State lawmakers OK ban on sale of dogs, cats, rabbits by pet stores

ALBANY — Pet stores statewide no longer would be able to sell dogs, cats and rabbits under a bill approved by the state Legislature.

The measure, which needs Gov. Kathy Hochul’s signature, is designed to shut down “puppy mills” that supply some pet stores.

Critics characterize the bill as an overreach that will close even responsible pet stores.

“Puppy mills breed cruelty,” said the bill’s co-sponsor, Assemb. Linda Rosenthal (D-Manhattan). “The cute puppies, kittens and bunnies in pet store windows mask a sad reality: These animals are products of horrific neglect in puppy mills.”

A spokeswoman for Hochul said Tuesday the measure was under review.

The legislation would become effective one year after it’s signed.

The bill was adopted Friday in the state Assembly and in May by the Senate

Opponents expressed concern the legislation would result in closure of pet stores that have treated animals with care, sometimes for generations.

“I don’t want to see businesses shutter by the things we do here,” said Assemb. Brian Manktelow (R-Lyons). “How many jobs will we lose in New York State? How many people will leave because they say they can’t even get a dog?”

As an alternative, Manktelow urged that local animal control officers, the state Agriculture and Markets Department and the US Department of Agriculture be empowered to better investigate abusive pet store operators.

The measure, introduced in 2019, doesn’t apply to reputable breeders who sell animals born and bred on their property and sold directly to consumers.

The bill also allows pet stores to host humane societies and rescue organizations to showcase pets for adoption.

Gianaris and Rosenthal said government inspectors lack the resources and in some cases the legal authority to focus on pet stores.

Rosenthal also said the measure shouldn’t force any pet stores to close because most of their revenue comes from selling food, leashes, toys, medicine and other pet products.

Rosenthal said pets that appear healthy in-store, often because of medication, can become sick or die within months after they are adopted because of diseases that aren’t apparent to purchasers.

“Shutting down the puppy mill pipeline will help stop retail sellers and commercial breeders from engaging in — and profiting from — unconscionable brutality,” said Matt Bershadker, president and CEO of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Senate Deputy Majority Leader Michael Gianaris (D-Queens), a longtime backer of the bill, also said: “With so many good animals in need of rescue, there is no need for abusive puppy mills to supply pet stores. Our four-legged companions should be treated with respect, not like commodities.”

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