Suffolk legislators are discussing a proposal to restrict where pet stores and online dealers get puppies and kittens in what animal advocates called a step toward curbing unscrupulous cat breeders and "puppy mills."
The proposed law also would require annual inspections by the county department of consumer affairs of pet dealers selling nine or more dogs or cats a year.
Pet-store owners voiced concern at a Riverhead meeting Tuesday it will be another layer of bureaucracy, but many said they supported the bill because it would protect animal safety.
The latest version of the bill was presented Tuesday at the legislature's general meeting in Riverhead. The measure prevents Suffolk pet stores from buying animals from breeders with serious violations from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, or numerous minor violations.
"This is going to effectively shut down the sale of puppy mill dogs in Suffolk County," said Legis. Jay Schneiderman (I-Montauk), who introduced the bill.
Suffolk is the state's first municipality to try to regulate sales of pets under a law that gave such authority in January. The bill sets standards for cage size and how cages are stacked, and requires stores to post that inspection reports from breeders are available on request. There would be a $500 fine per violation of the county law.
About 25 advocates, many of whom said they were volunteers with Long Island animal shelters, called on the legislature Tuesday in Riverhead to pass the bill, describing the "horrors" of puppy mills. Pamela Green, director of Kent Animal Shelter in Calverton, called many pet-shop dogs "consumer fraud at its finest."
"People think they're getting a cute little dog in a pet shop, but sometimes, they're getting a financial nightmare," she said.
A nearly equal number of pet-store owners and happy customers defended pet stores. Pet-store and pure-breed owners said they supported the latest version of the bill, though some store owners expressed frustration with another layer of inspection and regulation.
"I'm tired of being treated as some type of lower form of life," said Barbara Maple, owner of Petite Pets in Huntington. "Nobody loves their puppies more than me."
The proposal will be heard in the government operations committee May 7 in Hauppauge.