Dozens of N.J. pet shops cited in state crackdown

TRENTON — More than two dozen pet shops have been cited by state authorities for violating a new state law aimed at reducing the number of animals for sale that are kept in inhumane conditions.

The Division of Consumer Affairs announced Monday it had issued notices to 26 establishments accused of violating the Pet Purchase Protection Act, which went into effect last year and requires stores to post information about where their kittens and puppies came from and when they last received veterinary care.

The stores were cited for failing to include information on cage labels, including the animal's name, the name and contact information of its breeder and the date and name of the vet who performed the animal's initial medical exam, among other information.

Steve Lee, the acting director of the state Division of Consumer Affairs, said this information "is crucial to consumers who want to know that the pets they bring into their homes were bred under healthy conditions that comply with the required standards of care."

The notices sent to the pet shops direct them to comply with the law and pay a civil penalty. Those that fail to comply or contest the violations can face stiffer fines, authorities said.

The worst alleged offender on the list was the Puppy Hut in Robbinsville, which faces between $38,500 and $76,500 in fines for 153 violations. The store drew scrutiny earlier this year when a van reportedly carrying puppies being delivered to the store crashed on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, injuring 78 dogs and killing two.

A woman who answered the phone at the store Monday said the shop's owner was not available. She declined to comment further.

D&G Petite Pups in Paterson faces fines between $22,500 and $45,000 for 90 violations. The store's owner, Guy Garner, described the violations as "clerical" and said he had corrected the labeling on his cages. He said he would contest the fines levied against his store, claiming they were unaware the labels they were using were insufficient. 

Also on the list of allegedly violators was an Avenel puppy shop owner who was arrested last month for allegedly violating a court order by continuing to sell dogs after being prohibited from doing so.

The shop owner, Rocco Garruto told NJ Advance Media he was not aware of the additional state sanctions announced Monday. He said he was being unfairly targeted by authorities and denied any wrongdoing.

"One of the biggest problems in this industry is that you get approached every day by puppy mills that want to sell you dogs," he said. "I don't buy from puppy mills. I buy from private breeders."

[Original Article]