Governor Christie issued a conditional veto on May 1, 2017, amending S 3041 significantly and correcting some constitutional deficiencies in the existing law (New Jersey’s Pet Purchase Protection Act) as well as glaring constitutional violations in S 3041 that ended up on the Governor’s desk.
Explaining his support of efforts to protect New Jersey pet purchasers and require “responsible conduct among pet breeders and brokers” the Governor rejected much of the newly proposed amendments finding that “aspects of this bill go too far.” S3041 Conditional Veto, May 1, 2017.
[T]his bill would require the Division of Consumer Affairs (“DCA”) to engage in costly, and potentially unconstitutional, regulation of pet dealers, breeders, and brokers throughout the country. This bill would also have the unintended consequence of restricting consumer access to pets, even from responsible breeders.
This bill would expand the Act’s burdensome sourcing requirements on New Jersey pet shops to all pet dealers; impose onerous record keeping and reporting requirements on pet dealers; require DCA to post on its web-site United States Department of Agriculture (“USDA”) inspection reports for breeders and brokers, even though the USDA removed these inspection reports from its own website shortly after being sued in part over privacy concerns; and expose pet shops and pet dealers to a severe “three strikes and you’re out” penalty that could permanently close them for something as innocuous as unknowingly obtaining pets from a source that was cited, but not fully adjudicated, for technical violations in a USDA inspection report which they no longer publish on their own website.
Some of the changes in the Conditional Veto include:
- The inflammatory, pejorative language in the preamble has been deleted in its entirety.
- The definition of “broker” would be consistent with that term as defined in the Animal Welfare Act and related regulations.
- For the most part, the law would apply to those conducting business within the State of New Jersey.
- Pet shops and pet dealers within New Jersey remain banned from purchasing from USDA exempt breeders but exempt or hobby breeders are no longer included in the definition of pet dealer.
- Most of the draconian provisions and fines for pet stores have been eliminated or significantly amended.
- Documentation of and about the dogs and cats sold by pet stores is still required, but those documents no longer have to be plastered on cages. They can either be on the cage or “in a display that is visible and accessible to consumers and is immediately adjacent to the cage or enclosure.”
Importantly, the Conditional Veto requires final adjudications that a source has violated the Animal Welfare Act before banned from selling to pet shops or pet dealers in N.J. Apparently recognizing that the existing and proposed language impermissibly violates the Due Process rights of pet breeders and dealers, the proposed changes provide:
Pet shops and pet dealers cannot purchase from a pet dealer who ‘received three or more separate, final and conclusive orders for violation of the federal Animal Welfare Act . . . or corresponding federal animal welfare regulations . . .during the five-year period prior to the purchase of the animal by the pet shop or pet dealer.”
Unfortunately, the Governor did not correct the requirement for out of state breeders to comply with NJ Department of Health regulations, an impermissible violation of the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
Whether and to what extent the Conditional Veto will be adopted remains to be seen. The bill sponsor has threatened to override the veto.
Those interested in supporting the Conditional Veto and blocking an override can visit NAIA’s website for more information.