Senate advances bill to ban retail pet sales

Photos courtesy of NY Senate Media Services
Michael Gianaris is joined by bill co-sponsors Sen. Todd Kaminsky, D-Long Island, and Assembly member Linda Rosenthal, D-Manhattan, as well as representatives from various animal advocacy organizations.

New York’s pet stores would no longer be able to sell dogs, cats or rabbits if efforts to pass new legislation are successful.

Senate Deputy Leader Michael Gianaris, D-Astoria, announced growing support for his anti-puppy mill legislation (S.4234-A) at the Capitol on Monday, after the bill passed the Domestic Animal Welfare Committee. The bill, which now has 18 Senate co-sponsors, aims to encourage pet adoption and rescue, and decrease the demand for mill breeders, which often mistreat animals and lie to consumers about the animals’ health conditions.

“The question is whether we should be treating our animals like commodities,” Gianiaris said. “That is not how we should be treating living beings.”

The new law would prohibit the estimated 80 registered retail pet stores in New York from selling dogs, cats and rabbits from breeders, but does not prevent consumers from dealing with breeders directly if they choose. The bill would also allow pet stores to work with shelters and rescue facilities to coordinate adoption events. 

The legislation has garnered support from animal advocacy groups including the ASPCA, Voters for Animal Rights, and the Humane Society. A same-as bill in the Assembly (A.6298-a), sponsored by Linda Rosenthal, D-Manhattan, is currently in the Codes Committee.

“Today’s vote puts the puppy mill industry officially on notice that New York state does not want your cruelty in our communities,” said Brian Shapiro, New York State Director for the Humane Society of the United States.

Legislators acknowledged the law would hurt pet store revenue, but pointed out that pet sales are only a small portion of income for these retailers, as most of their profits come from goods and services such as food and grooming. 

According to the American Pet Products Association, live animal sales accounted for the smallest percentage of pet industry profits around the country for the last 10 years. The lawmakers also responded to consumer choice concerns by emphasizing that people who do not wish to adopt can meet directly with breeders.

New York would be the third state in the nation to pass such a law, after California and Maryland passed similar retail bans in the last year, due to animal cruelty concerns.

“The federal government has been asleep at the switch in terms of inspecting these violations, so now it’s up to the states to do what we can,” Gianaris said. “It’s really gone on for too long.”