New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie came under fire in November after vetoing a politically-charged bill that would have banned the use of certain pig crates in his state. And now, another animal welfare bill is on Christie’s desk. This one, however, has an unusual advantage: the backing of the daughter of Christie's musical idol, Bruce Springsteen.
Jessica Springsteen, 23, recently wrote the Republican and urged him to sign off on amending the state’s Pet Purchase Protection Law, which aims to crack down on puppy mills. If Christie signs the legislation, which passed unanimously in both the state Assembly and State, there would be new rules for pet stores, including a mandate that they better inform customers about where the animals come from. It would also ban Garden State pet stores from selling puppies from breeders or brokers who fail to comply with minimal state and federal standards.
“I understand the important role companion animals play in our lives, and I believe New Jersey residents have the right to know where their pets come from,” wrote Jessica Springsteen, an equestrian horseback rider who was an alternate for the 2012 U.S. Olympic team. “I hope that New Jersey will choose to be a leader in protecting both dogs and consumers by holding pet shops, breeders, and brokers accountable for the welfare of the dogs in which they deal.”
Christie’s office would not comment on the legislation, only to say that it was under review. The governor, a potential 2016 presidential candidate, must make a decision by Feb. 1.
Debora Bresch, a senior state director of American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said the dog breeding industry in New Jersey is like the “wild, wild west.” She added, “Breeders and brokers are selling with very little regulatory mechanisms to pet stores. They can in turn sell to New Jersey customers without revealing any information on these dogs. We hope this will make the worst breeders to raise their standards.” She said the legislation would affect approximately 70 pet stores in the state and tens of thousands of dogs that come through them each year.
There is resistance to the bill, however. The Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council , a D.C.-based lobbying organization that backs pet businesses, argues the bill will prohibit pet stores from selling any dog or cat raised by smaller scale breeders who are exempt from USDA licensing requirements. Mike Bober, the executive vice president of PIJAC, also said the bill takes away from pet choice because many of those small breeders specialize in animals with certain temperaments or hypoallergenic qualities. He pointed to President Obama’s two Portuguese Water Dogs, Sunny and Bo, who were chosen because of family allergies.
“By shutting people out of the ability to obtain those dogs through pet stores it makes it harder for families to find the right animal for them and in the process makes it more likely they aren’t going to have a forever relationship with any animal they do bring home,” said Bober. In terms of puppy mills with inhumane conditions, Bober insisted, “that’s not the majority of what’s out there. That represents the outliers.”
In November, the governor vetoed a bill that would ban pig farmers in New Jersey from using gestational crates, which animal advocates and some legislators deem cruel and inhumane. The bill passed overwhelmingly with bipartisan support—53-13 in the state Assembly and 32-1 in the Senate. Critics insisted the potential presidential candidate was simply trying to pander to those in the early voting state of Iowa, which happens to be the nation’s largest pork producer.
Whether Christie signs off on the latest bill – and if Jessica Springsteen has any sway—is yet to be seen. Christie in 2012 signed a bill that bans horse slaughter for human consumption. The Boss’ daughter had also petitioned Christie to green light that legislation as well.
While the governor is a superfan of Bruce Springsteen (he’s been to more than 100 shows and frequently plays his music at events), that affection hasn’t always been reciprocated. The musician took part in a parody mocking the governor for his administration’s lane closure scandal with "Tonight Show" host Jimmy Fallon last year. He also turned down a invitation to play at Christie’s inauguration party in 2009.
Meanwhile, the governor has hit the road this month to attend a slew of inauguration ceremonies for a his fellow governors—a move that’s being seen as a way to build his national profile ahead of a potential presidential run.
According to the latest average of polling data surrounding the still nascent Republican presidential race, compiled by Real Clear Politics, Christie is in second place with 11.2%, behind former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.
A poll released Thursday by Quinnipiac, however, is less rosy. According to the survey, three in five registered voters in the state do not think Christie would be a good U.S. president. And in a hypothetical race between him and Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton, 52% said they’d vote for the former secretary of state versus 39% for Christie.