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Nassau panel backs bill to curb puppy mills

A Nassau legislative committee Monday approved a Republican-backed bill to curb the sale of animals from so-called "puppy mills," despite opposition from Democrats and local animal advocates who said the measure does not go far enough to prevent inhumane breeding practices.

The legislature's Rules Committee, in a 4-3 party-line vote, approved a bill by Legis. Michael Venditto (R-Massapequa) to require retailers and breeders in Nassau to wait until puppies or kittens are 8 weeks old before putting them up for sale.

Venditto introduced his bill last month, after Suffolk County passed a puppy mill law that also requires the 8-week age minimum.

Venditto's initial proposal called for a 14-week age limit. On Friday he amended the bill to reduce it to 8 weeks, which he said animal experts had told him was enough time to wean them from their mothers.

Monday, Legis. David Denenberg (D-Merrick), who is running against Venditto for State Senate, filed a competing bill to restore the 14-week limit. Denenberg announced his proposal at a news conference before the committee meeting. He said the extra six weeks would allow females to recuperate longer before being bred again, and give animals weaning time.

"Eight weeks to sell a dog encourages puppy mills," said Denenberg.

Greg Rogers, Nassau County's emergency animal services coordinator, noted the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals website says weaning of puppies is "ideally completed by about seven to eight weeks of age." The ASPCA says weaning of kittens "is usually completed when they reach eight to ten weeks."

Rogers argued for the measure to be passed because it also extended other protections, such as allowing the county SPCA to inspect pet stores and report their findings to the county. "There's no perfect bill for advocates, no perfect bill for pet shop owners . . . one of the reasons we're in favor of this bill is we get to go in and conduct inspections," he told lawmakers.

After the meeting, Venditto told Newsday he would be open to sitting down with advocates and pet store owners to determine if the bill should be changed back to 14 weeks.

The measure is scheduled to come before the full 19-member legislature next Monday.

Also Monday, Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves (R-East Meadow) requested a meeting of the legislature and County Executive Edward Mangano to discuss the county's hiring of outside legal counsel. The request came after Legis. Judy Jacobs (D-Woodbury) and Legis. Carrié Solages (D-Elmont) raised concerns about the county's contracting private law firms instead of bolstering staffing at the county attorney's office.

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