Animal rights groups celebrated another win in the war against cruelty after New York lawmakers approved a law banning the sale of dogs, cats, and rabbits in retail pet stores. The law also “authorizes collaboration with entities to provide space to showcase cats or dogs owned by certain entities for the purpose of adoption.” Governor Cuomo has yet to sign the bill into law but there is no indication that he will not put pen to paper.
The law takes aim at the human disgrace of ‘animal mills’, breeding operations that consider pets a commodity, not a member of the family. Conditions in these ‘mills’ are typically abhorrent, have high mortality rates, and utilize unscrupulous breeding practices for maximum profit. While puppies are the stereotypical victim of mills, this law provides protection for cats and rabbits as well.
Local pet store, Wet and Wild Pets, will be impacted by the new law, as they sell rabbits and just recently started selling a “few” puppies after over a year hiatus due to Covid. Store owner Tina Briggs talked about what she sees as a good intentions that will not solve the puppy mill problem.
“Unfortunately this law is going to have the opposite effect on the situation. Without responsible pet stores to act as retail outlets for responsible breeders, consumers will flock to “back yard breeders. Puppy mills are happy to have this law passed because the demand for a new puppy or kitten or rabbit isn’t going away. Consumers will simply start buying from unlicensed breeders who are without regulatory review.”
The American Kennel Club backs up Briggs assertions in what they describe as “talking points” on the law:
- Although this bill is being touted as the ultimate solution to ending the problem of bad breeders, fewer than 4 percent of pets purchased in the US come from pet shops. This bill will do little to address any issues associated with substandard breeders; however, it dramatically harms the option to choose a professionally raised, purpose-bred dog.
- It harms responsible pet breeders and retailers who are regulated under federal and state laws, while encouraging the sale of pets that come from unlicensed and unregulated sources that are not subject to federal animal welfare or New York consumer protection laws.
- It will ban the sale of pets from known, regulated and inspected sources, and restrict pet shops to only sell pets from unregulated sources (i.e., shelters, rescues, and other similar organizations).
- It will reduce the average person’s access and ability to choose a pet with the predictable type, mandated care, and substantiated health background that come with purebred pets from regulated sources. Individuals who lack the resources or do not have access to private hobby breeders will be the most directly impacted.
As a longtime small business owner, Tina Briggs, says the answer is not to limit reputable breeders and pet stores to sell animals. Mandatory licensing of all breeders and pet stores would be a great first step. Real penalties for backyard breeders and puppy mills who are not licensed and inspected. Shut down pet stores who are not licensed and who do not strictly sell licensed animals. But one drastic shutdown of all retail outlets for these animals is only going to drive consumers to the illegal markets.
Brian Shapiro, of the Humane Society puts it another way:
“We applaud Senator Gianaris and Assembly member Rosenthal for introducing legislation aimed at shutting down New York’s puppy mill to pet store pipeline,” said Brian Shapiro, New York state director for the Humane Society of the United States. “As federal regulators fail to provide proper oversight of large-scale pet breeders, states must step in and pass effective laws that protect consumers and companion animals.”