Benson, Vainieri Huttle, Eustace, Gusciora & Mukherji Consumer Protection Bill to Extend Pet Shop Regulations to Pet Dealers Clears Assembly Panel

(TRENTON) - Legislation sponsored by Daniel Benson, Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Timothy Eustace, Reed Gusciora and Raj Mukherji to revise the "Pet Purchase Protection Act" to require pet dealers to comply with the same sourcing and reporting requirements for cats and dogs as are currently required for pet shops was recently approved by an Assembly panel.

Currently, pet shops are required under the "Pet Purchase Protection Act" not to sell cats or dogs from certain breeders or brokers. The bill clarifies these requirements and imposes them on all pet dealers. 

"This bill has one simple intention: to discourage pet shops from buying from pet dealers who have had multiple USDA violations," said Benson (D- Mercer, Middlesex). "Pet dealers should follow the same regulations as do pet shop owners. With this bill, we increase accountability for the chain of service and protect consumers by ensuring access to information about their new pet."

"Pets are considered cherished members of a family," said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). "When a cat or dog is purchased a family member must be sure the pet is healthy and well cared for prior to bring it home. This bill takes the necessary steps to ensure pet shops and pet dealers are held accountable for the merchandise it sells."

Any violation is a violation of N.J.S.A.56:8-1 et seq. (the State consumer fraud law), punishable by a monetary penalty of up to $10,000 for a first offense and up to $20,000 for any subsequent offense. In addition, such violations can result in cease and desist orders issued by the Attorney General, the assessment of punitive damages, and the awarding of treble damages and costs to the injured party.

"Pet dealers should be subject to the same regulations as pet shop owners," said Eustace (D- Bergen, Passaic). "Families should feel confident in their purchase before they bring the new family member home."

"The law regarding pet dealers and pet shops should be consistent to ensure the families are not being sold an unhealthy or poorly cared for animal," said Gusciora (D-Union). "This could lead to problems down the road for families and money spent on veterinarian bills they had not planned to spend."

"Puppy mills are just bad business for New Jersey," said Mukherji (D-Hudson). "A pet is a lifetime commitment for families. The health and well-being of a new pet prior to purchase is important to new owners and it should be important to pet shop owners and dealers as well."

The bill (A-2338) prohibits any pet dealer from selling or purchasing for resale any cat or dog bred, raised, transferred, or brokered by any person, including the pet dealer's own cats or dogs, if the person:

1) is not in compliance with Department of Health requirements concerning the maintenance and care of animals and the sanitary operation of kennels, pet shops, shelters, and pounds established in State regulations;

2) is not in possession of a current federal license issued by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA);

3) is not in possession of all other licenses required for a breeder or broker by the state in which the breeder or broker is located;

4) has been cited on a USDA inspection report, issued during the two-year period prior to the date upon which the pet dealer obtains the cat or dog or sells the cat or dog, whichever is earlier, for any of the violations enumerated in subsection a. of the law amended by section 5 of the bill; or

5) directly or indirectly obtained the cat or dog from a breeder, 
broker, or other person, firm, corporation, or organization cited for these violations or not in compliance with the other requirements listed above.

The Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee released the bill and it will now go to the Assembly Speaker for further review.