Montclair is a great place to live for people, so it’s no surprise that it’s also a top-ranked spot for pets, too. We already knew about all the great parks, pet-friendly businesses, and other fun places to take our furry friends, but two new developments have made it official. A new law in Montclair was passed in late 2022 to protect pets from over-breeding, and the town of Montclair was recently recognized as a certified Pet-Friendly City. Read on to learn more about these new developments.
About The New Law
New York State grabbed headlines in late December 2022 when Governor Kathy Hochul signed what is known as the Puppy Mill Pipeline Act. The purpose of the law is to ban the retail sale of cats, dogs, and rabbits in pet stores. The new law will take effect in 2024. The law also sets up a pathway for animal rescue groups to partner with retail stores to share space with the goal of matching adoptable animals with their forever families.
The goal of this law is to interrupt the cycle of animals being overbred, often in inhumane conditions, for the purpose of having animals available for retail sale. These animals are often sick from the start, from a lack of veterinary care and the poor conditions of the breeding facilities. According to the Animal Legal Defense Fund, “Retail bans also protect consumers. Many families have been saddled with hundreds or thousands of dollars in veterinary bills caring for sick animals purchased from pet stores. Some of these animals ultimately die.”
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At the same time, Montclair was taking up the issue on its own. There are no pet stores in Montclair, just one pet supply store, so the goal of passing this ordinance was to get ahead of the issue. Ordinance 22-26 was passed on December 20th, 2022 and it prohibits the retail sale of dogs and cats in pet stores. “We are pleased that our neighbor state, New York, has enacted legislation to ban the sale of dogs and cats from pet stores. We stand with and add our voices to the many advocates and activists working to have comparable laws enacted in New Jersey,” said Tiziana Bartelli, President and Founder of WISE Animal Rescue.
The Montclair Girl spoke with Elissa Frank, the New Jersey State Director for the Humane Society of the United States, about what the laws say elsewhere in New Jersey. Elissa said that while New Jersey doesn’t have a statewide law like this one on the books yet, its passage in New York is encouraging. “This law is a victory for New York and surrounding states. It sets an example,” she said. “The name’ puppy mill’ is not inclusive of cats and rabbits. But there are large commercial breeders that don’t use humane breeding practices.”
Elissa said that these retail bans have nothing to do with ethical breeders. “These bills are not curbing responsible breeders from doing their businesses. We want to encourage responsible breeders/breeding,” she said. “For consumers, this means to do your homework. Meet with the breeder, see where the puppies are being raised, meet the mom, and so on.”
Tiziana echoed these thoughts, saying “Reputable dog and cat breeders are those who have a respect for and love of a particular breed, and work to bring into the world healthy animals that embody the finest traits of a breed, such as those that may be particularly well-suited to assistance/service, or search and rescue, or have a historic or cultural significance.”
Elissa went on to say that in places where retail bans have been enacted, the results are striking. “Puppy mills have felt the effect of these ordinances. There’s been a 30% decrease in USDA licensed breeders and brokers since this type of law started to be written in 2008,” she said. “The worst puppy mills have been shut down, the number of businesses have decreased. It shows that these ordinances are really working.”
Elissa said, “Anecdotally we have seen an increase in responsible breeders being more transparent with their practice and setting really high standards for purchasing.” She offered an example of a breeder who met with the prospective purchaser via Zoom several times, did a background check, required a visit to their facility, etc.
In New Jersey, the most recent update to animal welfare laws on this topic was in 2016 when the Pet Purchase Protection Act was passed. Among other provisions, this law requires that the animals come from licensed breeders or brokers. “The challenge is that the inspections for those licenses happen through the US Department of Agriculture,” Elissa said. “So there isn’t a heavy emphasis on enforcement.”
Even so, many communities have taken up the issue on their own. “Out of the 565 municipalities in NJ, 137 of them have ordinances that prohibit retail sale of dogs and cats in their pet stores,” Elissa said.
Looking ahead, Elissa said that the biggest challenges on this topic in New Jersey will be people from New York coming to New Jersey to purchase animals, and working on a similar bill in New Jersey. “We are working on a bill now that would prohibit consumer financing of pet purchases,” she said. “It’s bad for both the animal and the consumer. Retailers charge incredibly high-interest rates and often consumers don’t know what they’re getting into,”
A Pet-Friendly City
In January 2023, the town of Montclair was recognized by Mars PetCare. The recognition effort was led by Annette Batson, the founder of Humane Montclair. The recognition specifically called out Montclair’s pet-friendly parks and businesses. Montclair is the second city in New Jersey to receive this certification.
“Montclair’s excellent Animal Control Services, the Montclair Township Animal Shelter, and the recent Ordinance passed to protect pets and people from the puppy mill industry were part of the submission,” Annette said in a statement.
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There are four categories in which a city is evaluated: parks, businesses, homes, and shelters. Each category has subcategories that reinforce the bond between animals and caretakers, and help enhance the health of both animals and humans.
In a statement, Montclair Councilor Peter Yacobellis said the recognition was well deserved.”In the last two years, in addition to maintaining a AAA credit rating, we’ve seen our Human Rights Campaign Equality Index reach a perfect 100% score, Montclair get designated an official Monarch USA City, and now we’ve become an official Mars Better Cities for Pets. My co-sponsor of our Animal Welfare package, Councilor Robin Schlager, and I believe that pets are members of the family. We take animal welfare seriously here as just one of many values we espouse on behalf of our wonderful constituents – the furry ones too,”