Red Bank Council considers banning sale of animals from commercial breeders


In an effort to take a stand for the well-being of pups and kitties, the Borough of Red Bank Council aims to ban the retail sale of dogs and cats from breeding mills.

A significant number of puppies and kittens sold at pet shops come from large-scale commercial breeding facilities where the health and welfare of the animals are not adequately provided for, according to information stated on the council agenda.

“In terms of the puppy mills ordinance, this was something that the council and the previous councils have talked in a general sense about introduction, and applies equally to dogs, as well as, cats.  [The] ordinance would essentially regulate or prohibit the types of commercial sales of kittens and puppies that are generated from puppy mills,” Mayor Pasquale Menna said during the Jan. 10 council meeting.

The council approved the first reading of the ordinance, which strives to restrict the retail sale of puppies and kittens to only those that are sourced from shelters and rescue organizations, in a 4-2 vote along party lines.

Republican Councilmen Michael Whelan and Mark Taylor voted against introducing the ordinance.

The public hearing for the ordinance will be at 6:30 p.m. on Feb. 28 at the municipal building, according to Menna.   

“I am all in favor of banning any sale from a puppy mill, but obviously given the fact that we do have have a puppy store in Red Bank. I think if there is a regulation that Red Bank wants to put in place to verify any puppy that is sold is from a reputable breeder, that is licensed through the state or however, those protocols or procedures are put [in place]. I honestly don’t know, but I think to just say we are not allowed to sell any puppies is not the right move,” Whelan said.

Whelan said that he would be comfortable approving the ordinance if it strictly focused on prohibiting the sell of puppies from large-scale commercial breeders, and that smaller-scale breeders meet all state guidelines.

Taylor said that he is the proud owner of an adopted dog.

“I don’t think we want to unfairly punish business proprietors for doing something that they are not actually doing,” Taylor said. “I want to make sure we are doing it the right way and how it’s written it can be tweaked. I do want to make sure we are not impacting businesses that are doing the right thing.”

According to the council agenda, the documented abuses endemic to large-scale commercial breeders include overbreeding, inbreeding, minimal to non-existent veterinary care, lack of adequate space and lack of adequate exercise.

This ordinance will not affect a consumer’s ability to obtain a dog or cat of his/her choice directly from a breed-specific rescue organization or shelter, or from a hobby breeder where the consumer can see directly the conditions in which the dogs or cats are bred, or can confer directly with the hobby breeder concerning those conditions, according to the council agenda.

In the borough, there is only one pet store that sells puppies, according to Borough Clerk Pam Borghi.

Bark Avenue Puppies Owner Gary Hager said that his store has been established in the borough for 10 years and that he and his daughter purchased it more than two years ago.

Hager said that he has contacted rescue facilities in the area and has offered to post pictures of rescued dogs in his shop so people can see the rescues that are available. However, he said that rescuers have told him, “We’re not interested. You’re bad, you can’t sell puppies.”

“I am in agreement as an owner that there shouldn’t be dogs brought from puppy mills. On the other hand, there is no pet store that is going to be able to go to a rescuer or go to a shelter and say, ‘Give me your dogs and I’ll resell them,'” Hager said.

Jeffery Morton, the owner of Shake and Paw and member of the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council, said that the council’s proposed ordinance was written by the Humane Society of the United States.

Morton said that according to a New Jersey Department of Health 2016 report, the number of euthanized animals in the state was 2,096 and that the council’s proposed ordinance said that 20,000 were euthanized in 2014.

“The one thing the Humane Society does is provide you with the false information. They also throw cats in there. New Jersey pet stores don’t sell cats, so including a fictitious number boosts their case. It’s not true,” Morton said.

Red Bank Animal Welfare Advisory Committee Chairperson Vyloet Savage said that the committee supports the proposed ordinance.

“We have researched this quite extensively ourselves. While a lot of people like to hide under the cover of the USDA the reality is that there are over 10,000 puppy mills in the United States and there are only a handful of USDA officials that go into these places to inspect them. Even once there are issues that are found it is merely a slap on the wrist that they receive,” Savage said.

Savage continued to say, “I have personally witnessed right here in Red Bank a transport truck pulling up with puppies in cages piled to the ceiling in that truck. It was dark, it was loud and it was not sanitary and that is certainly not a way that any reputable breeder, rescue group or shelter would condone transporting their animals.

“So I ask you, on behalf of the animal welfare council and as member of the Red Bank community, that you definitely take a close look at this. Not to put someone out of business, but to really look at how animals are treated, how the community is protected and what other solutions there are to this issue without supporting puppy mills.”

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Contact Vashti Harris at [email protected].