What is the purpose of NJ S3041?
The bill’s primary goals:
- To ensure New Jersey consumers can purchase or adopt healthy puppies and dogs, kittens and cats from pet shops/dealers, small-scale breeders or rescue groups/shelters.
- To offer pet purchasers/adopters legal recourse should they buy or adopt a sick animal or an animal who becomes ill with 180 days after purchase/adoption.
- To place new requirements on pet shops and breeders who would sell dogs and cats in New Jersey, including establishing veterinary exams and re-checks and requiring that only U.S. Department of Agriculture-licensed breeders and brokers are the source of pet shop animals.
- To prohibit the sale, exchange or barter of dogs or cats in roadside set-ups, parking lots, flea markets, etc. without proper authorization.
- To help reduce the number of dogs and cats, puppies and kittens who are euthanized every year due to overpopulation. The state estimates approximately 17,000 dogs and cats are put to sleep annually in New Jersey because they have not found homes.
What is the background on this bill?
Introduced in February 2017 by Senator Raymond J. Lesniak (D- Union) and co-sponsored by 14 Democratic legislators, this bill would place additional requirements on pet shops and others who sell dogs and cats for profit.
This bill revises the earlier Pet Purchase Protection Act, which did not take into account pet purchase sources such as “sight-unseen” purchases via the Internet, a practice that has significantly increased in the past several years. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, an estimated 8,400 to 15,000 breeders sell dogs over the Internet—and a majority of these breeders have not registered with and may not maintain USDA standards for animal health and welfare.
Often with these purchases, a prospective pet owner has not seen the conditions in which the animal has been raised. Behavioral and health conditions caused by these circumstances may not become apparent until after the animal’s purchase. The financial and emotional toll of such a purchase can be tremendous for the pet owner and his/her family, as well as the animal itself.
What are the new requirements for pet shops, if this bill is signed into law?
To “better monitor and restrict the sources of cats and dogs sold by pet dealers doing business with New Jersey consumers, including pet shops,” as the bill states, the bill would classify dealers as anyone who sells 5 or more dogs or cats per year in New Jersey.
Specific requirements of the bill include the following terms:
- Within 5 days prior to offering any animal for sale of any animal, the owner or operator of a pet shop, shall have the animal examined by a state-licensed veterinarian, whose name and address will be noted with the animal’s medical history and health certificate.
- If 14 days have passed since the last veterinarian examination of the animal, the pet shop owner/operator is required to have the animal reexamined by a veterinarian.
- (These first two provisions are in the existing Pet Purchase Protection Act but are worth noting.)
- The shop is required to post cage signs with each animal’s date and place of birth, age, sex, markings, microchip number or other identifying information.
- In addition, the shop must post comprehensive information on the breeder, including the breeder’s USDA license number. The same information is required for any animal broker, if different from the breeder.
In addition, the shop owner will be required to quarantine any animal diagnosed with a contagious or infectious disease or condition and may not sell the animal until a veterinarian declares the animal to be free of clinical signs of disease or is fit for sale.
The full text of the bill, with specific amendments highlighted in green, is available here.
Who is against this bill?
Some small-scale breeders have expressed concern that the USDA-license requirements and other regulations in this bill would constitute a financial hardship on them and could lead them to stop selling dogs or cats to New Jersey residents.
On the other hand, some animal-rights’ and rescue-oriented residents are concerned that the bill does not go far enough. They would like to see legislation such as that passed in San Francisco and Beverly Hills that require shops to only offer animals from rescue groups and shelters.
What is the bill’s legislative status as of mid-May?
The bill, State Bill 3041, has passed both houses of the New Jersey Legislature. However, it is unlikely to become law. Unlike the 2015 law it is intended to replace, which had widespread bipartisan support, this measure was supported primarily by Statehouse Democrats.
Further, Gov. Chris Christie recently issued a conditional veto of the measure, citing cost and concerns about the constitutionality of regulating pet dealers, brokers and breeders. Further, the Governor said, the bill could unintentionally limit consumer access to pets from responsible breeders, among others.
Gov. Christie returned the bill to the State Senate for revision, recommending legislators dial back numerous restrictions. The governor essentially seems to be signaling that the original 2015 law was restrictive enough—one of the “most restrictive and stringent in the country, he wrote in his response–and should stand as is. You may read the full text of Gov. Christie’s comments here.
Who are the bill’s sponsors?
There 15 Democratic Assemblymen/women who are co-sponsoring the bill. To see a full list of co-sponsors, click here.