If township ordinances base their kennel license requirements on the New Jersey State definition of kennel, without exception, hobby dog breeders should obtain a kennel license, even if they breed only once or twice a year.  Preferably, town ordinances exempt from licensure those owners who breed their dogs infrequently, often setting a specific limit of litters for sale/year, and anyone exceeding that limit has to be licensed.

The State defines a kennel as “any establishment wherein or whereupon the business of boarding or selling dogs or breeding dogs for sale is carried on, except a pet shop.”  N.J.A.C. 8:23A-1.1.  Once licensed as a kennel, many other State requirements apply, which may not be practical or even possible to comply with in a home, where many hobby breeders raise their litters, including:

  • The interior building surfaces of indoor housing facilities shall be constructed and maintained so that they are impervious to moisture and may be readily cleaned;
    • “Impervious surface” means a surface that does not permit the absorption of fluids.  Such surfaces are those that can be thoroughly and repeatedly cleaned and disinfected, which will not retain odors, and from which fluids bead up and run off or can be removed without being adsorbed into the surface material.
  • Annual satisfactory inspection required by the local health authority;
  • Annual satisfactory inspection required by local fire officials;
  • For facilities constructed or renovated after January 17, 1995, a plan review and approval by the local health authority is required.

These standards are reasonable for a commercial kennel operation, but they seem excessive if required for part-time hobby breeders, particularly where the dogs are housed within the home.  It also seems counter-intuitive that hobby breeders may no longer be able to continue producing and selling healthy, well cared for pure-bred dogs, at a time when the commercial breeding of dogs and sales of puppies from so-called “puppy mills” has come under so much scrutiny, in some cases, rightly so.  Hobby breeding might soon be unattainable for those owners who do not want to permit the annual inspections required by law, or cannot remodel their homes to incorporate the surfaces required to breed dogs.

For Danielle Weitz, a lifelong dog owner and breeder of champion German Shepherds, the situation is even worse-she may have to get a kennel license simply to keep her dogs, or suffer through monthly intrusive home inspections for the foreseeable future. Notably, the law does not seem to require such a license, but at least 2 judges have concluded otherwise.

On February 10, 2014, the Appellate Division of the Superior Court of New Jersey heard arguments in State v. Danielle Weitz, a case involving Ms. Weitz’ failure to apply for a municipal kennel license for the occasional sale of dogs resulting from the breeding of her show-quality German Shepherds at her home, where she owns and cares for around 15 individually licensed dogs.

During the course of the litigation, both parties agreed that the township requires a kennel license for businesses that board, sell, or breed dogs for sale.  While Ms. Weitz purportedly had previously bred and sold dogs, sporadically, she has never boarded dogs.  After being found guilty for operating a kennel without a municipal license Ms. Weitz agreed to stop breeding her dogs for sale.  According to Ms. Weitz’ attorney, Gregg D. Trautmann, this should seemingly put her in full compliance with the law, since there is no law in the township limiting the number of dogs she can own, and Ms. Weitz was never charged with any other animal-related law.

However, Ms. Weitz’ sentence, first entered on October 23, 2013 by the Municipal Court Judge, and upheld on March 7, 2013, by the Honorable Eugene H. Austin, J.S.C., requires more than is permitted by law, as Mr. Trautmann argued before the Appellate Court.  In addition to being required to apply for a kennel license, Ms. Weitz was directed to cease breeding her dogs entirely.  And, the Court ordered monthly inspections of her home until she obtains a kennel license to ensure that the dogs have not been bred.

The State’s attorney, Mark R. DiMaria, argued that under the General Police Powers, the inspections mandated by the Judge were appropriate, even though he admitted that they involved repeated acts of entering Ms. Weitz’ home without a warrant.  Mr. DiMaria insisted that Ms. Weitz had not ceased the pattern of behavior she has been found guilty of by the court.

But according to Mr. Trautmann, Ms. Weitz had agreed not to sell any dogs or breed her dogs for sale.  Therefore, but for the court-ordered sentence, Ms. Weitz should not have to obtain a kennel license, based on the ordinance and the State’s definition of “kennel.”

The issue before the Appellate Court is whether the lower courts exceeded their authority by mandating that Ms. Weitz obtain a kennel license, or suffer through monthly home inspections for as long as she continues to own dogs, even though she has agreed to refrain from activities which require such a license.  If the Court were to uphold the sentence, it would appear that, at least in the Borough of Franklin Lakes, Mr. Weitz either has to obtain a kennel license, or prove that she will not breed her dogs again, for sale or otherwise.

Other New Jersey hobby breeders should carefully review their local ordinances, to determine whether they are required to obtain a kennel license, and what such a license requires for the breeders to obtain satisfactory annual inspections of their homes.