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Suffolk legislature approves new regulations for pet shops

Some pet shop owners complained that the new rules are too restrictive and will drive customers to buy online or from puppy mills.

Suffolk Legis. Monica Martinez, seen March 20, said

Suffolk Legis. Monica Martinez, seen March 20, said Tuesday the pet shop regulations are "a common-sense bill" despite protests from store owners. Photo Credit: Barry Sloan

The Suffolk Legislature on Tuesday approved a local law that would require pet shop owners to list prices, stop doing balloon installment payments and adhere to new rules designed to protect pets' health.

The measure was approved in an 11-6 vote, despite protests from pet store owners who said it would not help customers or animals, would create unnecessary regulation that could force shops to shut down and would drive customers to the internet and puppy mills to buy pets.

Legis. Monica Martinez (D-Brentwood) maintained her proposal is “a common-sense bill” drafted after numerous meetings with both animal advocates and shop owners. “When the people go to a pet store, they need to know what they are getting,” she said. “This protects the consumer, protects the animal and lets the customer know where the animal is coming from.”

If the measure is signed into law, pet shops would be required to list the suggested price of all animals and be barred from getting animals from hobby breeders or any other unregulated source. It would require dealers to keep all animals they obtain in isolation for at least six days and to have the animal examined within four days by a veterinarian who must certify it is fit for sale.

It also bars agreements for small installment payments with a large final balloon payment, and shops must disclose if third-party lenders are involved in the financing arrangement. The measure also would require shops to keep records on breeders they use and the number of animals they get from each breeder and broker, as well as record the animals' condition and how they were transported.

Amy Keys, County Executive Steve Bellone’s top legislative aide, said the administration has taken no position on the issue and will hold a public hearing before deciding whether to sign the bill.

Ryan Hersh, a lobbyist for Suffolk pet shop owners, said, “This overregulates and overburdens the good law-abiding stores.” Several pet shop owners warned that isolating pets may be counterproductive because it could put healthy puppies at risk until they can all be examined.

Legis. Susan Berland (D-Dix Hills) also said many of the law's provisions are “overly vague” and more work is needed to make the legislation fair to smaller businesses. She said Martinez’s “intentions are pure and good, but I think the consequences aren’t so good ... it’s an additional burden to the stores.”

County lawmakers also approved $200,000 for planning and design work to install an automated weir to replace the low dam at Mill Pond in Smithtown that can be operated only manually to lower the level of the pond after heavy rains. More than a dozen beleaguered local residents appealed for action, saying 17,000 homeowners suffer from flooded basements, cesspool problems and seeing their properties turned into marsh land because it often takes personnel too long to respond to conditions that raise the water table.

Lawmakers also appointed former Democratic County Executive Patrick G. Halpin to become the $32,000-a-year chairman of the Suffolk County Water Authority to replace Democratic State Sen.-elect James Gaughran. Halpin, a board member since 2006, will serve the remainder of Gaughran’s term, which lasts until March, 24, 2023.

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