Pet Store Reform Bill Goes To State Assembly For Vote

Daniel Hubbard, Paramus Patch

 A bill requiring New Jersey pet stores sell only cats and dogs from animal shelters and rescue organizations passed a state Assembly committee Monday.

The legislation revises the Pet Purchase Protection Act. The bill was drafted in response to the allegations of animal cruelty at Just Pups stores in Paramus and East Brunswick and the illegal sale of dogs from Fancy Pups in Avenel.

The Assembly's Appropriations Committee passed the bill 8-3. The Assembly could vote on the bill as early as Feb. 9, the Legislature's Office of Public Information confirmed Tuesday.

"Consumers need to know that they are purchasing a healthy pet and this is the first step in ensuring that," said Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (District 37), one of the bill's primary sponsors. "A pet is a lifetime purchase and should bring a lot joy to families and we want to make sure families are purchasing healthy animals."

The legislation previously passed the Senate with a 27-8 vote. If the Assembly passes it, the bill would go to Governor Christie for possible approval.

Paramus police found 67 puppies in near-freezing temperatures in a van outside the store April 3. Authorities determined that Leonard LoSacco transported the puppies from his brother Vincent's Missouri puppy farm. Vincent LoSacco operated four Just Pups stores, but only one, in East Hanover, remains open.

The brothers were each charged with 134 counts of animal cruelty.

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals filed 267 animal cruelty charges against LoSacco over the East Brunswick store, and township officials there revoked his license to operate there in March. LoSacco closed the Paramus store and Emerson also revoked his license.

Authorities also said Rocco Garruto Jr, owner of Fancy Pups, tried illegally selling dogs and investigations showed he knowingly sold sick puppies, previous reports said.

Senator Ray Lesniak sponsored the companion legislation in the state Senate.

“These puppy mills have gained a notorious reputation for putting profits ahead of the humane treatment of dogs and cats,” Lesniak previously said. “Their mass breeding has created inbred health and behavioral problems and the inhumane conditions have left too many of these pets to suffer from neglect and mistreatment.”

Opponents of the bill say it undermines existing pet purchase laws.

"The goal of everyone in the responsible pet industry is to help families across New Jersey find a pet that enhances their quality of life," said Mike Bober, president and CEO of the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council on A2338. "[The bill] serves little purpose other than to make that mission more difficult, and in fact undermines protections that New Jersey consumers enjoy under the Pet Purchase Protection Act."