Suffolk pol makes sweeping changes to ‘puppy mill bill’

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Employees at Puppy Experience on the Main Road in Aquebogue have denied selling dogs that come from puppy mills.

The county lawmaker behind a legislative effort to curtail the sale of puppy mill dogs in Suffolk County pet stores has made some major changes to his proposed legislation.

Under the amended bill, local pet stores would only be allowed to adopt out puppies from animal shelters or rescue agencies and could not sell any pups at all.

The stores would be able to solicit donations and make money through selling food, toys and other goods and providing services such as grooming or training.

The original legislation — written by Legislator Jon Cooper (D-Lloyd Harbor) and first discussed publicly at the Legislature’s June meeting in Riverhead — permitted retail puppy sales between breeders and pet stores. But Mr. Cooper has now scrapped that provision.

“Responsible dog breeders won’t sell to pet stores because they want to get to know the families,” Mr. Cooper said in an interview last week.

The legislation would effectively change the business model for Suffolk County pet stories, which would come to resemble those in Glendale, Calif., and Albuquerque, N.M. Mr. Cooper’s legislation is being modeled after laws in those municipalities.

Ridge resident Gina Gaeta, who has bred Labradors and French bulldogs for nearly 20 years, said she would “never sell” her puppies to a pet store.

“We interview every single person. We keep in touch. We want to make sure the puppy is going to a good home,” Ms. Gaeta said, adding she believes the legislation is “a good thing for the animals.”

Jeanette Friscia, a trainer for the Riverhead Kennel Club, said her group supports the law in its new form because puppy mill breeding is done “haphazardly.”

“Puppies bred in the Midwest are taken away from their parents too young because nursing weakens the mother dog,” Ms. Friscia said. “We don’t take them as members if they are from puppy mills. We’re looking to improve the breeds.”

Mahlon Goer, a spokesperson for the Rhinebeck-based advocacy group Dog Federation of New York, said while Mr. Cooper’s bill has good intentions, her group believes it “would do real damage to pet owners and retailers.”

“We believe that, as a society, our best approach to supplying puppies and dogs to families looking for a pet is to support licensed, regulated, well-managed pet stores, which in turn obtain their dogs from facilities in compliance with relevant federal and state laws to protect the welfare of animals,” she said in an email.

Both supporters and opponents of the bill are expected to testify at the Legislature’s next public hearing, scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 2, at the Legislature office in Hauppauge.

In addition to discouraging puppy mill sales, the law aims to promote rescue organizations and animal shelters, Mr. Cooper said.

Gillian Wood Pultz, executive director for the North Fork Animal Welfare League in Southold, was one of many people who spoke at the last public hearing.
She said she’s in favor of having pet stores adopt out pups from animal shelters and rescue agencies, rather than run the risk of having stores sell dogs from large-scale breeding operations that have been known to keep animals in cramped cages with no temperature controls or room to run or play.

“Its certainly not going to close puppy mills, but it will send a message that people here in Suffolk County will not take part in that horrible, brutal industry,” Ms. Pultz said.

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