ALBANY — Democrats in the State Senate are expected to approve a bill on Wednesday that will bar New York pet stores from selling cats, dogs, and rabbits.
The measure is aimed at cracking down on high-volume breeding facilities, known as puppy mills, that have a reputation for poor living conditions, animal abuse, and often produce animals with health issues.
Advocates argue that pets purchased at retail stores often come from such facilities.
“With so many good animals in need of rescue, there is no need for puppy mills that abuse animals to supply pet stores,” said sponsor Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Queens). “Our four-legged companions should be treated with respect, not like commodities.”
Individual breeders would not be impacted by the ban and supporters argue that most retail stores make the bulk of their money on merchandise and other items anyway.
In addition to barring the sale of cats, dogs and rabbits at about 80 stores, the measure would also authorize space in the stores to showcase pets for adoption from shelters and humane organizations.
It would also bar previously licensed pet dealers from applying for nonprofit status to prevent “puppy-laundering,” when groups misrepresent puppy mill pets as “rescues.” California, Washington and Maryland have similar laws already on the books.
The Senate passed the legislation last year as well but it never made it to a floor vote in the Assembly. Last week, the Assembly agriculture committee moved the measure, sparking hope that it will can make it to the chamber at some point this session.
“I am very hopeful about passing it in our house this session,” said Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal (D-Manhattan). “The crux of the matter is that the vast majority of pets that are sold in pet stores come from puppy mills.
“The result is pets that look very cute and make you want to buy them, but really will result in heartache for the customer because the animal is sick.”
Opponents of the bill argue that pet wholesalers are regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and already treat animals humanely.
Gianaris noted that recent investigations revealed that under the Trump administration, USDA inspectors were less aggressive in enforcing regulations and the federal agency has issuing fewer serious violations in recent years. New York, on the other hand, has already taken several steps to curb pet sales and ensure animal safety, enacting a law in 2019 requiring pet stores clean all cages daily and disinfect them every two weeks.
Rosenthal said the ban could have a ripple effect and push other states to do the same.