Pet Stores Face Fines for Consumer Affairs Violations

By Brenda Flanagan

The Puppy Hut’s owner, Debra Krajcsovics, played with her wriggling merchandise, but complained about getting hit with 153 violations by New Jersey’s Division of Consumer Affairs — mostly for failure to post required information on the puppy pens. She faces more than $38,000 in fines. That’s a lot of puppy chow.

“The violations that are brought against me have nothing to do with the care or the housing of the puppies,” said Debra.

She says state inspectors cited her because the “Know Your Rights” sign was too small and because pens lacked individual labels.

“It’s all paperwork. It has nothing to do with the care of the puppies, the age of the puppies, the health of the puppies or anything else. It has all to do with paperwork,” she said.

The Puppy Palace — another cited shop — wouldn’t let us inside.

“You can come in, but not with the camera,” said owner Kevin Smith.

Smith said he’s addressed any outstanding paperwork violations. These shops are among 17 New Jersey’s Division of Consumer Affairs on Monday cited with 683 violations — fines totaling more than $400,000.

“I was surprised at the number of violations and the number of pet shops that had violations. And we’re going to do everything we can to make sure these pet stores come into compliance as quickly as possible,” said Acting Director Steve Lee.

He says violations mostly involve failure to label cages with each animal’s ID, plus the names and contact info for its breeder, broker and most recent vet check.

“So consumers can take that information, do their own research or look at the USDA reports and make sure their pet was raised in a healthy environment,” Lee said.

“We’ve done investigations across the country and they all show the same thing: pet stores routinely lie,” said Amy Jesse the Public Policy Coordinator at the Puppy Mills Campaign.

The Humane Society says information’s the best defense against pet stores that buy from large-scale, out-of-state puppy and kitten breeders.

“When they assume the dog’s from a local breeder and all of a sudden it’s a town in Iowa that they’ve never heard of that’s 1,000 miles away, that usually raises a red flag,” Jesse said.

“I have puppies from Ohio, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York, but they are bred by breeders, not puppy mills,” said Debra. When asked if they are brokered, she said, “Some of them are, yes.” When asked if she really knows, then, the provenance of the animals, she said, “I’m not going to go into this right now.”

Critics like Sen. Ray Lesniak — who rescued a shelter dog and named her Penny — has sponsored a bill that would make New Jersey pet shops sell animals from local breeders or shelters.

“So the consumer can actually see the conditions under which the dog or cat was bred and kept under. That will help tremendously and will encourage adoption, which is the best way to go. Don’t shop — adopt,” he said.

The Puppy Hut’s owner says she’ll deal with Lesniak’s bill if and when it becomes law. She says she cares about the health of her puppies and that she’s contacted an attorney.