Governor Chris Christie Vetos “Unconstitutional” and Burdensome Bill

Gov. Chris Christie has rejected legislation aimed at preventing puppy mills from selling animals to pet shops and private breeders in the state, arguing the penalties were likely “unconstitutional” and the state’s role in policing the industry would be too burdensome.

The governor said he would consider signing a revised measure that stripped the “three-strikes-you’re-out” rule for breeders and pet shop operators which “could permanently close them for something as innocuous as unknowingly obtaining pets from a source” that was cited but not yet found guilty of violations.

Assemblyman Daniel Benson (D-Mercer), one of the bill’s sponsors, said he was “extremely disappointed” with the governor’s actions and will ask legislative leaders to pursue an override of the conditional veto.

Dozens of N.J. pet shops cited in state crackdown

Dozens of N.J. pet shops cited in state crackdown

26 establishments accused of violating the Pet Purchase Protection Act, which went into effect last year

The Legislature has never successful mustered enough votes to overturn a veto.

“This bill had one simple intention: to stop pet shops and consumers from buying from pet dealers who have had multiple USDA violations,” Benson said Tuesday.

The bill sought to regulate pet dealers — anyone who sells more than 10 dogs and/or cats — as tightly as pet shop owners. The Humane Society of the United States says there are about 10,000 puppy mills in the country producing some 2.4 million puppies each year. Internet sales have fueled the business, which is largely unregulated outside New Jersey.

“Pet dealers should follow the same regulations as do pet shop owners,” Benson said. “Unfortunately, the governor, through his veto language allows the worst actors — out-of-state puppy mills that are unregulated — to continue to sell into NJ without any oversight.

“The Humane Society has identified widespread animal neglect and abuse at puppy and kitten mills, ranging from over-breeding, to a lack of veterinary care, to outright abuse.”

In his conditional veto message Monday, the governor said he supports the tough regulation of pet shops and breeders, noting in 2015 he signed into law the Pet Purchase Protection Act, which requires stores to post information about where their kittens and puppies came from and when they last received veterinary care.

Christie said this latest effort “goes too far.”

The bill seeks to further strengthen the two-year-old law by imposing a fine of as much as $20,000 and revoking the pet shop owner’s and breeder’s license to operate for the third violation. Proponents of the bill said the $500 penalty was not harsh enough to curtail bad business practices.

The Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council, which opposed the bill, S3041, thanked the governor for trying to offer a compromise.

“This flawed legislation would have punished mom-and-pop retailers for administrative or other minor shortcomings that have no impact on animal welfare,” said the council’s President and CEO, Mike Bober. “Gov. Christie rightly vetoed this entire section of the bill, known as the ‘three strikes’ rule.”

Christie agreed with the council, and recommended some changes that would make the measure less punitive.

“Rather than let the state use precious resources to enforce its existing laws against New Jersey businesses, this bill would require the Division of Consumer Affairs to engage in costly, and potentially unconstitutional, regulation of pet dealers, breeders, and brokers throughout the country,” according to the governor’s veto message.

“This bill would also have the unintended consequence of restricting consumer access to pets, even from responsible breeders.”

Sen. Raymond Lesniak (D-Union) also a bill sponsor, said he could not support the governor’s proposed changes.

“Gov. Christie’s veto allows more than 8,000 puppy mills with multiple health violations to do business with New Jersey pet stores,” said Lesniak, a candidate for governor. “That only encourages more inhumane breeding of dogs for sale to New Jersey consumers.”


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