Mayor Leads Charge to Prevent Puppy Mill Sales in Borough

August 2, 2017
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Claudia Perez, an employee of Bark Avenue Puppies, on Red Bank’s West Front Street, holds Corky, an 8-week-old male corgi. Red Bank Mayor Pasquale Menna is looking to establish a prohibition against pet stores doing business with “puppy mills,” which the Bark Avenue owner said he supports in theory.

By John Burton |

RED BANK — Mayor Pasquale Menna hopes the Borough Council will join the growing trend and take steps to prevent the unscrupulous sale of cats and dogs in the borough.

Menna has asked his council colleagues to consider an ordinance that would directly prohibit local retail pet shops from doing business with what are now commonly referred to as “puppy mills.”

“Quite frankly, it’s the right thing to do,” Menna told The Two River Times, discussing this matter. “The conditions under which some of these poor animals are bred by unscrupulous breeders are unconscionable.”

While “puppy mill” and “kitten mill” are not legal terms, for Brian Hackett, the New Jersey director of the Humane Society of Monmouth County, they designate a specific offense: “Commercial breeding operations in which hundreds, sometimes thousands of animals are fast bred, they’re kept in substandard condition, they’re not properly socialized.” These animals have lived existences of general ill-treatment, solely for short-term financial gain and often consumers are unaware, he explained.

Monmouth County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty of Animals (MCSPCA), supports these steps, said Ross Licitra the organization’s executive director and chief law enforcement officer, labeling puppy mills, “extraordinarily cruel situations for financial profits only.”

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In such operations “dogs live in such inhumane conditions,” Licitra said, “in such close quarters that disease breeds between them.”

Reputable breeders, on the other hand, “are usually in it for the love of the breed and act responsibly,” Licitra added.

According to Hackett, 105 municipalities in the state have adopted ordinances prohibiting this practice. “New Jersey is leading the nation, in a good way,” on this issue, he said. In Monmouth County, Asbury Park, Marlboro, Manalapan, Eatontown, Union Beach have all signed on, and last month Matawan adopted its version of the ordinance. In addition, the Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders has passed a resolution supporting these municipal regulations.

Menna, a lawyer who serves as Matawan’s borough attorney, is seeking something comparable to that municipality’s rules. “I think it sets a tone. It sends a message we are and should remain progressive in terms of our attitude out there,” he said.

Matawan’s ordinance, according to Mayor Joseph Altomonte, encourages pet stores to deal with animal rescue organizations and care facilities to urge adoption as an alternative. The ordinance, however, does not prevent customers or retail outlets from dealing with what are determined to be reputable breeders. The ordinance also provides a recourse for consumers who have unknowingly purchased an animal from such operations or a pet that may be ill.

Matawan currently doesn’t have any pet stores that sell dogs; but given the redevelopment Matawan is undergoing, “there’s a possibility they may want to come here,” Altomonte said, with these regulations serving as proactive step.

Most of the towns in the state that have adopted these regulations don’t have pet stores dealing with these breeders, Hackett pointed out, and have enacted the regulations as a preventative measure.

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“This is a dying business model,” for New Jersey, Hackett said, with most national large retail outlets, like PetSmart and Petco, having abandoned the practice, working with the adoption model instead.

“I’m not saying there’s any abuses out there by any particular store” in Red Bank, Menna said. “I’m not suggesting that at all.”

To not take steps, he added, “does a disservice to the animals, to perpetuate their cruel treatment.”

Bark Avenue Puppies, 4 West Front St., is the only retail outlet in the borough selling dogs. Its co-owner, Gary Hager, said he would reserve judgment until an ordinance is introduced.

The store was cited and fined for 50 violations last year by the state Division of Consumer Affairs, allegedly for failing to provide consumers with required information about the animals’ history – charges Hager denies. “We’ve always attempted to operate it (Bark Avenue) at the highest possible level of transparency,” and work only with reputable breeders, Hager said.

An ordinance has yet to be introduced by Red Bank on this issue.

This article was first published in the July 27 – Aug. 3, 2017 print edition of The Two River Times.


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