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Lesniak & Benson Counter Washington Officials on ‘Puppy Mills’ Accountability

React To USDA’s Removal of Animal Abuse Records from Public Website

TRENTON – Reacting to the abrupt removal by Washington officials of public records documenting the treatment of animals by dog breeders, zoos and research laboratories and other facilities, Senator Raymond Lesniak and Assemblyman Dan Benson said today that they will revise their proposed expansion of the “Pet Purchase Protection Act” to prohibit breeders from sending animals into New Jersey if their inspection reports are not accessible on the website of the United States Department of Agriculture.

The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service suddenly purged the inspection and enforcement reports on the treatment of animals – including violations by “puppy mills” – from the service’s website, removing the information from easy public review.

The records — which listed animal welfare violations and if the violations had been corrected — were often used by advocacy groups and other members of the public to check if commercial dog and horse breeders had been cited for abuse. Members of the public also used the database to find information about dog breeders.

“Puppy mills, you have met your match!” Senator Lesniak declared. “We are acting to make sure that no breeder will be allowed to send any animals into the state unless its animal welfare enforcement record is posted for public scrutiny by the USDA. Washington officials may try to conceal this information, but we will demand it is available to the public in New Jersey.”

“Consumers deserve to know whether the breeders they are buying from have a tainted business record,” said Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex). “Purging this information keeps consumers in the dark about who they are giving their hard-earned money to, and allows questionable pet dealers to continue to profit. If Washington will not stand up for consumer protection and the welfare of these animals, we will.”

Authored by Senator Lesniak and Assemblyman Benson, the pet protection bill, S-63/A-2338, would strengthen existing law to help end the abusive treatment of dogs and cats and better protect purchasers with new requirements for pet dealers and shops. Already approved by the full Senate and two Assembly committees, the legislation would expand protections in the law to cover all dealers, not just pet stores. Any person who sells more than ten cats or dogs in one year to a consumer in New Jersey in a non-face-to-face transaction would be required to comply with the bill’s sourcing and reporting requirements. The measure would ban outdoor sales of animals by any person other than a shelter or rescue and would require all rescue operations in the state to be licensed.

Assemblyman Benson will amend the legislation to include the requirement that USDA’s information is available.

The department’s actions were widely condemned by national animal organizations, including the Humane Society.

A significant number of cats and dogs are sold over the Internet, and through brokers that come from large-scale, commercial breeding facilities – often located out of state – where the health and welfare of the animals are neglected. Commonly referred to as “kitten mills” and “puppy mills,” these facilities are known for documented abuses, including over-breeding, inbreeding, minimal to non-existent veterinary care, and a lack of adequate food, water, shelter, socialization, space, and exercise, conditions that often lead to health and behavioral issues.