Support grows for anti-puppy mill legislation

Amanda Fries for Times Union

Originally published in Times Union

State lawmakers want to make 2020 the year cats, dogs and rabbits are prohibited from being sold in pet stores.

State Senate Deputy Majority Leader Michael Gianaris was flanked by supportive lawmakers and two furry advocates Monday after the senator’s anti-puppy mill legislation was approved by the Senate’s Domestic Animal Welfare Committee.

Gianaris, D-Queens, was joined by Watson and Kerouac, two adoptable dogs from the Mohawk Hudson Humane Society, as he touted the bill that aims to stop pet stores from selling dogs, cats and rabbits to end the “puppy mill to pet store pipeline.”

“One of the issues that we face is that many of the puppy mills that are unscrupulous and result in unhealthy dogs and bad treatment for the animals in these mills happen out of the state,” he said. “For people who may have a particular desire for a breed that is specific and cannot find it in a rescue situation, the bill does not prohibit the consumer from dealing directly with the breeder.”

There are about 80 retail stores licensed to sell animals that the legislation could impact if passed, but proponents of the bill say the bulk of revenue for those stores is from merchandise, not animal sales, and thus they will not be negatively impacted by the ban.

“It’s not going to be a major decrease in profit, and there will be a tendency, once pet stores become seen as humane, to have a brand that people will feel good about,” said Libby Post, executive director of the New York State Animal Protection Federation, which represents shelters throughout the state.

However, Manhattan pet store owner David Jacoby said the measure would decimate his business.

Jacoby, who owns two City Pups stores and a dog daycare in the Chelsea neighborhood, said about 80 percent of his business comes from the sale of animals and predicted he would be out of business in a week if the ban is enacted. Plus, most people buy pet supplies - like food or dog outfits - online, so the predicted sales of merchandise by proponents does not bear fruit, he said.

“There goes another brick and mortar store out of business to satisfy activists,” he said. “I’m very sorry, I’m not saying activists are bad, all their intentions are good, but some of their intentions, I don’t think they realize exactly where all the dogs come from.”

Jacoby is one of several pet store owners who are pushing back against the legislation as part of the People United to Protect Pet Integrity. The group argues that people should have the ability to shop or adopt, and suggests adopting from a rescue can come with more uncertainty than what proponents have suggested result from purchasing at pet stores. The group also points to more people resorting to purchasing animals online, which is unregulated.