As USDA had previously suggested, it just posted a new version of the searchable database that had been dismantled this past February.  Access to the new version is available here.

Many animal rights organizations and animal-trade organizations had expressed outrage or concern when USDA initially dismantled its database.  The current version may not effectuate changes to those positions, since much of the information about individual licensees (compared to licensed businesses) appears to be redacted.

Also, it seems as if license numbers are not available for individuals, but it could be I need to more carefully review the instructions for searching the new database to find that information.

It is a given, that those clamoring for this data will be hard at work deciphering what is and what is not available.

For those pet stores and dealers in towns, cities and states that are required to provide inspection reports to sell puppies, it seems as if the only way to provide such documents from breeders licensed as individuals is to obtain the reports directly from those breeders.

Today, lawmakers in Trenton, New Jersey did not have the opportunity to reject an attempted override to Governor Christie’s condition veto of Senator Lesniak’s so-called “puppy mill bill,” one of more than 200 similar laws nationwide orchestrated by the Humane Society of the United States and other animal rights groups opposed to anyone who makes money breeding, raising and selling animals.  The bill, as previously discussed, was chock-full of constitutional violations, that were mostly―but not completely ―cured by the Governor’s veto.

Lesniak, without sufficient votes to override the veto, pulled the bill before the vote.  In a tweet Lesniak published afterward, he said “I held the bill so I can attempt another override at any future Senate meeting until January 10, 2018.” He also posted the names of the Senators who did not support his effort.

Around the same time, ordinances in Morristown and Jersey City to ban USDA licensed breeders from sales to pet stores were considered.  Jersey City voted to reject the ordinance, Morristown did not take action.  Brian Hackett, the Human Society of the United States’s New Jersey Director told the Jersey City Council that all pet stores in New Jersey are purchasing all their puppies from puppy mills since the state limits their sources to USDA licensed breeders.  All USDA licensed breeders, according to Hackett, are puppy mills.  But not according to Lesniak, as previously reported, who, on June 23, 2016 said that sales from USDA licensees to pet stores should be allowed to continue, because these breeders were not the “puppy mills” his original bill had been targeting to eliminate.  (See testimony on June 23, 2016 at the Senate Budget and Appropriations committee starting at 3 hours 3 minutes 24 seconds (3:3:24)).

Perhaps Lesniak should consider a bill that would actually help animals without hurting the people and businesses that treat them humanely.

For example, this state desperately needs an overhaul of the law granting law enforcement authority to volunteer nonprofit groups (New Jersey and County Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals).  Walt Kane, of “Kane in Your Corner,” has been spearheading an investigation about the NJSPCA, published on New 12 New Jersey.  The latest installment, in which I was interviewed, aired May 24, 2017, “NJSPCA law enforcement practices questioned.”

Walt obtained records of complaints that had either not been investigated or had no written description of any investigation performed or results achieved.

As I said after reviewing those records, it is long past time that the state shift enforcement of its animal cruelty statutes to professional law enforcement agencies.  Those dedicated and expert in animal health and welfare should be able to assist officers at police and sheriff’s departments by providing that expertise as a special investigator in relevant animal cruelty investigations.  If we are serious about animal welfare, it is time to make that change.

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:

  1. The inflammatory, pejorative language in the preamble has been deleted in its entirety.
  2. The definition of “broker” would be consistent with that term as defined in the Animal Welfare Act and related regulations.
  3. For the most part, the law would apply to those conducting business within the State of New Jersey.
  4. 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.
  5. Most of the draconian provisions and fines for pet stores have been eliminated or significantly amended.
  6. 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.

 

California AB485 will criminalize what has been considered lawful interstate commerce since at least 1966, when Congress first passed the Animal Welfare Act, 7. U.S.C. §2131 et seq.

“The Congress finds that animals and activities which are regulated under this chapter are either in interstate or foreign commerce or substantially affect such commerce or the free flow thereof, and that regulation of animals and activities as provided in this chapter is necessary to prevent and eliminate burdens upon such commerce and to effectively regulate such commerce, in order – (1) to insure that animals intended . . . for use as pets are provided humane care and treatment . . .”  7 U.S.C. §2131 (Congressional statement of policy).

Pet stores in California will no longer be able to purchase and sell pets from USDA licensed and exempts breeders and dealers of dogs, cats and rabbits if AB485 becomes law.  Instead, pet store would only be able to source from the highly unregulated animal shelters and rescue organizations that distribute pets from random sources, often imported from overseas, and often infected or infested with diseases or pests that unwitting consumers have to contend with and pay for.

Pet stores that have provided a historic and lawful service matching up pet-seeking owners with professionally and purposely-bred pets with the physical and behavioral characteristics perspective owners desire, would be considered criminals under the new California law, upon adoption.

Unfortunately, this is no longer a novel attempt by nonprofit animal rights organizations’ decades-long campaign to eliminate professional, purposeful dog breeding, along with animal ownership (replaced with guardianship) and a host of other animal rights’ agenda.

The question is, when will consumers realize that their choices in pet purchases have been supplanted by activists who believe that pet breeding (and the intentional breeding of any species) is immoral and should be outlawed.

The public, clamoring for the 9,000,000 dogs needed each year for pet-owners seeking new pets, will soon have their choices severely limited.

What a sad state of affairs for pets and people alike and as we have repeatedly alleged, unconstitutional.

In a stunning turn of events, USDA has deactivated it’s Animal Care Search Tool, as indicated on its website:

Animal Care Search Tool-DEACTIVATED
Animal Care Search Tool-DEACTIVATED.

USDA inspection reports of licensees pursuant to the Animal Welfare Act, among other data, were previously available on this search engine.

The following alert is provided when clicking on the link (now deactivated):

If the law requiring such disclosure is not specific about where the pet store must obtain the inspection reports, then the pet stores may have to obtain those documents from their sources.  Certainly, they will be unable to obtain the reports quickly through a FOIA request (unless that process has drastically changed).  Even if obtainable through FOIA, it seems likely that the breeder’s personal information, required by many laws, will be redacted by USDA.

It will be incredibly interesting and insightful to hear more about the legal basis USDA relied upon to protect this personal information under the Privacy Act and other laws, as mentioned in the alert.

It seems likely that USDA will be explaining this in court when this policy is undoubtedly challenged.  See some of their thinking at their Q&A on their website.

Without access to USDA inspection reports, animal activists, intent on closing pet stores and eliminating dog breeding, will be unable to misrepresent the meaning of non-compliant citations on those reports, as they have consistently done to convince legislators to ban sales of pets based on mere citations.  Such citations do not mean that licensees have violated the AWA.  As described in USDA’s alert, inspection reports and other legal proceedings that have not received final adjudication are no longer available.  Hopefully, this will help ensure that licensees are provided with due process of the law that the Constitution and justice requires before their businesses are effectively shuttered.

New Jersey Bill S2848 does far more than described in the official bill statement which states that the bill requires:

1) all cats and dogs brought into the State from other jurisdictions to have an animal history and health certificate certified by a licensed veterinarian providing the information about the cat or dog specified in subsection a. of section 1 of the bill; and

2) animal rescue organizations, shelters, and pounds to accept the return of a cat or dog received from the facility for up to one year 10 after the receipt of the animal from the facility.

The bill authorizes shelters, pounds, and animal rescue organizations to charge a fee of up to $100 for such a return.

The provisions in S2848 that miss the mark include the following:

  1. A shelter, pound, or animal rescue organization must accept the return of any cat or dog adopted and may charge the person returning the cat or dog a fee of up to $100.00, but a pet store is required to accept the return of a cat or dog for any reason within one year of the date of purchase without the ability to charge the person returning that animal any fee. These provisions clearly unreasonably favor shelters and rescues and importantly do not place the appropriate responsibility on the adopter or pet owner before deciding to bring a pet into a home.  While there should be provisions for returns under certain conditions, the bill as proposed does not include reasonable provisions.
  2. The bill unrealistically and unreasonably extends the pet purchase time frame for returns to pet stores for pets diagnosed with infectious, contagious diseases from 14 days to 1 year after sale, and for pets diagnosed with congenital, hereditary conditions or a sickness [or death] brought on by a congenital or hereditary cause or condition from 180 days to 1 year after sale. These provisions ignore sound science.  The provisions limiting returns resulting from infectious diseases to those diagnosed within 14 days after sale were based on typical incubation periods for such diseases.  Infectious diseases that occur outside of those time periods are typically unrelated to the care provided by the pet store or their sources, who should not remain liable for situations outside of their control.  Similar concerns arise from the extension of pet store liability for congenital or hereditary conditions that are influenced by the pet’s environment, and not the responsibility of the pet store or its sources.
  3. The bill properly mandates registration of animal rescue organizations and requires reporting of some important information about the number of adopted animals. However, information about the source of animals, whether from other states or countries, should also be required.  The myth of the local overpopulation of dogs in New Jersey can only be exposed when the numbers of dogs imported into the State for adoption is required to be reported.

This bill appears to be an attempt to require reporting of certain information about the source of pets provided to the public, but it requires significant amendments to ensure that the law actually provides for the health of pets, consumer protection, and the sustainability of properly run pet stores, animal shelters and animal rescue organizations.

New Jersey Senate Bill No. 2847,  introduced on December 12, 2016 would make some important beneficial changes to the laws governing animal rescue organizations and shelters in New Jersey, but would also require the unnecessary and harmful premature spay and neuter of cats and dogs before sale from pet shops, kennels, shelters, pounds, and animal rescue organizations.

Considering the positive amendments first, the bill would require registration of all animal rescue organizations with the State Department of Health.  Registration is currently voluntary.

Pursuant to Public Law 2011, Chapter 142, the New Jersey Department of Health shall establish a voluntary registry of animal rescue organizations and their facilities.

As of November 3, 2016 there were 70 in-state and out-of-state animal rescue organizations voluntarily registered in New Jersey, as listed on the DOH website.

Registration and oversight of animal rescue organizations is sorely needed.

Another positive amendment in S2847 is the ability of shelters or pounds to euthanize an animal surrendered by its owner before the current seven-day waiting period, and the ability to euthanize a stray or an animal surrendered by someone other its owner if a veterinarian determines “that the animal is in extreme pain and cannot recover from the illness or condition that is causing the pain.”

A veterinarian should make this determination for animals surrendered by their owners or other individuals for at least 2 reasons: (1) proper animal ownership can be difficult to determine; and (2) the irreversible decision whether or not to euthanize an owned pet should be decided by a veterinarian, trained and licensed to make such determinations.

As for the requirement to spay or neuter a dog or cat before sale, so long as the animal is merely two months old, for reasons previously discussed, this premature, unnecessary elective surgery at so young an age exposes each animal to short and long-term injury and harm.  Increasingly, scientific evidence proves that the early removal of endocrine glands, such as testes and ovaries, increases the incidence of certain metabolic disorders, including some forms of cancer, and can decrease the lifespan of certain pets.  The decision about when to spay or neuter an individual pet should be determined by the owner in consultation with their veterinarian, after learning about the risks and benefits of such procedures.  Veterinarians are increasingly advising dog owners to wait until at least after the pet’s first reproductive cycle to sterilize their dog.  The requirement remains with each owner to ensure that their pet is not irresponsibly bred until it is spayed or neutered.

Finally, the requirement for shelters and pounds to pay owners up to $250.00 for any pet released before it is spayed or neutered could have a devastating impact on these organizations who are already struggling to compete with animal rescue organizations.

If amended to address these concerns, S2847 could be supportable.

 

On Monday, November 14, 2016, the Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee will consider the Assembly version (A2338) of Senator Lesniak’s amendments to the Pet Purchase Protection Act (S63).  The problems with these amendments were previously discussed here.

Anyone interested in testifying should attend the Committee meeting at 2:00 PM Committee Room 9, 3rd Floor, State House Annex, Trenton, NJ.

Since its passage in the Senate, there has not been much action with the Assembly version of S63.

However, as recently reported by Andrew George on njbiz.com

“Lesniak says he’s planning to amend the bill” to address concerns of pet store owners and their sources, including “eliminating the grandfathering portion of the measure and lifting the restriction on new pet stores to only source from kennels, shelters or animal rescues.”

However, there is no new version of the bill with these amendments to review.

Even with these amendments, the bill and the existing law, impermissibly bans sales to pet stores from licensed breeders who have not been finally determined to have violated the Animal Welfare Act (AWA).

The Pet Protection Act bans sales to pet stores from licensed pet dealer who:

  • has been cited on a USDA inspection report for a direct violation of the federal AWA or corresponding regulations during the two-year period prior to purchase;
  • has been cited on a USDA inspection report during the two-year period prior to the purchase by the pet store for three or more indirect violations of the Awa or corresponding regulations.
  • is cited on the two most recent USDA inspection reports prior to the purchase of the animal by the pet shop for no-access violations.

As recently discussed in Pet Stores Under Attack, only an USDA Administrative Law Judge can make a determination that a licensee has violated the AWA. A noncompliant item on an inspection report does not constitute a violation of the act.

Individual pet stores and customers can (and should) review USDA reports and determine, on a case-by-case basis, whether to purchase from particular breeders.

S63, the year-old amendments to the PPPA and similar ordinances will not (and have not) affected any actual puppy mills, because, as defined by USDA’s OIG, these facilities are large commercial unlicensed breeders. Banning sales from hobby breeders, exempt from USDA licensure because these breeders provide humane care to their dogs, will not affect puppy mills.

The City Law includes mandatory sterilization requirements for 8 week-old puppies and kittens who weigh at least 2 pounds.

The question is not “can the surgery be performed on a 2 pound 8 week old puppy” but rather, based on the totality of the circumstances, can the veterinarian recommend the procedure for a puppy or dog housed before and after surgery in a pet store and obtain informed consent from the animal’s owner.

For the following reasons, as NYPWA experts and NYC veterinarians testified, the answer is no—not without violating the standards of veterinary practice the State requires.

The State considers it unprofessional conduct if a veterinarian fails to obtain informed consent before proceeding with any medical care or surgery, and has disciplined veterinarians who have failed to obtain informed consent.

The State requires each pet store to designate a veterinarian to provide care to pets in the store, and to provide accepted veterinary standards of care to all pets in pet stores both pre- and post-operative.  This cannot be accomplished if a veterinarian performs the mandatory surgery because, no matter the age, there are environmental stressors in a pet store that, when added to the stress of anesthesia and surgery, will harm animals.  This is most serious for puppies whose immune systems are still developing.

The Law prohibits the transfer of ownership until after the pet is sterilized.  Therefore, the pet must return to the pet store after the surgery for post-operative care, which according to veterinarians is substandard care.

“A pet store is not a suitable environment for post-surgical recovery of baby animals.”  “Post-operative care typically provided by pet owners in their home cannot be performed in a pet store.”

Recently scientists have discovered that early gonadectomy is harmful to pets.  “Gonadectomy prior to puberty or sexual maturity may make the risks of some diseases higher in certain breeds and individuals.”

The American Veterinary Medical Association, the Society for Theriogenology and the American College of Theriogenology are opposed to mandatory sterilization laws for privately-owned pets.  Based on scientific evidence, veterinarians and specialists now recommend delaying sterilization until the first heat to prevent the harm from premature removal of endocrine glands needed for proper growth and certain metabolic disorders and cancer.

According to the Association of Shelter Veterinarians, “A veterinarian should make the final decision regarding acceptance of any patient for surgery . . . [t]he surgeon should use discretion regarding minimum and maximum patient age and body weight taking into account the availability of staff expertise and necessary equipment to care for patients.  Owned pets may be best served by scheduling surgery at 4 months of age or older . . . [i]n situations involving animals that will be placed for adoption, neutering is best performed prior to adoption . . . to ensure compliance.”

The interstate pet market is based on sales of puppies between 8-14 weeks of age, the time for optimal socialization with their owners.  The City’s response to professional objections to early sterilization is that the pet stores should hold onto these puppies for a longer period of time.  According to animal behavior experts “[d]elaying sales as the City has suggested traumatizes the animals [and] increases undesirable behavioral traits that are detrimental to successful lifelong pet ownership.”

For all these reasons, the City Law creates an insurmountable obstacle for pet stores and veterinarians to comply with both the State and City Law, and should be considered preempted by State law.