Help for Homeless Pets: Norman’s Law fighting against puppy, kitten mills

Help for Homeless Pets: Norman’s Law fighting against puppy, kitten mills

Editor’s Note: For the next four weeks, The Sun looks into the state of homeless pets in South Jersey and what is being done to find homes — and futures — for thousands of animals. Thisarticle is one of three stories featured in the first week of this series.

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During the summer, a protest outside a newly opened pet store on Route 70 in Cherry Hill caught the attention of many people who passed by, including Camden County Freeholder Jeff Nash.

“(Animal advocate Alan Braslow) was protesting on Route 70,” Nash said. “I would pass by and I reached out to Alan to ask him what’s going on. He started to educate me on the issue at hand with Pat’s Pups and why they were protesting there.”

The protesters claimed Pat’s Puppies was selling dogs that came from puppy mills — commercial breeding facilities where cats and dogs are bred at high rates and in substandard conditions. After speaking with Braslow and learning about the protesters’ arguments, Nash decided to do some research.

“I was really educated on how horrific a situation exists,” Nash said. “I realized that, when I grew up, there were pet stores in malls. It was then I recognized that there are no pet stores anymore in the malls. There are no dogs for sale in places like PetSmart and Pet Valu. I realized there had been this movement against the puppy mills to restrict the sale of those animals in the large chains. The more I read about it, the more I was convinced that…the community that I represent was not facilitating this cruelty to these animals.”

Nash decided to do something to stop the sale of puppy and kitten mill animals in Camden County. In September, the freeholders passed Norman’s Law, named after Nash’s dog, adopted by his family as a rescue six years ago.

The county’s resolution had two parts — one was the prohibition of the sale of animals from puppy and kitten mills, and the second dealt with encouraging municipalities to pass similar ordinances.

To spread the word, Nash had a number of allies. One was Voorhees Township Mayor Michael Mignogna, who served as president of the Camden County Mayors’ Association in 2015.

“The first thing I did was reach out to the Mayors’ Association, to Mayor Mike Mignogna, who was quickly an ally of this legislation,” Nash said. “He’s also an animal rights advocate. He recognized this was something he wanted his community to do. He sent a resolution to each of the mayors for their consideration. Several of them adopted resolutions.”

Braslow was another key ally in getting municipalities outside of Camden County to jump on board with the law. Braslow and other advocates spent much of the fall and winter attending meetings around South Jersey and speaking in support of the ordinance.

Braslow said it has been difficult at times to pitch the ordinance to municipalities, especially considering there are so few towns with pet stores still in operation.

“The biggest challenge is saying to the municipalities, ‘You may not have one, but you don’t want one,’” he said.

As news of the ordinance spread, interest in a statewide ban began to grow. In December, state Sen. Ray Lesniak announced he was going to propose a bill similar to Norman’s Law.

Nash testified at a hearing before a Senate committee on the bill Feb. 8. He said the bill takes aim at establishments selling puppy mill dogs, including online sellers.

There has been some opposition to the legislation, much of it coming from pet store owners and others who believe consumers should have the freedom to purchase animals.

However, Nash described the opposition’s arguments as “legal static” and said it doesn’t address the issue at hand.

“No one denies that the mills treat these animals horrifically,” Nash said. “No one denies that these animals are sick. The individual storeowners will say, ‘my dogs aren’t sick.’ The Humane Society will counter them.”

After testifying, Nash felt it was a certainty the bill would find its way to the Assembly and Senate for votes.

“The committee is passing this,” Nash said. “It was stated explicitly that there will be a bill that comes out of that committee. That’s the first step.”

In the meantime, Braslow plans to continue pushing municipalities statewide to pass a puppy mill ban ordinance.

“You have to keep up the momentum and keep up the pressure,” he said.