BRICK TOWNSHIP - The owner of a shuttered pet shop here undergoes a license hearing in the Municipal Building, charged with operating a puppy mill that sold sick animals to unsuspecting customers. Meanwhile, the Mayor aims to see that no one has a chance to repeat the problem.

Republican Steve Acropolis is presenting the Township Council with an ordinance that would apply strict municipal oversight to pet-vending operations. It would permit local inspectors to review operations more frequently than the once-per-year visit by Ocean County health officials, require strict adherence to county health laws, and place violators at risk of fines up to $2,000 and jail terms up to 90 days.

Moreover, a substandard shop owner would place the store's license in jeopardy. "If you take a dog and bring him to a vet," says the Mayor, "and they say this animal is not fit for sale based on their physical, if you will...then that pet shop could have their license revoked for that."

The measure would also ban the establishment of new stores selling dogs or cats, or breeders who sell 10 or more in a year. The prohibition would not apply to any shop operating before January 1 of this year.

Acropolis is quick to point out that the Puppies Galore case is not a reflection on the Ocean County Health Department standards or practices. "They do a good job with the tools they have," says the Mayor. But his measure would give local officials a level of supervision they don't currently have.  "Our inspectors, our code guys, because it is licensed to the town...we can go out there on a more ongoing basis and take a look at the premises."

The mayor is delivering his draft to the Township Council at tonight's workshop meeting. He anticipates a quick posting for introduction, public hearing, and final vote.