Suffolk passes law aimed at 'puppy mills'

Pamela Green with dogs at Kent adoption center. Pamela Green with dogs at Kent adoption center. She supports proposed legislation in Suffolk County meant to curb sales of dogs raised in "puppy mills. " Photo Credit: John Roca

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Suffolk County legislators Tuesday passed a bill designed to stop pet stores from selling puppies and kittens raised in mills that one animal advocate described as "horrific."

More than a dozen Long Island animal advocates cheered and clapped as the bill got a unanimous vote at the Legislative Building in Hauppauge. They said they would lobby for a similar bill in Nassau County.

Suffolk is the first county in New York to pass a bill to regulate pet stores, after a state law provided the authority in January.

"There's going to be a ripple effect," said Diane Madden, president of Hope for Hempstead Shelter.

The law will ban pet stores from selling dogs from "puppy mills" and cat breeders where inspections by the U.S. Department of Agriculture have found serious or repeated minor violations.

Serious violations include unsanitary conditions and undersized cages, said Barbara Dennihy, director of Companion Animal Protection Society of New York.

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"The conditions of the puppy mills are horrific," Dennihy said. "They view these dogs as property."

Legis. Jay Schneiderman (I-Montauk) called the legislation "the best in New York State to protect the welfare of these animals."

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone is expected to sign the bill, which would take effect 120 days after being filed with the state.

The bill sets standards for cage size and how cages are stacked at retailers, and requires stores to let buyers know that federal inspection reports of the breeders are available upon request. There will be a $500 fine per violation of the county law.

The law also requires the county consumer affairs department to conduct annual inspections of pet dealers that sell nine or more dogs or cats a year.

At previous legislative meetings, pet store owners have supported the bill as a way to protect animals without shutting down their businesses. However, some complained that the measure would bring more regulation and bureaucracy. Pet store owners opposed earlier versions of the bill with stricter requirements.

In other matters, the county legislature Tuesday:

Unanimously approved Dr. Michael J. Caplan, 52, to a six-year term as medical examiner. Caplan, who will make $250,000 a year, had worked as an associate professor of pathology at The Medical University of South Carolina since 2004.

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Voted down a measure to give the county executive authority to waive $8 parking fees at county beaches when temperatures hit 105 degrees. Opponents cited the county's fiscal condition and said it might be unsafe to encourage people to go into the sun in such hot weather.

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