Governor Christie Just Delivered a Major Blow to Ending Puppy Mills in New Jersey

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Brandon Wade/AP Images for The Humane Society of the United States

Governor Christie just issued a conditional veto on a New Jersey bill that would have made it harder for pet stores to buy dogs from puppy mills.

Known as S-3041, the bill looked to strengthen the 2015 Pet Purchase Protection Act by increasing penalties for selling puppies from puppy mills — the huge breeding facilities in which profit comes before the health of the animals. Currently, pet stores are fined $500, and the new bill wanted to impose a penalty for as much as $20,000. It also wanted to have a “three strikes you’re out” clause where, if a pet store was caught three times violating the law, the owner could lose his license.

“The Governor’s conditional veto was so extensive that it was essentially a full veto of the bill,” says Amy Jesse, puppy mills public policy manager of The Humane Society of the United States. “I imagine he didn’t outright veto the bill, and instead ‘conditionally vetoed’ it for political cover. No politician wants to admit he vetoed an anti-puppy mill bill, siding with such an inhumane and socially unacceptable industry. Yet, this is exactly what happened.”

However, Christie believed the passing of the bill would result in “costly, and potentially unconstitutional, regulation of pet dealers, breeders, and brokers throughout the country. This bill would also have the unintended consequence of restricting consumer access to pets, even from responsible breeders.”

The conditional veto stripped out much of the changes, including full sections of the bill. Much of the push for stricter penalties for pet stores breaking the law came after a 2016 HSUS investigation in which the organized uncovered dead puppies and those with severe injuries.

“Instead of signing this important bill that would have prevented the worst puppy mills in the country from selling to New Jersey consumers, Christie protected cruel puppy mills and those that profit from this cruelty” says Jesse.

The American Kennel Club and the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council sided with Christie.

Opponents including HSUS, are asking officials to override Christie’s veto, but if history has shown us anything, it will be an uphill battle. Democrats have tried about 50 times to override Christie’s vetoes in the past seven years, with little success.

“[W]e are not letting this issue die, because New Jersey has become a hub a puppy mill sales and the current law has done little to change this,” says Jesse.