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Hempstead may require more space, security at pet shops

Hempstead Town Hall in 2011. New pet shop

Hempstead Town Hall in 2011. New pet shop regulations to be considered by the town board Tuesday, June 23, 2015, are designed to protect potential pets from inhumane conditions, officials said. Photo Credit: J.C. Cherubini

Town of Hempstead officials want to give Rover a little more room to roam.

New pet shop regulations to be considered by the town board Tuesday are designed to protect potential pets from inhumane conditions, officials said. They are modeled after laws implemented in Babylon in 2011 and focus on zoning restrictions.

The Hempstead law would require a minimum of 25 square feet of space per animal for puppies being displayed and 100 square feet of retail space for every pet in the store.

Additionally, Hempstead pet store owners would be required to provide a list of their breeders, and all breeders would need to be licensed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which Town Supervisor Kate Murray said could help prevent puppy mills.

Pet shops also would need to be equipped with sprinklers and fire alarms, and owners would have to post a $500,000 bond, which would be forfeited if any of the zoning laws were violated.

"The idea to do this really came from my awareness that Babylon has a specific zoning that really has been successful at restricting the number of animals that can be housed in a pet store," said Diane Madden, president of advocacy group Hope for Hempstead Shelter, who has been pushing for such regulations.

The law would take a "giant step" toward protecting consumers as well as the animals, Madden said. Purebred pet shop pups can carry hereditary diseases that buyers may not be aware of, she said.

Hempstead would be the first town in Nassau County to implement such a law, Madden said.

"We've had some very positive feedback from animal rescue groups that this is exactly what we should be doing, that this is a big leap in the right direction," Murray said, adding that she hoped pet store owners would support the bill, since healthy pets should be good for business.

Chris Elton, director of the Babylon Animal Shelter, said that town's law targeted a specific pet shop that shut down after the regulations were adopted. Since then, no similar shops have opened.

The law, he said, has "quietly been effective."

Parts of Hempstead's law mimic regulations in Nassau County in effect since last summer that set space requirements in kennels and window displays, provide pets with adequate food and fresh water, and ensure that puppies and kittens are at least 8 weeks old and healthy before they're sold.

But Hempstead's proposed law would go further, requiring animals to be spayed or neutered before being sold.

Frank Bonomo, who founded Best Friend's Dog Training in Wantagh in 1999, called Hempstead's proposal "a Band-Aid fix, but a step in the right direction." He advocates rescuing dogs from shelters rather than buying them at pet shops.

A public meeting on Hempstead's proposal is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Tuesday at Nathan L.H. Bennett Pavilion to discuss the potential regulations. The law would be enforced by the town's building department, which would inspect pet stores annually.

Hempstead's proposal

The town's proposed law to regulate pet shops would require:

* Minimum of 100 square feet of retail space for every animal in the store and a minimum of 25 square feet per animal for puppies being displayed.

* Puppies and kittens to be at least 8 weeks old and healthy before being sold.

* All animals sold to be spayed or neutered.

* Breeders to be licensed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

* Store owners to post a $500,000 bond.

* Annual store inspections by the town building department.

With John Asbury

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