Nassau OKs 'puppy mill' bill

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Nassau lawmakers have moved to stop the sale of so-called puppy mill animals, despite protests that deficiencies in their bill will negate the positive impacts they envision.

The Republican-controlled county legislature Monday approved the "Nassau Pet Dealers and Pet Store Law" by a 12-7 vote, largely on party lines.

Like a bill passed this year in Suffolk, Nassau's version requires local retailers and breeders to wait until puppies or kittens are 8 weeks old before placing them for sale, set minimum cage sizes for animals and retain invoices from breeders for at least two years.

"I think this bill here is a good step forward to start protecting these animals," said Gary Rogers, Nassau's volunteer coordinator for the prevention of cruelty to animals.

But unlike in Suffolk, the Nassau measure allows breeders who have been cited with certain violations by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to sell animals to retailers if they prove they've corrected the violations. Critics of the bill, including legislative Democrats and some animal advocates, said that "cure provision" is a loophole that will simply encourage continued puppy mills.

"To allow violators to continue to sell their animals is promoting puppy and kitten mills and takes all of the teeth out of a very good part of this bill," said Joseph Loria of Long Island Orchestrating for Nature, a group that says it aided in drafting Suffolk's legislation.

Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport) said his caucus didn't support the Nassau bill because he believes it needed to be "more concrete." He said the majority could have taken more time on it because a new state law that provides municipalities with more local authority to regulate pet dealers already had some of the same minimum provisions.

Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves (R-East Meadow) replied that the provisions can always be revisited: "The door is not shut because we voted on a piece of legislation today."

Rogers told lawmakers the provision that allows breeders with previous citations to sell to local retailers if they make corrections "was put in there as an incentive. It wasn't put in there to give them an out."

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He also argued against a Democratic suggestion that animals not be offered for sale until they are 14 weeks old, instead of 8 weeks, saying that many by then have missed the optimal time for socialization.

"If they're not socialized within 14 weeks, they're probably never going to get a good human bond," Rogers said.

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