Every year, thousands of puppies are shipped to New York State through a pipeline of out-of-state breeders. While many small businesses were forced to close their doors at the height of the pandemic, the puppy industry continued business as usual, trucking puppies into the state almost daily — close to 1,400 puppies in April 2020 alone — delivering them to pet stores that legally sell those animals for thousands of dollars, sustaining the cycle of cruelty and profit.
These stores often proclaim that they source their animals from USDA-licensed breeders, but the standards of care in these federally licensed facilities are notoriously weak. Many of these operations have repeatedly violated the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA), yet violators are rarely penalized. In recent years, the USDA has made it easier for unscrupulous breeders to stay in business. And during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the agency allowed new puppy mills to operate without adequate inspections to ensure they were meeting the legal requirements to operate under the federal AWA.
The Puppy Mill Pipeline Bill, which is now before the New York State Legislature, would end the retail sale of dogs, cats and rabbits in pet stores across the state.
The State Senate had approved the bill in 2020 before the legislative session was upended by the pandemic. It is now before the full legislature again, after Senate Deputy Majority Leader Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) and Assemb. Linda Rosenthal (D-Manhattan) reintroduced it earlier this year.
Commercial dog breeders produce as many puppies as they can at the lowest possible cost. In puppy mills, animals are born in cramped cages with little human or animal interaction, prone to disease and parasites. And no regulations protect breeding dogs from being discarded or killed when they can no longer produce puppies.
No one with a heart would knowingly support an industry that keeps dogs — or any animal — in such horrible conditions, but pet stores rely on deception and emotions to sell their puppies, marketing them as healthy dogs from responsible breeders, which is far from the truth.
An ASPCA survey found that one in four people bought a pet store puppy that became severely ill or know someone who purchased a sick puppy from a pet store. Nearly half of those also reported that the sick puppy died. Just last month, the Nassau County SPCA seized 11 puppies from a Long Island pet store. According to news reports, within the last two months, at least three puppies sold from this store died within weeks of going home to their new families.
The Puppy Mill Pipeline Bill is pro-compassion, not anti-business. The overwhelming majority of pet stores in New York do not sell dogs, cats or rabbits, successfully operating their businesses by selling food and supplies and offering services like grooming and boarding. If the bill passes, stores could still partner with local animal rescues and shelters to provide space for them to adopt animals to the public — a win-win for the stores and the animals.
We hope the bill will be passed this year to make clear that New York State will not tolerate an industry that profits from cruelty.
Actor Edie Falco is a Suffolk County native. Matt Bershadker is president and CEO of the ASPCA.