Tonawanda pet store to forcibly close doors if Gov. Hochul’s pet bill passes

TONAWANDA, NY (WKBW) — One local pet store may be forced to close its doors, if a bill currently sitting on the Governor’s desk becomes law.

This legislation cracking down on “mass puppy breeding” passed the state legislation in early June.

If Governor Kathy Hochul signs off on Senate Bill 1130/Assembly Bill 4283, it would ban retail stores from being able to sell dogs, cats and rabbits. It would instead have these stores use their cage space to encourage adoption.

Twenty-seven employees could be out of a job at The Barking Boutique, in Tonawanda under these new rules, according to owner and founder, David Boelkes. There are four locations in the United States: three are in Michigan and the fourth is based in Tonawanda, which just opened in December 2021.

The boutique, located on Eggert Road, is one of about 80 pet stores registered in New York State, according to the state Department of Agriculture and Markets, which oversees pet dealers.

David Boelkes said, “If this bill gets passed, it’s going to make it harder and less transparent for people to find their puppy. It will be devastating for our employees, all 27.”

“Devastating for not only the employees but also the families that have been scammed, and have been through this vicious cycle of not being able to get a dog from a shelter or being able to get a dog online and we’re their only option, “Boelkes said.

The Barking Boutique, in Tonawanda, specializes in what it calls “ethically raised, purpose-bred puppies”.

The boutique demands a high standard of care for their puppies, with a fully transparent and fully accessible adoption process.

“We’re trying to end puppy mills responsibly by going and vetting our breeders. We work with breeders that do OFA testing, genetic testing. We have full line pedigrees and so with that, we offer warranties with our puppies. Our breeders also promise healthy puppies as well,” Boelkes said.

Animal non-profit organizations like Buddy’s Second Chance Rescue and Ten Lives Club are also trying to put an end to puppy mills and said this bill could be one step in the right direction.

Ten Lives Club public relations manager, Kimberly LaRussa said, “It’s very bold for anyone to say that this legislation isn’t good for the animals in any way, shape or form. If we’re going to make a phone call, we should call and support and make sure that our voices are heard and that we are sure to help these animals. That’s truly what I have to say about that.”

“There’s no reason to over-breed these poor animals. There are so many animals in the world, and adoption fees are around $400. That dog is fully vetted: spayed, neutered, micro chipped, everything instead of paying thousands of dollars for a dog who came from a completely abused mother that was over-bred,” Buddy’s Second Chance Rescue president and founder, Julie Starr said.

However, Boelkes said the locations he gets the puppies from are considered puppy breeders and not puppy mills. He said puppy mills are hoarding sites, where animals are sometimes neglected.

“We’re able to give the families all of the resources they need to have a perfectly healthy, and a good relationship with that dog,” Boelkes said.

There is also a criteria the boutique has for the breeders, such as canine care, 24/7 outdoor and indoor access, animals must be socialized.

NOTE: It was broadcasted that the puppies do not stay in kennels except for when sleeping. This is referring to The Barking Boutique.

“We do site visits about once a quarter. We take different groups of staff to go and visit all of the kennels, to go and play and meet the parents so they know exactly where these dogs come from that they’re putting with New York families,” Boelkes said.

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