🐶 A new bill would prohibit sales of certain pets at pet stores

🐱 An animal advocacy group says it's inhumane to sell cats and dogs

🐰 Pet shops say they're being punished for operating honest and fair businesses

Adopt, don't shop — you've likely heard that phrase plenty of times from animal advocates over the years.

But you wouldn't even get that choice in New Jersey if a new bill were to ever become law.

Lawmakers on Monday heard from supporters and critics of the legislation that would prohibit pet shops in the Garden State from selling dogs, cats, or rabbits. The measure would repeal New Jersey's Pet Purchase Protection Law, which currently permits stores to sell animals from breeders who are licensed and have clean histories.

"Twenty-four of the 25 largest pet retailers in this country do not sell cats or dogs," Brian Hackett, director of government and community relations for Associated Humane Societies, told the Senate Economic Growth Committee.

"Any business that is a pet retailer ... that sells puppies or kittens is ... irresponsible, inhumane, and out of the normal mainstream pet industry dynamic," Hackett said.

Pet stores fight back

Pet shops on hand for the hearing took offense to Hackett's remarks and suggested that completely prohibiting the sale of certain pets would only move the state backwards in terms of protecting animals and consumers.

"We really should be focusing on 'adopt, or shop,'" said Charles Morton, an employee at Shake A Paw in Green Brook. "For consumers, they should have the opportunity to choose what is best for their family."

New Jersey shop owners and workers said they're following the "nation's strongest" consumer protection laws, yet groups keep looking to make operations even more onerous for retailers.

Jonathan Dubreuil, owner of Shake A Paw, said the demand for puppies in New Jersey will remain strong should retailers ever be blocked from selling them, and that will force consumers to turn to less-than-ideal alternatives.

"New Jersey residents are going to buy a dog online from who knows where," Dubreuil said. "New Jersey residents are going to have to adopt a dog from a shelter with no health guarantees or no origin of where the puppy came from."

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Brian Stack, D-Hudson, was up for discussion only and was not voted on by the Senate panel.

Stack's measure establishes a $500 fine for each violation.

The committee also used a portion of its hearing to discuss a bill that mandates licensing for pet groomers.

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