In a move that can only be viewed as a betrayal of man’s best friend, Gov. Chris Christie vetoed a bill that would have prevented the worst puppy mills in the country from selling dogs to unsuspecting New Jersey consumers.
This action stands in contrast to lawmakers in the nine counties that passed resolutions in support of the bill and nearly 100 municipalities that have taken steps to protect dogs by stopping sales of puppies from abusive puppy mills in pet stores. These jurisdictions, along with both chambers of the state Legislature, represent hundreds of thousands of New Jersey residents who recognize the problems that puppy mills create for consumers, animals, and animal shelters.
The bill would have strengthened the current pet store law in the state, the Pet Purchase Protection Act, by expanding its coverage to all pet dealers and resolving issues that have arisen since its passage over the past two years.
Gov. Christie signed the Pet Purchase Protection Act two years ago, but since then he has apparently become beholden to puppy mill interests.
He demonstrated this by conditionally vetoing the bill, which is a process by which he can alter specific parts of it. However, his changes were so extensive that it was essentially a full veto. Christie gutted the bill, removing every key provision and adding language that would protect puppy mills and their sales outlets. Most absurdly, his suggested changes would weaken the existing law. It seems the only reason Christie did not outright veto the bill is for political cover, as no politician wants to be on record vetoing a bill tackling the abhorrent cruelty of puppy mills.
Christie’s synopsis of the bill in his conditional veto letter is full of falsities. Anyone who actually read the bill would see that there are key exemptions for responsible breeders, those who are not large enough to be USDA-licensed and who sell directly to the consumer. The only sources unavailable to New Jersey consumers would have been completely unregulated puppy mills or puppy mills with numerous violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act.
It is disappointing that Christie did not take the time to understand the bill or the issue it seeks to correct before blindly accepting the lies spread by those who profit from puppy cruelty.
Organizations such as the American Kennel Club and the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council used fear mongering to convince their members and, apparently, the governor, to oppose the bill. There is no basis to their claims about breeding and New Jersey jobs. In fact, both of these concerns were fully addressed with amendments early in the legislative process by the bill’s sponsors, Sen. Raymond Lesniak and Assemblyman Daniel Benson.
Gov. Christie and those who profit from puppy-mill cruelty stand virtually alone in their desire to protect cruel puppy mills. No one proudly admits to having purchased a puppy mill dog. Puppy mill sales outlets, such as pet stores, have to mislead consumers about where their puppies come from to sell them. When the United States Department of Agriculture removed puppy mill inspection reports from its website, the move was met with massive resistance from the public, transparency proponents, and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.
The Humane Society of the United States, along with the bill’s sponsors and the animal welfare community, wholeheartedly support the Legislature’s attempt to override his veto.
Whatever the result of the override, we will not rest until puppy mills can no longer sell dogs in New Jersey, or anywhere else for that matter.