Bill would prohibit the sale of dogs, cats and rabbits in pet stores

Photo courtesy of Virginia State Parks Staff, via Wikipedia
A bill in the state Senate and Assembly would prohibit the sale of dogs, cats and rabbits in New York pet stores. Instead, the retail stores would only display animals that are available for adoption from a shelter. The purpose of the bill is to put “puppy mills” out of business.

Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal and Sen. Michael Gianaris have introduced a bill that would ban the sale of dogs, cats and rabbits in pet stores across New York state.

Instead of selling animals bred for retail stores, the legislation (S.4234/A.6298) would allow pet stores to use shelter and rescue animals in their displays that are available for adoption.

The bill memo states that, at a time when there are healthy pets waiting to be adopted from animal shelters statewide, there is no reason to allow the sale of puppy mill animals.

The bill language also claims that animals bred for retail sale are “mistreated from birth,” and often develop behavioral or physical health problems later in life despite their high price tags.

“My new legislation … will finally end the puppy mill-to-pet store pipeline,” Rosenthal said. “Animals [bred] in mills live short, tortured existences; their offspring — usually the animals offered for sale at pet stores — are often riddled with congenital issues as a result of the poor conditions and breeding practices employed.”

Pet breeders and pet stores are regulated under the Animal Welfare Act by the United States Department of Agriculture. For years, advocates have pushed the USDA for a more robust inspection and enforcement system.

Instead, a recent investigation revealed that under the Trump administration, USDA inspectors documented 60 percent fewer violations at facilities that house animals in 2018 compared to 2017. In addition, the USDA is issuing fewer serious violations that would ordinarily trigger swift follow-up action by the agency.

New York has one of the highest concentrations of pet stores in the nation, creating a large demand for puppies, kittens and rabbits. Rosenthal and Gianaris hope New York will soon join Maryland, California and more than 290 local governments nationwide that are passing laws meant to encourage adoption over the retail sales of pets.

The bill resides in the Assembly Agriculture Committee and the Senate Domestic Animal Welfare Committee.

“With so many good animals in need of homes, there is no need for puppy mills to supply pet stores,” said Senate Deputy Leader Michael Gianaris. “Our four-legged companions should be treated with respect, not like commodities.”