Editorial: Glad to see someone taking action against puppy mills

Keep it local. What a novel way of fighting puppy mills in the South, Midwest and elsewhere from right here in Suffolk County.

Judging by the prevalence of such horrific — and sometimes massive — facilities elsewhere in the U.S., it’s clear the laws governing these dog-breeding operations either aren’t strict enough, don’t have teeth or are subject to lax or barely existent enforcement. When they learn of such places, most people react by asking the same question: Why are they even allowed to exist? For whatever reasons, they are allowed to exist. People are making money off the misery of innocent animals — and they’re doing it with impunity.

But we don’t have to stand for it here.

Under legislation being considered in the county Legislature, puppy stores operating in Suffolk would only be allowed to sell pups that come from local breeders — those operating within the county — or puppies from animal shelters or rescue organizations. Store owners who are caught selling puppies from anywhere else would face fines of $500 to $1,000, just enough to put a huge dent in profits.

Are there some irresponsible or extremely troubled breeders that operate locally? Undoubtedly yes, but those relatively small operations can’t compare to the commercial kennels that exist elsewhere, where hundreds and even thousands of dogs are known to be kept in wire cages their entire lives, without temperature controls, proper sanitary conditions or the opportunity to run or play. Many such dogs, due to either genetic defects and/or physical or emotional ailments, end up in shelters or, even worse, dead.

This decade, an animal cruelty conviction in New York State became a felony punishable by up to two years in prison. But what good is such a tough law if puppy stores are allowed to farm out the cruelty to other states? To keep such a local law from having the unintended consequence of spawning a local cottage industry of small puppy mills due to a sudden surge in demand from stores, we put great faith in local enforcement efforts, which are often initiated by Suffolk County SPCA investigators, to help weed out inhumane breeders.

For those who aren’t fully aware of what goes on in mills, a simple Google search will suffice. The pictures don’t lie.

It’s understandable that many feel it acceptable to purchase from a puppy store due to a well-meaning intention to rescue a caged animal. The thinking is, “If I don’t buy him, what will happen to him?” It’s been said that every puppy purchased at a puppy store just leaves a wire cage open somewhere for another puppy. Experts insist it’s best to wait for the pups to find their way to area shelters.

Preventing pups from being shipped here from out of state would stem the flow of money from Suffolk County to puppy mills. Legislators need to ignore the trade-group spin and pass this legislation. Any conflicts between state and local law can be figured out later.