TRENTON, New Jersey—State Senators Brian Stack, D-Hudson, and Raj Mukherji, D-Jersey City, and Assemblywomen Shama A. Haider, D-Englewood, and Luanne M. Peterpaul, D-Asbury Park, have introduced legislation that will prohibit the sale of dogs, cats and rabbits in pet shops, effectively cutting off the cruel puppy mill-to-pet store pipeline.

Public records recently obtained by the Humane Society of the United States show that thousands of weeks-old puppies have been trucked to New Jersey pet stores from massive Midwest puppy mills that keep dogs in conditions no New Jerseyan would knowingly support. At least three puppy stores bought puppies from one of the worst-known puppy mills in history, which racked up over 120 federal Animal Welfare Act violations. Stores regularly bought from mills with hundreds of dogs, filthy conditions and stacked, wire cages. Some of these mills have been cited by federal or state agencies for emaciated dogs, dead puppies, excessive feces and dogs with severe dental issues, open wounds, fleas and lice, injuries and signs of heat distress.

In addition to closing off a key market for puppy mills, the Humane Pet Store Bill (S2511/A4051) will:

  • Shield consumers from misleading sales tactics, sick puppy sales, disease outbreaks and predatory puppy loans.
  • Stop additional puppy-selling pet stores from flooding into New Jersey when New York State’s prohibition on the retail sale of puppies goes into effect in December 2024.
  • Require 17 puppy stores to phase out the sale of commercially raised puppies and transition to the model most pet stores already follow, which is focused on products, services and hosting adoption events.
  • Drive the pet market towards more humane sources like shelters, rescues and responsible breeders.
  • Codify into state law what has already been enacted in 145 New Jersey communities.

Senators Stack and Mukherji said: “New Jersey pet shops selling puppies, kittens and bunnies raised in shockingly cruel conditions is simply against the values of our pet-loving state. We’re proud to sponsor S2511 to give companion animals the protections they deserve, protect consumers and ensure that the few stores currently selling puppies transition to a more humane business model.”

Assemblywoman Haider said: “I’m proud to sponsor A4051, which acknowledges that selling commercially bred, weeks old puppies like mere products on a shelf is outdated and unacceptable. New Jersey must join the growing list of states that take a strong stand against puppy mill cruelty and for pets, families, and the many humane pet businesses across our great state.”

Assemblywoman Peterpaul said: “I am in support of A4051, which will help stop the cycle of animal cruelty perpetuated by puppy mills and retailers looking to make a profit at the expense of vulnerable animals and families. This bill intends to provide protections for families who are under the impression they are getting a healthy new pet but are deceived by retailers who sell them a pet with a limited life expectancy without disclosing that information. Let’s support the vast majority of pet stores in our state that don’t engage in puppy mill sales, and the adoption agencies and responsible breeders who provide a humane source for pets.”

David Grant, New Jersey state director for the Humane Society of the United States, said: “For far too long, New Jersey pet shops have duped customers into buying puppy mill puppies for thousands of dollars, often leaving them with sick pets, steep veterinary bills and sky-high interest rates. Enough is enough. We applaud our bill sponsors for prioritizing this important animal welfare and consumer protection issue and urge the Legislature to swiftly pass this bill.”

Brian Hackett, director of government and community relations for Associated Humane Societies, New Jersey’s largest animal sheltering and protection organization, said: “Especially at a time when animal shelters across the country are facing a crisis in capacity and struggling to help animals and people, it is imperative to pass S.2511 and support responsible pet acquisition. When our shelters receive sick and behaviorally challenged pets people bought from pet stores, we bear all the costs, while the retail puppy outlets make thousands in profits pushing cruelly bred puppies from mills onto unsuspecting consumers.”

Kathleen Schatzmann, strategic legislative affairs manager for the Animal Legal Defense Fund, said: “As New York’s puppy mill sales ban approaches this December, the urgency for action in New Jersey cannot be overstated. It is critical that we prevent the Garden State from becoming a haven for unscrupulous breeders and safeguard against the serious animal welfare and consumer protection concerns associated with selling commercially raised puppies, kittens and rabbits in pet stores. We commend the S2511/A4051 sponsors for addressing this issue.”

This legislation has widespread support from animal welfare organizations, humane pet stores, veterinarians and cities and counties across the state. Notably, the 48 pet stores that support this bill outnumber the 17 stores that are currently selling puppies in the state.

New York, Maryland, Maine, Illinois, Oregon, Washington, California and nearly 500 localities across the nation have enacted humane pet store laws, and Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Vermont, New Hampshire and Michigan have legislation pending.