State legislatures were busy toward the end of the year, signing bills into laws and racing the clock before the legislative session ends. One such bill in New York gained nationwide media attention for its sympathetic subject: puppies. The Puppy Mill Pipeline Act was signed by Governor Kathy Hochul and will take effect in 2024. This law is designed to interrupt the pipeline from puppy mills and other inhumane breeding situations to retail stores. At the same time, Jersey City has stepped up its commitment to animal welfare by increasing its anti-animal cruelty resources. But why aren’t puppy mills fully banned in New Jersey? We took a deep dive into this situation; read on to learn more.
About the New York Law
The New York law was signed into effect by Governor Kathy Hochul in December 2022, and is known as the Puppy Mill Pipeline Act. The purpose of the law is to ban the retail sale of cats, dogs and rabbits in pet stores. The new law will take effect in 2024. The law also sets up a pathway for animal rescue groups to partner with retail stores to share space with the goal of matching adoptable animals with their forever families.
The goal of this law is to interrupt the cycle of animals being overbred, often in inhumane conditions, for the purpose of having animals available for retail sale. These animals are often sick from the start, from a lack of veterinary care and the poor conditions of the breeding facilities. According to the Animal Legal Defense Fund, “Retail bans also protect consumers. Many families have been saddled with hundreds or thousands of dollars in veterinary bills caring for sick animals purchased from pet stores. Some of these animals ultimately die.”
In a press release, Governor Hochul said “Dogs, cats and rabbits across New York deserve loving homes and humane treatment,” Governor Hochul said. “I’m proud to sign this legislation, which will make meaningful steps to cut down on harsh treatment and protect the welfare of animals across the state.”
See more: Dogs in Hoboken: A Historical Timeline
By enacting this retail ban, New York now joins California, Maryland, Maine, and Illinois as other states that have similar, state-wide laws.
So, New Jersey, What’s the Hold Up?
We spoke with Elissa Frank, the New Jersey State Director for the Humane Society of the United States, about what the laws say in New Jersey. Elissa said that while New Jersey doesn’t have a similar law on the books yet, its passage in New York is encouraging. “This law is a victory for New York and surrounding states. It sets an example,” she said. “The name’ puppy mill’ is not inclusive of cats and rabbits. But there are large commercial breeders that don’t use humane breeding practices.”
Elissa said that these retail bans have nothing to do with ethical breeders. “These bills are not curbing responsible breeders from doing their businesses. We want to encourage responsible breeders/breeding,” she said. “For consumers, this means to do your homework. Meet with the breeder, see where the puppies are being raised, meet the mom, and so on.”
She went on to say that in places where retail bans have been enacted, the results are striking.
“Puppy mills have felt the effect of these ordinances. There’s been a 30% decrease in USDA licensed breeders and brokers since this type of law started to be written in 2008,” she said. “The worst puppy mills have been shut down, the number of businesses has decreased. It shows that these ordinances are really working.”
Elissa said, “Anecdotally we have seen an increase in responsible breeders being more transparent with their practice and setting really high standards for purchasing.” She offered an example of a breeder who met with the prospective purchaser via Zoom several times, did a background check, required a visit to their facility, etc.
Read more: Quirky Cats in Hudson County: Our Readers Share Their Pets’ Funny Anecdotes
The Puppy Mill Effect on Rescue
Wise Animal Rescue founder Tiziana Bartelli weighed in on the effect of puppy mills in the rescue world. These dogs, if they don’t end up in the care of a rescue, are euthanized. She takes dogs in from all over the country in Wise’s foster-based NJ rescue program.
“We have had a unique opportunity to save many puppy mill dogs from the Midwest and the South.
These puppies and their parents are termed as ‘throw-aways’ by breeders, and will be euthanized if
action isn’t taken to save their lives. We pay for them to be transported to us — and give them a new
shot at life.”
These puppies are either too old to be “desirable,” have medical conditions that require extensive funds,
or just can’t be sold to the pet stores — for something as simple as crossed eyes, she shared.
“We welcome these dogs with our volunteers, who selflessly wait with us on transport day, so that these
sweet animals can finally be held in loving arms.”
Other dogs that come to Wise are through puppy mills are parents that were bred over and over till the
“breeders” got their money’s worth. “It’s easy to see how overbred these dogs are; some come with mastitis or just look beaten. They have never been held before or even felt grass,” she explained.
Wise Animal Rescue takes them in, regardless of their medical problems and veterinary needs and
expenses. “We don’t get ‘free’ veterinary services, but some are kind enough to give us a small discount,
which we are so grateful for. Some of our parent dogs, who have been bred relentlessly, have come to us with eye infections so bad that eye removal was necessary,” Tiziana shared.
The Most Recent Law Updates in NJ
In New Jersey, the most recent update to animal welfare laws on this topic was in 2016 when the Pet Purchase Protection Act was passed. Among other provisions, this law requires the animals come from licensed breeders or brokers. “The challenge is that the inspections for those licenses happen through the US Department of Agriculture,” Elissa said. “So there isn’t a heavy emphasis on enforcement.”
Even so, many communities have taken up the issue on their own. “Out of the 565 municipalities in NJ, 137 of them have ordinances that prohibit retail sale of dogs and cats in their pet stores,” Elissa said. Montclair recently passed an ordinance prohibiting the sale of dogs and cats in pet stores.
Looking ahead, Elissa said that the biggest challenges on this topic in New Jersey will be people from New York coming to New Jersey to purchase animals, and working on a similar bill in New Jersey. “We are working on a bill now that would prohibit consumer financing of pet purchases,” she said. “It’s bad for both the animal and the consumer. Retailers charge incredibly high-interest rates and often consumers don’t know what they’re getting into,”
For more information about these puppy mill pipeline laws, please visit the Humane Society of the United States.
Animal Welfare in Hoboken and Jersey City
Jersey City has recently taken two major steps to increase its efforts around animal welfare. First, the City has created an anonymous tip line to report suspected abuse, neglect, or cruelty. Animal cruelty crimes can be reported by calling the tip line at 201-547-4999 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Additionally, 38 police officers have been certified as Municipal Humane Law Enforcement Officers (MHLEO). Another 20 supervisory officers will complete training in Spring 2023.
JCPD Deputy Chief Nick Flora explored the idea of establishing a tip line to report animal-related crimes after 20-plus years of service. Research has proven there are direct correlations between animal abuse and domestic violence. “Under this administration, the Jersey City Police Department has worked to be more strategic in our efforts to combat all crime, from the worst violent offenders to those who commit acts of violence on helpless animals. By training our officers and providing a tip line for reporting suspected crimes, we can better enforce the law and simultaneously help keep the animals safe.”
Hoboken PD also has an officer who is certified as an MHLEO. The City contracts with the Liberty Humane Society for animal control issues.
Visit the Humane Society of the United States to learn more about animal welfare laws and grassroots activism.
Contact your state representatives.
Senator: Sandra B. Cunningham
Assemblywoman: Angela V. McKnight
Assemblyman: William B. Sampson
Senator: Nicholas J. Sacco
Assemblywoman: Angelica M. Jimenez
Assemblyman: Pedro Mejia
Senator: Brian P. Stack
Assemblywoman: Annette Chaparo
Assemblyman: Raj Mukherji