Paramus, Passaic Pets in Passaic, and Absolute Fishland and Pets R Us, both in Newark, failed to disclose breeder information to buyers.
—— Wayne Puppies in Wayne told a customer that the puppies came from local breeders, but documents showed they came from an Iowa breeder.
—— Bark Avenue in Red Bank, The Pet Shoppe in Middletown, Shake-a-Paw in Green Brook and Union and Wayne Puppies puppies from Judy Maassen/ J Maassen Inc, in Rock Valley, Iowa, which was cited by the USDA in August 2014 for listing “gunshot in brain at close range” as a routine method of euthanasia.
—— D&G's Petite Pups in Paterson, Village Pet Shop in Williamstown and Whiteway Pet Shop in Elizabeth purchased pets from Andy Yoder in Millersburg, Ohio, which was found with seven dead puppies on a single day in 2014 and a dog with a severe neck injury from its collar.
—— Fashionable Pets purchased pets from Johnny Dake (J & M Kennels) in Stover, Missouri, which was cited for violating the Animal Welfare Act in 2014 after a dead puppy was found frozen outside in a “in a statuelike state."
—— Furrylicious in Whitehouse Station purchased from Brett Bonham/Calvary Creek Kennels in Cordell, Oklahoma, which had been cited for wounded dogs and and three dogs so “heavily infested” with ticks that the ticks could be seen all over their “face[s], ears and in between the toes of their feet.”
—— New York Puppy Club in Edgewater had a bulldog puppy Linda Baker, Okie Pets, in Ketchum, Oklahoma, which had Animal Welfare Act violations in 2014 and 2015.
—— Pet Shoppe in Middletown and Shake-a-Paw in Green Brook and Union bought from John Nisley in Edgewood, Iowa, in 2015, after he had been cited for sick animals and a facility that was “completely wet with animal waste, water and mud.”
—— Shake-a-Paw, Furrylicious and PV Pets in Pennsville bought from Sarah Young (Clear Springs Kennel), Hardy, Arkansas, who had been cited for dogs missing all their teeth, having “green goopy discharge from both eyes" and bleeding gums, and other injuries.
—— Shake-a-Paw in Union also bought from from Pamela Baldwin’s Samples Creek Kennel in Missouri, which was cited for sick dogs and feces-covered facilities that smelled so bad that a USDA inspector suffered from a "burning and stinging sensation” in the eyes and nose.
Debating need for law
State Sen. Raymond Lesniak, D-Union, who sponsored the puppy mills bill that passed in the Senate, said Tuesday that he expects the Assembly Agriculture Committee to approve his bill for a vote by the end of September.
The law would ban pet stores that repeatedly violate the law from being able to sell puppies. The law also bans new pet stores from selling puppies unless they come from shelters or animal-rescue organizations.
Bober said Tuesday that the proposed law "takes things beyond a point where they are already working very well and in fact is taking them to something of an extreme."
“This is not in fact a crackdown on unlicensed, unscrupulous breeders. Instead it’s penalizing those who are working with licensed and inspected breeders," he said, adding that a pet store "is absolutely a good option for many perspective owners out there that are looking to acquire an animal that is hypoallergenic, that is temperamentally suited for small children, that is capable of doing well in small spaces."
Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips: Call 609-438-1015 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.