Animal advocates across Suffolk County rejoiced this week as legislation aimed at stopping the sale of puppy mill dogs was passed unanimously on Tuesday.
The Suffolk County Legislature passed the measure by a vote of 18 to 0 at its general meeting. The measure is expected to be signed into law by Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone in the next two weeks.
“I am thrilled that Suffolk County has passed this law that makes it illegal to sell dogs originating from puppy mills,” said Legislator Jay Schneiderman, who co-sponsored the legislation. “We are doing our part to put an end to this despicable industry that treats animals like worthless, disposable items.”
Schneiderman said the new law puts an end to the sale of puppy mill dogs in Suffolk County. “It will now be illegal for pet dealers to acquire puppies from breeders that do not meet basic standards for the humane treatment of animals.”
The definition of pet dealer is described as ” any person who engages in the sale or offering for sale of more than nine animals per year for profit to the public. Such definition shall include breeders who sell or offer to sell animals; except a breeder who sells or offers to sell directly to consumers fewer than 25 animals per year that are born and raised on the breeder’s residential premises shall not be considered a pet dealer. Such definition shall further not include duly incorporated humane societies dedicated to the care of unwanted animals which make such animals available for adoption whether or not a fee is charged for such adoption.”
A pet store is a business establishment owner and/or operated by a pet dealer, according to the new legislation.
The legislation states that no animal shall be offered for sale, trade or give-away by a pet dealer or pet store unless the animal is at least eight weeks old, is in good health and has been weaned from its mother.
No pet dealer shall obtain animals originating from a breeder who has received a direct violation from the USDA within the past two years; “no access” violations on the two most recent inspection reports from the USDA; three or more different indirect violations, other than “no access violations”, on the most recent USDA report; or one or more reoccurring indirect violations on the most recent USDA report.
Also according to the new law, any animal offered for sale, trade or give-away by a pet dealer or pet store shall have daily access to appropriate amounts of clean, fresh water and clean, fresh food no less than twice per day.
Pet dealers or stores will have to make copies of recent inspection reports by the USDA and the s state of origin of the breeder or broker to customers, and also retain invoices from brokers or breeders.
The law also sets out rules for the enclosures used to house animals for sale.
Those who violate the law will be fined up to $500 per violation.
“We are grateful to Legislators Schneiderman and William Spencer for their diligent efforts to ban the sale of puppy mill dogs in Suffolk County pet shops,” said Pam Green, director of the Kent Animal Shelter and a member of Schneiderman’s sub-committee. “The one message that the many advocates of this bill would like to send to the consumer is that the pet shops are still buying from puppy mills, don’t be fooled, they are just buying from the best of the worst. What you are getting in every pet shop is still a puppy mill dog with a strong potential of congenital defects and other medical issues.”
In March the first public hearing on the proposed legislation met with some resistance, with opponents of the proposed measure waiting three hours for the chance to speak out against one aspect of the bill they found particularly egregious, a provision that would prohibit an animal from being sold before the age of 14 weeks — that age was changed to eight weeks in the final legislation.
The measure, co-sponsored by Deputy Presiding OfficerSchneiderman (I-Montauk) and Legis. Spencer (D-Huntington) follows a new state law sponsored by Sen. Ken LaValle that allows municipalities to regulate pet dealers.
“New York State’s ‘pet dealer’ law wasn’t strong enough to end the reign of unregulated puppy mills,” LaValle said in a press release in February announcing the bill’s signing by the governor.
The new legislation will allow local municipalities to have greater control, he said.
Schneiderman said the proposed county law is not intended to stop the sale of puppy mill dogs or put pet stores out of business.
“It’s about the ethical treatment of animals,” Schneiderman said.
Representatives of Long Island Orchestrating For Nature applauded the vote, stating that it came less than six months after Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law a bill that allows municipalities to regulate pet dealers — with Suffolk County has become the first municipality in New York to take advantage in what is being called a “historic vote” in New York.
According to LION, the bill will “ban the worst puppy mills available to Suffolk County dealers.”
Schneiderman thanked LION president and Humane Society District leader John Di Leonardo, vice president Julie Cappiello and the Humane Society of the United States’ New York State director Brian Shapiro, among others.
“This is really an important moment in time. We would not be here without your advocacy,” he said.
“This will be the strongest law in New York State to regulate puppy mills and Suffolk County has taken a leadership role,” Shapiro said. “Many other counties and many other organizations across the state will follow suit.”
“Puppy mill mothers are bred in deplorable conditions,” Di Leonardo at the final hearing on the bill. “Commercial breeding facilities often have mothers shoved in cages no larger than six inches their body size, often raised off the ground and caked in excrement. The most unlucky are at the bottom of the stack, with food and excrement of other animals falling through the wired bottoms. All of this is legal, but with this new law, they may have a tougher time getting into Suffolk.”
LION is expected to work with advocates and legislators in Nassau County to mimic these regulations, he said.
Staff at The Puppy Experience, a puppy store located on Main Road in Aquebogue, had no comment when reached by telephone for comment on Wednesday.