A group of Ocean County lawmakers has introduced a bill aimed at eliminating the sale of dogs and cats in New Jersey from “puppy mills.”

The move comes after a pet store in Brick Township was shut down by authorities after 26 of the 39 dogs being held there were found to be sick.

The “Healthy Puppies and Kittens Assurance Act” was introduced by State Senator Jim Holzapfel and Assemblymen Dave Wolfe and Greg McGuckin. “Every puppy that’s sold in the state of New Jersey must have a health certificate, similar to a birth certificate, that indicates where it was bred, any medical treatment it has received and any kind of medical conditions it’s had. That certificate must be signed by a veterinarian,” said McGuckin. “Doing this will hopefully be able to identify real puppy mills which we believe are a serious problem in this country.”

The idea is to establish a state registry of reputable breeders and pet dealers who will provide the necessary health history of a cat or dog being sold. “Requiring certain documents will also force stores to deal with the reputable breeders and will hopefully weed out the bad ones,” said McGuckin.

The regulations would apply to both in-state and out-of-state breeders and pet dealers. The legislation also would prohibit breeding practices common to “puppy mills” while limiting the sale of cats or dogs as pets to 25 animals per year per breeder. Under the proposal, breeders selling animals as pets in New Jersey would have to annually register with the Department of Health. That information would be published as public record. During the registration process, breeders would have to sign a document attesting to compliance with federal and state law concerning the proper breeding, care and treatment of animals.

The legislation also provides a process which would revoke licenses to sell dogs or cats if a breeder violates the law. Any breeder previously convicted of animal cruelty would be automatically disqualified.