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Riverhead mulls ban on sales of commercially bred dogs, cats

Puppies seized in Hicksville in 2019 as part

Puppies seized in Hicksville in 2019 as part of a probe into the alleged interstate transport of sick animals for sale on Long Island. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Town of Riverhead officials are considering adopting legislation that would prohibit sales of commercially bred dogs and cats in pet stores and outlaw "puppy mills."

The town board was expected to vote Sept. 21 on the legislation, Supervisor Yvette Aguiar told Newsday. However, the published agenda for the meeting did not have the legislation listed for a vote.

Aguiar said Friday that the town attorney’s office was examining the legislation and a date for a vote on it is still pending.

Town board members have said the legislation would protect dogs and cats from being acquired through so-called "puppy mill" operations. The proposed legislation would follow suit with other communities in New York State that are enacting similar laws.

Puppy mills are defined by the ASPCA as a "large-scale commercial dog breeding operation where profit is given priority over the well-being of the dogs."

Aguiar said the town is still receiving letters and comments on the legislation and she will weigh them before deciding how to vote on it.

"We’re getting letters asking to grandfather in certain people licensed by the state, so it’s a little complicated, this resolution," Aguiar said.

Riverhead’s proposed law has drawn advocates and critics.

At a Sept. 8 public hearing on the legislation, Carol Sclafani of Wading River, a veterinary technician who also is town board coordinator, said she supported the legislation to "sever the puppy mill pipeline."

"Ensuring animal welfare is a human responsibility, and our responsibility," Sclafani said, telling the stories of dogs who had allegedly suffered abuse while kept in such "puppy mill" operations.

David Schwartz, a representative of People United to Promote Pet Integrity Inc., a coalition of New York State pet store owners, said the legislation would "ban one of the most complete and transparent ways" to adopt pets.

"This bill will only serve to shut down small businesses, and does not affect the ability for puppy mills or bad breeders to operate as they do now," he said. "It’s going to leave a vacuum in the market ... which will flourish."

A letter to the town dated Sept. 15 from Garden City-based law firm Gerstman Schawrtz LLP, representing the coalition and several other individuals, said the town could be subject to litigation if the law is passed.

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