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Legislators Introduce Bill to Crack Down on 'Puppy Stores'

The bill comes two months after an Ocean County store that sold puppies was shut down.

A group of Ocean County lawmakers have introduced a bill they say will eliminate the sale of dogs and cats in New Jersey from so-called "puppy mills."

The proposal comes just over two months after Puppies Galore, a pet store in Brick, was shut down by authorities after 26 of the 39 dogs being held there were . 

Senator Jim Holzapfel and Assemblymen Dave Wolfe and Greg McGuckin (all R-Ocean) have introduced the "Healthy Puppies and Kittens Assurance Act" which the group said in a joint statement Monday will place strict regulations on pet stores that sell animals from puppy and kitten mill breeders.

The bill establishes a state registry of breeders and pet dealers who will have to provide information on the health and breeding history of a cat or dog being sold. The bill creates what is effectively an animal birth certificate, called a health certificate, which must remain with the animal throughout its breeding life and be updated annually.

The health certificate regulation would apply to both in-state and out-of-state breeders and pet dealers.

The bill also prohibits breeding practices common to "puppy mills" and limits the selling of cats or dogs as pets to 25 animals per year per breeder. 

Breeders selling cats or dogs as pets in New Jersey, under the proposal, would have to annually register with the Department of Health which would be published as public record. During registration, breeders would be required to sign a document attesting to compliance with federal and state law concerning the proper breeding, care and treatment of animals.

"By requiring registration of breeders, providing purchaser with information about their future pet and imposing heavy penalties on violators, individuals and pet shops will be encouraged to purchase their cat or dog from a reputable breeder,” said Holzapfel in the statement. "This would eliminate the market for selling cats or dogs from puppy mills with poor and unhealthy conditions."

The law also provides a process for the revocation of licenses to sell dogs or cats if a breeder violates the law. Any breeder or dealer who had previously been convicted of animal cruelty would be automatically disqualified.

The owner of the Puppies Galore store – Maria De Santis, of Old Bridge – and manager Nathan "Nat" Sladkin, of Farmingdale, are both in connection with the condition of the Hooper Avenue store.

The bill also cracks down on pets brought into New Jersey from other states, where puppy mills are often located.

A certificate of health prepared by a veterinarian will be required for all pets transported into New Jersey for sale by a dog dealer, kennel or pet shop.  This certificate will include the pet’s age, health, origin, and the date and information about the pet’s rabies vaccination

Finally, the bill establishes the Canine and Cat Health Board which would be composed of the state veterinarian, the commissioner of health and senior services, the director of the division of consumer affairs, the president of the New Jersey Veterinary Medical Association and three members of the public who are members of a recognized pet advocacy organization or are licensed as a kennel, dog, dealer, pet dealer or pet shop.

"By limiting the number of dogs and cats the breeders sell to pet dealers we can stop these puppy mills and puppy stores from selling unhealthy animals," said Wolfe.

The bills are S-1840 and A-2746.

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