We support Red Bank NJ effort to prevent import of puppies from cruel breeding facilities!

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The Red Bank, NJ Council should be applauded for considering an ordinance that would prevent the import of puppies from cruel puppy mills into their Borough, to be sold at local pet stores. It is an important animal welfare and consumer protection measure, similar to what over 120 localities in New Jersey have already enacted.

The movement across New Jersey to regulate pet stores that adhere to a business model that relies on the sale of puppies from inhumane, large-scale breeders is the result of dedicated New Jersey animal advocates, local welfare groups, and consumers with pet store horror stories asking their elected officials to act.

Bark Avenue puppy store in Red Bank NJ, attempts to trivialize this movement and claims they are the true victim, not the mistreated consumers nor the breeding dogs suffering in abhorrent conditions in puppy mills that supply to pet stores.

They conveniently leave out that the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs cited Bark Avenue for 50 violations of the Pet Purchase Protection Act (PPPA), which was the third-highest number of violations among the more than two dozen pet stores listed. Additionally, Bark Avenue appeared in The Humane Society of the United States’ (HSUS) New Jersey Pet Store Report for buying from a breeder who admitted to euthanizing dogs by shooting them in the head. Bark Avenue has also purchased from a kennel listed on the HSUS’s Horrible Hundred report, a sampling of problem puppy mills in the U.S., which had USDA violations regarding limping dogs with swollen feet, a dog with a red ulcer in his eye, unsafe and unsanitary housing conditions, and much more.

Bark Avenue also ignores the reality that the store will only close if they choose to close it. The proposed ordinance in Red Bank simply requires a pet store to switch to a humane model; it does not put a pet store out of business. Yet, regardless of the proposed law, it would be a smart business move for Bark Avenue to stop selling puppies and convert to a more compassionate and socially acceptable business model.

Of the top 25 pet store chains in North America, only one sells puppies and kittens. The others are thriving by selling quality products and offering services, such as grooming, training and boarding. One of the top pet store chains, PetSmart, does not sell puppies or kittens and instead hosts adoption events. They claim that someone who adopts a dog or cat at one of their stores ends up spending five times the average customer and are likely to become loyal consumers. Even stores that used to sell puppy mill puppies are thriving on the humane model, such as Pets Plus Natural, a chain with locations in New Jersey, that has enjoyed success and has adopted out over 8,000 rescue animals since its humane conversion.

Bark Avenue’s understanding of New Jersey’s PPPA is also flawed. The law has without question failed to stop pet stores from sourcing from puppy mills as it relies on a broken federal commercial breeder regulatory system where a breeder in complete compliance with the law can confine breeding dogs in cramped, stacked, wire cages for their entire lives, denying them proper veterinary care, exercise, and socialization. As long as these breeders haven’t been cited for the most severe violations of the weak federal law, New Jersey pet stores can source from them. To make matters worse, the majority of New Jersey pet stores were in violation of the PPPA last year totaling nearly 700 violations and there is no reason to believe compliance has improved since the law is currently unenforceable thanks to the USDA no longer making violation histories public.

I urge Red Bank to pass this important ordinance, not just for animals, but also for consumers. They should no longer be misled into supporting puppy mills and ending up with sick and behaviorally challenged puppy mill puppies. Rather, they should seek out sources that are more humane: shelters, rescues, and responsible breeders. It will help curb pet overpopulation, save taxpayer dollars currently spent sheltering and euthanizing homeless animals, prevent high veterinary costs associated with pet store puppies, stop predatory lending schemes used by puppy-selling pet stores, and help avoid public health risks. 

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