Featured Story

Proposed law aims to prevent ‘puppy mills’ in Riverhead Town

Riverhead Town is proposing a law that officials hope will prevent so-called “puppy mills” from operating in the town. 

The proposal is tentatively scheduled be the subject of a public hearing at the Sept 8. Town Board meeting, which starts at 2 p.m. in Town Hall.

“This is really an attempt on our part and lead by example to stop puppy mill operations,” said Councilman Ken Rothwell.

Officials say a key component of the proposal is the requirement of a “certificate of source” showing where the animal came from, according to Town Attorney Bob Kozakiewicz.

The proposal defines “certificate of source” as being “any document from a source, town or county animal shelter or animal control agency, humane society, or non-profit rescue organization declaring the source of the dog or cat on the premises of the pet store or other commercial establishment.”

It makes it unlawful “to display, offer for sale, deliver, barter, auction, give away, transfer, or sell any live dog or cat in any pet shop, retail business or other commercial establishment located in the Town of Riverhead, unless the dog or cat was obtained from a town or county animal shelter or animal control agency, a humane society, or a non-profit rescue organization registered with the New York State Department of Agriculture.”

All pet shops, or commercial or retail businesses selling dogs or cats must have a certificate of source for each animal and make it available upon request to animal control officers, police, code enforcement or other town employee charged with enforcing this law.

“This doesn’t in any way affect standard adoption proceedings at our town animal shelter,” Mr. Rothwell said. 

“The potential to get the pet you desired is still there,” said Mr. Rothwell. “This is just preventing those that are just continually inbred and that are putting out a massive number of pets for sale.”

The proposal carries fines of no less than $250 or more than $750 or 15 days in jail for the first violation. 

Those numbers increase to $500 to $1,500, or 15 days in jail, for a second offense. For a third offense the fines are between $1,000 and $2,500, or up to 30 days in jail.

Mr. Kozakiewicz said there was no recent event or incident that led to the proposal.

“It’s something we’ve been looking at for a while in code revision,” he said. “There has been kind of a movement afloat, that we’re aware of in which other jurisdictions have adopted similar legislation aimed at trying to put some limits on the puppy mill scenario.” 

The words “puppy mill” do not appear in the proposed town legislation.

In 2014, Suffolk County became the first county in New York State to regulate the sale of animals with a law unofficially dubbed the “puppy mill bill.”