Joining only a few municipalities nationwide to ban the retail sale of dogs and cats, the Brick Township council voted unanimously Tuesday night to pass an ordinance outlawing the practice.
The new ordinance bans businesses from selling, delivering, offering for sale, bartering or auctioning cats or dogs. It does, however, grandfather in current businesses that operate legally.
The new law covers both pet stores as well as businesses that register as kennels.
In Brick, just one such business exists: Breeders Association of America, Inc., on Route 70. The store, registered as a kennel, has been the subject of protests by animal rights activists who accuse the store of selling puppies from so-called "puppy mills."
Attempts by Brick Patch to interview the owner of the store have been met without a response.
But Breeders Association will be the last of its kind in Brick, thanks to the new law, officials said.
"We have one in existence. Let's keep it like that," said Councilman Dan Toth.
Councilman Domenick Brando said the process of developing the ordinance was "eye-opening" for him, and generated e-mails from as far away as Europe.
"I'm sure, down the road, this council or other councils will have to tweak things, but I think we have it right," Brando said.
The purpose of banning the retail sale of dogs and cats is to encourage those seeking a pet to adopt from a shelter or to purchase an animal from a reputable breeder. According to the Humane Society of the United States, retail stores often sell dogs and cats raised in so-called "puppy mills" and "kitten mills," where animals are kept in poor conditions and bred improperly, leading to lifelong health and behavioral issues.
Under state law, municipalities have the authority to regulate the existence of stores that sell animals, which set the legal basis for the township to act on the matter.
"I have prosecuted some dog cases in the past, so it's something I've had some experience with," said Council President John Ducey, who has worked as a municipal prosecutor. "It's something that's a very important issue … those who cannot speak for themselves."
The idea of banning the retail sale of dogs and cats in town was precipitated after one puppy store in town, Puppies Galore, was in January. The store had been the recipient of multiple health code violations due to poor conditions, and 26 out of 39 puppies at the store were found to be sick when they were removed the day the store was shut down.
The store's owner and manager were both charged criminally with animal cruelty. Their trial is expected to begin Tuesday in Brick municipal court.
Violating the new ordinance in Brick could earn an offender a fine of up to $2,000 and 90 days in the Ocean County Jail.