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Bill would ban sale of dogs, cats, rabbits at pet stores; target 'puppy mills'

New York State Assemb. Linda Rosenthal (D-Manhattan).

New York State Assemb. Linda Rosenthal (D-Manhattan).  Credit: AP/Hans Pennink

ALBANY — Pet stores would be banned from selling dogs, cats and rabbits under a bill with powerful sponsors in the state Legislature.

The measure also would encourage pet stores to use space for showcasing dogs, cats and rabbits from shelters and rescue groups.

The bill would seek to combat “puppy mills” involving some breeders and sellers that kept dogs in unhealthy conditions or bred them to the point that the animals had hidden and serious health concerns, backers of the legislation said. 

“This is a way to protect animals and to try to stop the puppy-mills-to-pet-store pipeline," said Assemb. Linda Rosenthal (D-Manhattan), who led the push for many animal protection laws in New York. "There is no need to sell animals these days. There are so many that can be adopted.”

But the American Kennel Club, which supports purebred breeding of dogs, expressed concern about measures such as Rosenthal's.

“Throughout the country, animal rights groups are pushing an initiative of local proposals that target retail pet stores as a way to put both dog breeders and retailers out of business,” the group says on its website.

“Proponents make inflammatory allegations about abuses by breeders (whom they call ‘puppy mills’), and offer a solution that ironically, bans the most regulated and vetted sources (including breeders and handlers subject to federal licensing) while urging the sales or adoption of animals obtained from sources that have little or no regulatory oversight and that are not subject to federal oversight, state consumer protection laws or other guarantees,” the kennel club says.

Bill sponsors said pet stores won’t have to go out of business if the measure passes because of the shops’ trade in other pets as well as food, leashes, outfits and other items for dogs, cats and rabbits.

California adopted legislation similar to Rosenthal's last year. Other states and municipalities, including Suffolk County, have adopted laws to end the puppy mill trade.

She is joined in sponsoring the bill by Senate Deputy Majority Leader Michael Gianaris (D-Queens). A press event is planned Monday to start the final push toward passage.

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