Shelters, Rescues, and pet stores all provide pets for consumers. The transfer of ownership is the same, whether described as an “adoption” or “sale.” Both the federal and state governments consider the transfer of ownership from these entities to be equivalent. The transfer of money for these pets is considered remuneration, whether based on a sale, adoption fee or donation. USDA “consider[s] acts of compensation to include any remuneration for the animals, regardless of whether it is for profit or not for profit.” The critical question is whether the comparators serve the same market, not whether the articles of commerce are identical.

Pet stores, shelters and rescues are all considered “pet dealers” as defined by Congress in the AWA and USDA. A pet dealer is “any person who, in commerce for compensation or profit delivers for transportation . . . buys, sells or negotiates the purchase or sale of any dog or other animal . . . for use as a pet.”

The legislative history of the AWA makes clear that this definition was “intended to include nonprofit or charitable institutions which handles dogs and cats” and that the definition of “dealer” was “not intended to exclude from licensing or regulation those nonprofit or charitable institutions or animal shelters which supply animals in commerce to research facilities for compensation of their out-of-pocket expenses.”

Importantly, the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals, a 501(c)(3) non-profit charity, has been functioning as an unlicensed USDA Class B dealer by transferring animals from the City’s Shelters to more than 140 partner Rescues in a program called the New Hope Transfer Program. Alliance President “Hoffman said she thinks of the Transfer Program as a giant distribution network with AC&C as the ‘wholesaler’ and the partner organizations as ‘retailers’ who get the animals face-to-face with the public.”

Like pet stores, rescues and some shelters import dogs into the Northeast for sale/adoption, similar to the business model of a pet store. The biggest difference between pet stores, rescues and shelters is that pet stores and their sources are highly regulated and shelters and rescues are not.

The explosion of interstate and international transportation of dogs and cats through rescue channels, largely unregulated, exposes humans and animals alike to infectious, contagious diseases and parasites. As a result, state animal health officials adopted or amended state laws to regulate animal transfers from shelters and rescues in similar or more stringent ways than sales from pet stores. USDA and CDC have also issued alerts and amended regulations to prevent disease spread from pets imported from other countries for sale in rescue channels in the U.S.

One of the most profitable shelters/rescues in the NYC area, the North Shore Animal League (NSAL), advertises that they sell dogs and cats throughout the City, which they regularly obtain from substandard breeders throughout the country. According to their website, they “reach across the country to rescue animals from overcrowded shelters, unwanted litters, puppy mills, natural disasters and other emergencies and find them permanent, loving homes.”

NSAL rescued at least 3,562 pets from 13 states and Puerto Rico from December, 2010 until December, 2014. This is a highly lucrative business. In Fiscal Year 2013, NSAL reported: total revenues of $35,655,064, with $1,524,982 for its Pet Rescue and Adoption; compensation of current officers, directors and key employees totaling $1,611,478; and payment of other salaries and wages totaling $10,210,036. NSAL also reports that it contracts with other rescues and shelters, obtaining and importing pets for adoption from other states to the State and City.

For example, Precious Friends, a shelter in Tennessee contracts with NSAL to “take [animals] from shelters located in Tennessee, Kentucky, Georgia, Ohio, Texas, Illinois, Louisiana, Arkansas, Alabama, and Indiana” and send them to NSAL.

More recently, NSAL has advertised to purchase puppies from any source for resale.

 

At its core, the Law is an attempt at economic protectionism of the City’s favored source of pets, animal shelters and rescues, who are expressly exempted from the Laws’ sourcing restrictions and mandatory sterilization requirements for pet stores, and discriminates against articles of commerce (puppies) coming from other states based simply on their origin from Class B licensees. See Philadelphia v. New Jersey, 437 U.S. 617, 626-627 (1978)

This law does not protect the public health or welfare, an oft-cited defense used by cities like New York in response to constitutional challenges that the laws violate the Commerce Clause.

If the City wanted to ban the importation of puppies to protect human or animal health, it could do so by banning the importation of all puppies from any source. Instead it has, in practical effect, banned the importation of the highly regulated, inspected, purposely bred and humanely raised healthy puppies from Class B licensees to pet stores, and favors the importation of dogs known to have the highest incidence of infectious diseases, behavioral and physical disorders from retail rescue channels.

The City said the Law is needed to prevent the sale of puppies from puppy mills, where they claim pet stores obtain their puppies. First, pet stores do not buy from substandard, large commercial breeders, known as “puppy mills.” NYC pet stores buy their puppies from either USDA licensed breeders with 5 or more females that have not been finally determined to have violated the Animal Welfare Act or breeders with 4 or fewer females whom USDA has determined do not have to be licensed because they exceed humane standards of care. These purchases are commonly made with the assistance of Class B dealers who serve as the wholesalers, or middlemen of the interstate pet market. Since the Law bans sales from Class B dealers to pet stores, it creates an impermissible burden to interstate commerce.

The Law discriminates against the sources NYC pet stores rely upon (Class B’s and their sources) who are out of state and favors the in state rescues and shelters who obtain their animals from unlicensed sources.

Further, the burden imposed on interstate commerce is quantitatively and qualitatively different from that imposed on intrastate commerce, a critical element in commerce clause analysis. National Electrical Manufacturers Ass’n. v. Sorrell, 272 F.3d 104, 109 (2nd Cir. 2001) The Law forces the entire regulated interstate pet market to change their marketing practices, but does not require NYC’s shelters and rescues to make any changes.

This Law, along with the 140 other pet store sourcing bans that HSUS says have been passed throughout the country, has already impacted the interstate pet market.

For example, the USDA-estimated there are between 5,800-10,360 exempt breeders throughout the country, will be unable to sell to pet stores in the City. For these breeders to sell to pet stores in the City, they will have to add breeding females and become Class A licensed breeders.

From 2008 to 2014 the number of Class A breeders decreased by 75%, in large part as a result of pet store sourcing bans. Class A breeders will have to add staff and marketing efforts that they currently rely on Class B dealers to provide. Many Class A breeders cannot expand their businesses, and therefore will be unable to sell to NYC pet stores.

From 2008 to 2014 Class B pet dealers decreased by 85%, in large part as a result of pet store sourcing bans. The City bans Class B sales to pet stores entirely. Because the New York City market is the largest pet market in the country, the impact of this Law to the interstate market will be significant.

 

We are proud to represent the New York Pet Welfare Association, whose members include purposely-bred dog owners, breeders, wholesalers, pet stores and veterinarians from across the country. This association, like many other hard-working, animal-loving businesses and individuals, has been increasingly under assault by wealthy nonprofit and retail rescue organizations, including ASPCA and HSUS, (“Retail Rescue Organizations”) intent on eliminating the only source of healthy, humanely-raised, highly regulated puppies in this country.

Over the next several blogs I will describe the legal challenges facing the interstate pet market, including the NYPWA and its members in New York City.

New York City adopted a law which was drafted to essentially eliminate pet stores as a source of pets for City residents—actions that necessarily impact interstate commerce as will be discussed. The law favors the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals, the City’s animal shelter (Animal Care & Control) and Retail Rescue Organizations that, despite their “nonprofit” status, are profiting handsomely from their transactions with pets, particularly dogs. As deputy commissioner of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Daniel Kass testified, the intended effect of this law is to make it “more difficult to acquire [dogs and cats] through pet shops, or more expensive to acquire puppies or kittens from breeders. We hope that, overall, the expanded regulation of pet shops will encourage New Yorkers to adopt from shelters run by Animal Care and Control.”

The City law bans sales to pet stores from all Class B licensees (whom USDA licenses as wholesalers who purchase from breeders and sell to pet stores) no matter how well they take of their animals. There are no stricter standards required for these licensees to comply with. In fact, the law, as it pertains to Class B’s, has no standards at all. As long as you qualify for and have obtained a USDA Class B license, you can no longer sell to pet stores in the City.

The City law also limits sales to pet stores from Class A breeders, as long as they have not been finally determined to have violated the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) within a specified number of years. Only a USDA Administrative Law Judge can make a final determination of such a violation. However, commonly, the Retail Rescue Organizations intentionally misrepresent that findings on USDA inspection reports are violations of the AWA. They are not. Noncompliant items on inspection reports are not considered finally determined violations of the AWA.

By limiting sales to pet stores from Class A breeders, the law silently prohibits sales from hobby breeders to pet stores—those with 4 or fewer breeding females that USDA has exempted from licensure after finding that they meet or exceed the humane standards of care required by federal law.

In addition to these sourcing restrictions, which animal shelters and rescues are expressly exempt from, the law requires that pet stores sell only dogs and cats that are spayed or neutered as long as they weigh a mere 2 pounds and are at least 8 weeks old. Despite testimony from veterinarians, including those with expertise in the field of animal reproduction, informing the City that such a requirement will unnecessarily harm many puppies and kill some, the City has not amended this law.

This law, as we have alleged, impermissibly discriminates against interstate commerce and creates an insurmountable obstacle for the entire interstate pet market to comply with the enforcement mechanisms set forth in the AWA and related regulations, which includes a robust licensing scheme for breeders, wholesalers, and retail operations. The law similarly creates an insurmountable obstacle for veterinarians and pet stores to comply with state laws governing veterinary medicine and also the draconian provisions mandating sterilization of pets before sale.

These issues will be discussed separately in upcoming posts.

 

Animal rescue organizations and animal shelters have replaced pet stores as the primary source of dogs throughout the United States.

Unfathomably, concerns about the health of dogs imported from other states and countries are rarely discussed. Unsuspecting adopters could end up with dogs that have serious, sometimes fatal diseases.

For example, dogs that have been increasingly imported from Puerto Rico may be infested with heartworms and suffering from heartworm disease, which according to the AVMA is “a progressive, life-threatening disease.”

There are reportedly 100,000 stray dogs in Puerto Rico, where abandoning dogs is common and spaying and neutering is not the common practice.

According to “The Sato Project,” a nonprofit organization formed to rescue abandoned & abused dogs from Puerto Rico, heartworm infestation is widespread in Puerto Rico.

Roughly 70% of the dogs The Sato Project rescues are heartworm positive, requiring expensive and lengthy medical treatment.

The AVMA confirms that heartworm is prevalent in dogs in Puerto Rico:

There is a distinct geographic pattern for heartworm disease, with the highest prevalence of heartworm infection in 2015 occurring in the Southeastern states and Puerto Rico.

The American Heartworm Society whose “Mission is to lead the Veterinary Profession & the Public  in the understanding of Heartworm disease,,” explains that heartworm disease “is caused by foot-long worms (heartworms) that live in the heart, lungs and associated blood vessels of affected pets, causing severe lung disease, heart failure and damage to other organs in the body.”

Signs of heartworm disease may include a mild persistent cough, reluctance to exercise, fatigue after moderate activity, decreased appetite, and weight loss. As heartworm disease progresses, pets may develop heart failure and the appearance of a swollen belly due to excess fluid in the abdomen. Dogs with large numbers of heartworms can develop a sudden blockages of blood flow within the heart leading to a life-threatening form of cardiovascular collapse. This is called caval syndrome, and is marked by a sudden onset of labored breathing, pale gums, and dark bloody or coffee-colored urine. Without prompt surgical removal of the heartworm blockage, few dogs survive.

Heartworm is not the only disease of concern in dogs imported from Puerto Rico for adoption. Rabies cases in dogs from Puerto Rico have been diagnosed, as reported by the CDC:

During 2014, domestic animals accounted for 47.9% of all animals submitted for testing, but only 7.37% (n = 445) of all rabies cases reported, representing a decrease of 4.71% compared with the 467 reported in 2013.

Of the fifty-nine rabid dogs reported in 2014 . . . [m]ost of the rabid dogs were reported from Texas (n = 14 [23.7%]), Puerto Rico (12 [20.3%]), and Oklahoma (9 [15.2]).

While clearly there are abandoned, stray dogs in Puerto Rico in need of homes, these animals may harbor diseases that will decrease their longevity or require significant veterinary care and related expenses, that unwitting adopters may not be aware of.

Moving the unwanted stray dogs from Puerto Rico to adopters on the mainland will not stop the continued overpopulation on that island without more.

Animal rescue organizations like The Sato Project and Second Chance Animal Rescue importantly do not just remove dogs from Puerto Rico and offer them for adoption, they also educate local residents about the importance of responsible pet ownership, which includes preventing unplanned dog breeding by proper sterilization of owned dogs.  That still may not be enough to change the landscape on the island.

.At the same time, responsibly and purposely-bred dogs should not be banned to force pet owners to obtain dogs only from rescue sources.

Senator Linda Greenstein recently introduced 2 bills in New Jersey-S 2288 and S 2289.

S 2288 would establish the Pet Groomers Licensing Act also known as “Bijou’s Law.”  This bill and its companion, A908, have been around since 2014.

S 2288  would require the New Jersey State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners to license “pet groomers” defined as “an individual who bathes, brushes, clips, or styles a pet for compensation” and to establish regulations governing pet grooming.

It is unlikely that the New Jersey State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners is in a position to license pet groomers as required in this bill.

S 2289 would require breeders or other providers of dogs to pet shops to certify compliance with dog breeding and care regulations that the New Jersey Department of Health would be required to promulgate and would prohibit pet shop sale of dogs without such certification. The bill would also require inspections paid for, in part by the reallocation of dog license revenues.

The corresponding assembly version of this bill, A3645 has been previously discussed.

As a reminder, as described in the bill statement, S 2289 would:

require that, as a condition of the sale or transfer of a dog within or into the State, any breeder or owner or operator of a business providing dogs to pet shops submit a certification to the Department of Health (DOH) that it is in compliance with DOH regulations establishing proper breeding practices and standards of care for female dogs and puppies at any facility used for the breeding or housing of dogs. The bill directs the DOH to adopt regulations that:

1) establish breeding practices and a standard of care for female dogs and puppies at a facility used for breeding or housing dogs;

2) prohibit a female dog from being bred more than once every 365 days; and

3) establish the procedures and requirements for the certification of compliance required to be submitted by breeders or owners or operators of a business providing dogs to pet shops in the State.

Furthermore, the bill prohibits a pet shop from selling or offering to sell any dog unless the pet shop has obtained from the breeder or the owner or operator of a business providing dogs to pet shops a copy of the certification submitted to the DOH. The bill also provides that, notwithstanding this prohibition, a pet shop may sell or offer for sale any dog obtained by the pet shop directly from a shelter, pound, or animal rescue organization. The DOH or the local health authority, if so authorized by the DOH, is required to inspect each pet shop within 30 days after it opens for business, and once every 90 days thereafter, to determine if the pet shop is in compliance with the requirements of the bill. The bill provides a revenue source for implementing the bill by reallocating one third of dog registration tag fees moneys collected by municipalities to the municipality for this purpose. Finally, the bill also establishes a penalty for violations of a fine for up to $1,000 and possible license revocation for the pet shop.

This bill would make it untenable for any pet store to continue to sell dogs.

The AKC has requested that the Honorable Paul A. Sarlo, Chair of New Jersey’s Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee, and the rest of the members of that committee, take no action on S-63, a bill that would ban all commercial sales of dogs to pet stores in New Jersey and repeal the Pet Purchase Protection Act.

As the AKC states, this bill would harm to pets and people by eliminating access to purposely-bred dogs obtained from pet stores that source from highly regulated breeders and dealers who humanely raise and care for their animals.

Click here to read AKC’s comments.

The PIJAC has also issued a warning and encouraged outreach to local politicians to withhold S-63.

On May 15, 2016 the New York Times published its response to a reader’s questions submitted to “The Ethicist:”

Is it O.K. to Get a Dog From A Breeder, Not A Shelter?”

While author Kwame Anthony Appiah concluded that it was ok to purchase a dog from a responsible breeder,  a few comments reflected a lack of understanding about the current state of animal shelters and rescues.

For example, Appiah said “if every canine companion that died or ran away were replaced with one, the shelters would be pretty much empty.”

The fact is, shelters in many parts of the country, for example in the Northeast, do not have sufficient numbers of adoptable dogs currently available for people looking for their next pet.

As Ed Sayres, former CEO of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals explained when he testified in New Jersey in opposition to proposed bill S63 which would ban all sales of commercially bred dogs from pet stores in the state:

‘There are 80 million dogs owned by pet owners in the United States, and based on an average life span of 11-12 years, pet owners will seek to acquire 8 million dogs in the U.S. in 2016. There are only 3.9 million dogs housed in shelters in the country, of which 0.9 million or 25% were lost and will be returned to their owners.  That leaves only 3 million dogs for pet owners who want to buy or adopt a new pet, some 5 million fewer than the 8 million needed for owners seeking dogs.’

As previously described, the profitable retail rescue networks have emerged to fill that need.

“Rescuing” animals is highly lucrative Rescues and shelters are now the dominant providers of pets, replacing pet stores. Pet stores, shelters, and rescues compete for the same market share and profit from the sale or adoption of pets. The supply of shelter dogs is dwindling, particularly in the Northeast, largely due to successful programs encouraging responsible pet owners to spay and neuter their pets, including State’s Animal Population Control Programs. The decreasing numbers of readily adoptable dogs at shelters resulted in the importation of thousands of puppies to the Northeast trafficked through shelters and rescues.

 

In New York City, the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals (Alliance) has established a “giant distribution network with Animal Care & Control (AC&C) as the ‘wholesaler’ and the partner organizations as ‘retailers’ who get the animals face-to-face with the public,” for adoptions around the City, competing with pet stores and dog breeders.

 

AC&C operates the City’s municipal animal shelter system under a five-year, $51.9 million contract, generating profits of $400,000 in FY 2013, and will receive more than $8,000,000 dollars this year to build a new adoption center and renovate its Brooklyn shelter. Alliance partners, including AC&C, receive subsidies “for every transferred animal adopted above their baseline (2003) adoption figures.” So incentivized, adoptions and transfers from AC&C and partner organizations increased by 81%-119% between 2003 and 2007.  At AC&C, dog intakes have steadily decreased since 2003, and as of 2013, euthanasia of dogs and cats at the shelter has been reduced by 81% since 2003.

 

The North Shore Animal League (NSAL) advertises that they rescue pets from “puppy mills” which they sell throughout the City. Since 2010, NSAL has imported at least 3,562 pets from 13 states and Puerto Rico, as contracts to import puppies from shelters like Precious Friends, a shelter in Tennessee, and has recently started advertising with SPCA’s to purchase puppies directly from breeders.

 

Since many shelters and rescues are exempt from USDA licensure, the importation of dogs and cats through “rescue pipelines” is largely unregulated and has concerned animal health officials at the local, state, and national levels for some time. The pets offered by shelters and rescues are obtained from random sources and substandard facilities, and have the highest prevalence of infectious, contagious diseases, sometimes fatal, and behavioral disorders making them undesirable pets.

 

Animal health officials in the Northeast, where thousands of imported rescues are sent, have changed state laws to regulate the sales of pets imported by rescues, which threaten the health of each state’s resident animals and their owners. For example, Precious Pups Rescue, a rescue in Long Island, was “shut down by the state attorney general’s office for allegedly ‘flipping’ puppies and illegally reselling sick animals to unsuspecting consumers” in March 2015.

These operations do not protect animal or human health or consumers seeking healthy pets.

And yes, it is ok to purchase a dog from a breeder or pet store where you will find a pet with the specific physical and behavioral traits you want in your life-long companion.

In New Jersey  another bill (A3645) was introduced that would amend the state animal cruelty laws and the pet protection act.

This bill would have dramatic effects on kennels, pet shops, shelters, and pounds. Those entities, licensed by local municipalities, and inspected by local health departments, would be considered guilty of and liable for acts of animal cruelty if they violate the rules and regulations governing the sanitary conduct and operation of kennels, pet shops, shelters, and pounds established by the State Department of Health (DOH).  N.J.S.A. 4:19 et. seq.

Interestingly, NJSPCA already charges individuals with animal cruelty violations for alleged violations of this section of title 4, which is separate and apart from the sections related to animal cruelty. Assuming, arguendo that NJSPCA’s charging practices are already allowed by law (they are not) then this proposed amendment to the law would not be necessary.

The bad news for kennels, pounds, shelters and pet shops does not stop there.

In addition to the penalties set forth under the health inspection standards, these entities would be liable for penalties under the animal cruelty statutes.

Worse, they would lose their licenses:

No license for a kennel, pet shop, shelter, or pound held by a person convicted of, or found civilly liable for, an animal cruelty violation pursuant to chapter 22 of Title 4 of the Revised Statutes, or a violation of P.L.2002, c.102 (C.4:19- 38 et seq.), section 1 of P.L.1983, c.261 (C.2C:29-3.1), section 1 of P.L.2013, c.205 (C.2C:29-3.2), P.L.2015, c.85 (C.2C:33-31 et seq.), or R.S.39:4-23, shall be renewed by a municipality.

If passed, these individuals would also be added the expanded animal abuse registry, currently maintained by the DOH, as proposed.

The bill also orders anyone found guilty of, or civilly liable for, the animal cruelty statutes to be permanently barred from operating as a breeder of any animal or being an employee or acting on behalf of any organization or business in a position that would bring the person in direct contact with any animal, including but not limited to, an animal rescue organization facility, animal breeder, kennel, pet shop, shelter, or pound.

One positive note: the bill requires breeders of cats or dogs and animal rescue organizations operating in the State to register with the DOH.

Currently, breeders who sell dogs or cats, defined as a “kennel” must be licensed by their local municipality.  Kennel operators must comply with operating standards promulgated by the DOH, and if this law is enacted, violations of those standards constitute animal cruelty violations.

The DOH would be required to develop and adopt:

1) standards and requirements for the proper breeding of cats and dogs, and the proper care of the cats and dogs being bred and their offspring;

2) standards and requirements for the proper care of cats and dogs in animal rescue organization facilities; and

3) regulations governing enforcement of the standards and requirements and the implementation of these registries.

Finally, the bill lowers the percentages under the “Pet Purchase Protection Act” that trigger suspension revocation review for pet shops that sell sick cats or dogs.

The proposed bill would require long-needed regulation of animal rescue organizations, but the majority of the amendments are either already law and unnecessary or unreasonably draconian.

 

Tennessee House Bill 2303, introduced on January 21, 2016 would enact the “Commercial Dog Breeders Registration Act” that would make the following consumer protection violations:

  1. selling of dogs by unlicensed breeders;
  2. misrepresenting the condition of a dog for sale; or
  3. altering or falsifying a dog’s health certificate.

A companion bill was concurrently introduced into the Tennessee Senate (SB2175).

The bill defines “commercial dog breeder” as:

any person who possesses or maintains, under the person’s immediate control, sixteen (16) or more intact female adult dogs in this state at one time for the primary purpose of breeding or selling, or who sells twenty (20) or more dogs within a calendar year.

The bill exempts from licensure:

dogs possessed or maintained, under the person’s immediate control, primarily for any of the following purposes shall not be counted for determining the number of adult intact female dogs:

(A) Herding livestock or other agricultural uses;

(B) Hunting, tracking, chasing, pointing, flushing, or retrieving game; or

(C) Competing in field trials, agility events, confirmation events, obedience trials, tracking trials, hunting tests, or any other similar dog sport designated in rule by the commissioner.

The law would require licensure of all “commercial dog breeders” and would prohibit licensure of any person who has been “convicted of a violation of this chapter or has a conviction or pled nolo contendere to animal cruelty or neglect, a violation of title 39, chapter 14, part 2, domestic assault under § 39-13-111, or offenses with the same or similar elements in another state for ten (10) years from the date of the completion of any sentence or court ordered probation, whichever is later.”

The department of commerce and insurance, authorized to enforce this law, would be able to inspect “any location used or suspected to be used by a commercial dog breeder and investigate complaints to enforce this chapter without warrant or subpoena.”

The law includes provisions for the method and the officials permitted to confiscate dogs:

Nothing in this chapter shall grant the authority to the commissioner or any other person to confiscate dogs in the possession of, or maintained by, a commercial dog breeder. Upon reasonable belief that a violation of title 39, chapter 14, part 2, is occurring on the property of a commercial dog breeder, a person may notify any applicable law enforcement immediately and in writing. The chief law enforcement officer of the county shall authorize only a POST-certified or POST-compliant law enforcement officer to conduct a confiscation of dogs. The law enforcement officer may enlist the assistance of a veterinarian or other personnel as necessary to effectuate the confiscation and treatment of dogs.

The law also authorizes the commission to promulgate rules governing the operating standards and facility requirements for commercial dog breeders including: facilities and housing; mobile or traveling housing facilities; primary enclosures; compatible grouping of dog; adequate veterinary care; exercising, feeding, and watering for dogs; cleaning, sanitization, housekeeping, and pest control; and commercial dog breeder employees.

The law provides that the regulations may be based on standards established by the American Veterinary Medical Association, the American Kennel Club or similar rules in other states, but does not limit the commissioner to these entities.

Hopefully, if the law is passed, the regulations will be science-based to adequately and reasonably provide for the care of the regulated dogs.

akcThis alert may also be viewed at http://www.akc.org/government-relations/legislative-alerts/new-jersey-senate-bill-63-february-3-alert/.

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

On Monday, February 8, 2016, the New Jersey Senate Economic Growth Committee will consider Senate Bill 63.  The bill repeals consumer protection laws for pet purchasers, prohibits the sale of dogs unless the transactions are conducted face-to-face, and requires pet shops to sell dogs sourced only from shelters and pounds.  Because SB 63 will ultimately harm consumers and all dog breeders, the American Kennel Club (AKC) and the New Jersey Federation of Dog Clubs strongly oppose Senate Bill 63.  It is crucial that all concerned dog owners and breeders, including breeders who reside outside of New Jersey who may sell a dog in the state and owners who reside in New Jersey and wish to preserve the option of purchasing a purpose-bred dog from out of state, contact the members of the Senate Economic Growth Committee and urge strong opposition to the radical legislation prior to Monday’s committee hearing.  Interested parties are also strongly encouraged to attend Monday’s hearing and express respectful but strong opposition to SB 63.

If enacted as currently written, SB 63 will upend New Jersey’s current animal laws in favor of radical, untested policies that will ultimately harm consumers. Banning the sale of pets from known, regulated and inspected sources, and allowing pet shops to only sell pets from unknown, unregulated and uninspected sources, does the exact opposite of its purported intent: It removes available consumer protections for new pet owners and potentially increases public health risks for the entire community. 

Key Problems with SB 63 include:

  • All provisions of New Jersey’s Pet Purchaser Protection Act will be repealed, including provisions put into effect as recently as 2015. Consumer protection laws protect purchasers, incentivize the breeding of healthy animals in safe conditions, and add stability to commerce involving pet sales.  Repealing such laws not only harms significant recent advancement in industry standards for professional breeding practices; it also harms consumers who will no longer be able to obtain information about the breeder, pedigree or original source of a pet purchased from a pet shop, and eliminates consumer options for recourse if they encounter problems with such a pet. New Jersey’s consumers deserve the reasonable protections provided by the state’s Pet Purchaser Protection Act and the right to obtain a healthy pet of their choice.
  • It will prohibit the sale, offer for sale, transfer, exchange, or barter of a dog or cat, or otherwise engage in a transaction concerning a dog or cat, unless the transaction is completed in person. This provision explicitly applies to transactions between a breeder or other seller (undefined in SB 63) and a consumer who are both in New Jersey, between a breeder or other seller in the state and a consumer in another state, and between a breeder or other seller in another state and a consumer in New Jersey.  It is further problematic that any group organized as a rescue/shelter or similar entity already exempt from current consumer protection laws would also be exempt from these requirements.
  • The AKC has for years encouraged puppy buyers to exercise responsibility by meeting the breeders of their new pet and working with them to understand the requirements, commitment, and challenges that come with a new puppy.  However, as currently written, SB 63 encompasses not only internet-based sellers, but also small hobby breeders.  SB 63 punishes responsible breeders and lacks a fundamental understanding of how small hobby breeders operateFurthermore, SB 63 creates an unfair burden on hobby breeders who may depend on the ability to place dogs selectively in known situations without physically meeting with the purchaser in their home or kennel at the specific time of sale. Many hobbyists are comfortable purchasing an animal sight unseen based on years of studying bloodlines and pedigrees, the existence of previous relationships or purchases from the same breeder, or personal knowledge of a breeder’s facilities and operating procedures. These scenarios are particularly common for breeders and fanciers of rare breeds. Likewise, it is also not reasonable for hobby breeders—including those who may own several “breeding females” but who breed very rarely or breed rare breeds—to expect that purchasers will be willing to travel long distances to purchase a particular puppy in person.
  • While punishing small responsible hobby breeders, consumers, and licensed and regulated pet shops in New Jersey communities, SB 63 does nothing to prohibit the larger problem of the sale of puppies and kittens from the back of trucks in parking lots and highway rest stops.
  • Pet stores will be allowed to sell only those dogs and cats sourced from shelters and other similar organizations.  Unfortunately, many communities lack sufficient local breeders to meet the demand for the specific pets desired by local residents. If SB 63 is enacted, families in New Jersey will lose an important source for choosing a pet that is the best fit for their lifestyle and circumstances.  Those seeking a puppy that is a specific breed from a professional breeder subject to USDA or state animal welfare standards, or one that has traditionally been covered by New Jersey’s pet purchaser protection laws, will likely have little other alternative than to obtain a pet of unknown origin and health history or status. 
  • When consumers cannot acquire a pet that is an appropriate fit for their lifestyle, that animal is more likely to end up in the shelter system. A better solution is to ensure that consumers are educated, understand the demands of responsible ownership, and have access to a variety of pets so that they can make educated choices.
  • Local governments will be permitted to enact more restrictive local control over pet stores. Affording localities this power will likely further restrict New Jersey consumers’ ability to obtain quality pets that are the best for their lifestyle, that are from the source of their choosing, and that have been subject to regulated and inspected sources.
  • Includes over two pages of misleading legislative “findings” that impugn dog breeders with out-of-date information, questionable statistics, and discredited conjecture. In practice, legislative findings that are enacted are often used as justification for additional legislation later.  AKC believes disputed and purposefully misleading anti-breeder language must not become part of New Jersey statutory law.

WHAT YOU CAN DO:

It is imperative that all concerned dog owners and breeders, and residents of New Jersey who wish to preserve the option to obtain a pet of their choice, email and call the members of the Senate Economic Growth Committee and urge strong opposition to the radical SB 63 prior to their meeting on Monday, February 8, 2016.  Interested parties are also strongly encouraged to attend Monday’s hearing and express respectful but strong opposition to SB 63.

Members of the New Jersey Senate Economic Growth Committee:

State Senator Raymond J. Lesniak, Committee Chairman – Sen. Lesniak is currently the only sponsor of SB 63.  As the chairman of the committee who will consider the bill he sponsored, it is likely that the bill will pass the committee as currently written.  However, media reports have indicated that State Senator Lesniak is considering a run to become New Jersey’s next governor.  Therefore, it is important that concerned parties express respectful yet emphatic doubt on the wisdom of removing consumer protections that benefit voters who will decide upon his likely candidacy.

Union District Office: 985 Stuyvesant Ave. Union, NJ 07083 Phone: (908) 624-0880

Elizabeth District Office: 65 Jefferson Ave. Suite B Elizabeth, NJ 07201 Phone: (908) 327-9119

Email: SenLesniak@njleg.org Facebook page:  https://www.facebook.com/SenatorLesniak?fref=ts Twitter: https://twitter.com/senatorlesniak

State Senator Nilsa Cruz-Perez, Committee Vice Chair

Phone—Audubon, NJ District Office: (856) 547-4800 Phone—Camden, NJ District Office: (856) 541-1251 Phone—Woodbury, NJ District Office (856) 853-2960 Email: SenCruzPerez@njleg.org

State Senator Joseph M. “Joe” Kyrillos

Phone—Red Bank, NJ District Office: (732) 671-3206 Email: SenKyrillos@njleg.org

State Senator Steven V. Oroho

Phone—Sparta, NJ District Office: (973) 300-0200, (973) 300-1744 Phone—Allamuchy, NJ District Office: (908) 441-6343 Email: SenOroho@njleg.org

State Senator Jim Whelan

Phone—Northfield, NJ District Office: (609) 383-1388                 Email: SenWhelan@njleg.org

You may also contact the Senate Economic Growth Committee aides with your concerns and request for opposition.  The aide for Democratic members (Lesniak, Cruz-Perez, and Whelan) is Alison Accettola—(609) 847-3700, AAccettola@njleg.org.  The aide for Republican members (Kyrillos and Oroho) is Laurine Purola—(609) 847-3600, LPurola@njleg.orgFor email communications, please CC New Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney — SenSweeney@njleg.org.

The AKC Government Relations Department (AKC GR) will provide additional updates as developments warrant.  For more information on SB 63, contact AKC GR at (919) 816-3720, or email doglaw@akc.org; or the New Jersey Federation of Dog Clubs at jeffbetsyball@yahoo.com.