Legislature set to vote on ‘puppy mill bill’

The proposed law up for vote Tuesday seeks to curb the sale of puppies bred in substandard and/or inhumane conditions in places known as ‘puppy mills.’ (Credit: Michael White)

Less than six months after Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a law giving local municipalities in New York State the ability to more closely regulate pet dealers, Suffolk County is looking to become the first one to do so, as the Legislature is set to vote on a measure tomorrow setting countywide regulations on the industry.

Sponsored by Legis. Jay Schneiderman (I-Montauk), the Suffolk law — unofficially dubbed the “puppy mill bill” — aims to set a “reasonable framework for pet dealers and the operation of pet stores that supplements existing state regulations and which serves to protect both consumers and the animals offered for sale,” the legislation reads.

Animal advocates have long been calling for regulations on pet dealers, stating that many animals being sold in retail shops are bred in substandard conditions, and often have health problems due to inbreeding. Pet dealers, meanwhile, often claim that they do not get their dogs from puppy mills.

Former Legis. Jon Cooper (D-Llyod Harbor) had pitched similar regulations in 2011, however it was eventually pulled since local regulation of pet dealers was not permitted until Gov. Cuomo signed January’s legislation allowing local municipalities to do so. The county later passed a voluntary rating system for pet stores.

Legislation passed on the state level permits local municipalities to pass their own regulations, though they “must not result in the banning of the sale of dogs and cats raised in a safe and healthy manner” according to the governor’s office. To do that, the measure up for a vote on Tuesday would not permit dealers to get their animals from breeders that have received: 

  • “A direction violation from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (which regulates breeders) within the past two years;
  • ‘No access’ violations on the two most recent inspection reports from the USDA;
  • Three or more different indirect violations, other than “no access violations,” on the most recent USDA reporter;
  • One or more recurring indirect violations on the most recent USDA report.”

Pam Green, executive director of Calverton’s Kent Animal Shelter, said in a statement that poor conditions at a shelter could pose a hazard for the average retail dog buyer, stating that many puppy mill dogs are in “poor physical and mental condition, sometimes missing eyes or limbs, parasite infections gone untreated, heart murmurs, little or no socialization, and a total lack of familiarity with life outside of a cage.

“The unsuspecting consumer may be purchasing a financial nightmare because many of these congenital abnormalities and unchecked medical issues are passed on to the puppies.”

The bill has already been subject to a pair of public hearings, and unanimously passed in committee last week.

Tuesday’s meeting starts at 9:30 a.m. in Hauppauge.

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