NEW YORK—A state bill aimed at cracking down on puppy mills paves the way for local governments to regulate pet dealers, both protecting consumers and curbing animal abuses.
Puppy mills refer to places where dogs are kept in crowded, inhumane conditions to produce puppies for profit. Legislation sponsored by Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal won final passage in the state Legislature June 21. Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s must still sign the bill.
Although no verbiage in the bill refers to puppy mills, animal rights advocates can now pursue such legislation on the municipal level. The bill was sponsored in the state Senate by Mark Grisanti.
New York is the only state in the country that prohibits local governments from issuing local laws regulating the sale of pets, according to Susan Chana Lask, an attorney and a supporter of the bill.
Lask said she helped rally support for the bill, and that some 47,000 calls were made to state lawmakers. The advocates will now begin asking local governments to pass laws prohibiting the sale of puppy mill pets, and requiring that only shelter animals be sold in pet stores. Similar legislation has passed in California, Texas, and New Mexico.
Currently, New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets (DAM) regulates pet dealers. The DAM is funded by state taxes. Its budget in 2011–12 was $166 million. According to Lask, $117,000 of that budget is used to fund the division responsible for regulating pet stores. That division has one inspector state-wide covering 267 licensed pet stores. As a result, not enough funds and manpower are in place at the state level to regulate the operation of pet stores.
The new law would allow municipalities to enact local laws which are more stringent than state regulations.
The bill was supported by animal welfare groups, as well as the state Association of Counties, Conference of Mayors, and Association of Towns.
There are 13 states that already have bills targeted at curbing animal abuses. Louisiana, Pennsylvania, and Virginia passed such laws in 2008, and 10 other states followed in 2009.
One such bill passed in 2010 in Missouri was challenged by dog breeders and other farmers in the state. Missouri is home to the Hunte Corporation, the largest distributor/wholesaler of puppies in the United States.
“Dogs are sentient beings,” said Lask, who traced her own dog back to Hunte Corp. more than a decade ago. “The purpose of this is to stop the killing and make a point of it.”
According to Lask, defective puppies from puppy mills often end up being brought to shelters when their owners are unable to shoulder the unexpected veterinarian bills that frequently occur in pets from puppy mills due to intensive inbreeding and inhumane conditions. The majority of these dogs are then put to death. The Humane Society estimates that animal shelters in the United States care for 6 to 8 million dogs per year, of which 3 to 4 million are euthanized.
State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman launched an animal protection initiative on May 1. The measures include monitoring pet stores and pursuing civil and criminal prosecutions where appropriate.
“Fighting animal cruelty is both a consumer protection issue and a public safety issue,” Schneiderman stated in a press release.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.