For more than a decade, laws regulating pet dealers in New York State have failed to adequately protect dogs in the state’s many commercial breeding facilities. The dogs housed in the state’s commercial breeding operations typically spend their lives in tiny, cramped, wire-floored cages that are stacked on top of each other, often outdoors, with no protection from the elements.
State regulators have only licensed an average of about 100 breeders annually since the program began in 2002. This figure does not take into account the number of unlicensed breeders who are currently selling animals to the public illegally and without paying income taxes on sales.
As is the case with state level regulation of retail breeders, USDA oversight of wholesale breeders also fails to adequately protect dogs and is a consistently underfunded, low-priority federal program. Yet, inspection of shipping and animal health certificate records plainly shows that New York pet stores regularly purchase dogs from breeders with a history of egregious violations of the Federal Animal Welfare Act. They can stay in business after repeated violations for failure to provide care to injured animals, performing invasive surgeries on their own animals without a veterinary license, and even in some cases shooting their unwanted dogs.
With both federal and state government failing these animals, consumers and their communities, thank goodness municipalities can step up if they want, right? Wrong. State law expressly prohibits towns and cities from doing anything to regulate this industry. Even worse, they get to pay all the costs associated with this broken system. Local governments and not-for-profit animal shelters absorb the costs associated with unregistered breeders and unwanted pet store dogs through cruelty seizures, sheltering costs, and legal proceedings.
As far as the ASPCA knows, New York State remains the only home rule state in the nation that places such a burden on its localities while expressly prohibiting them from enacting their own regulations to help curb the problem. Thankfully, a bill introduced in the New York State Legislature, A.740/S.3753, aims to fix this by repealing the provisions of both the Agriculture and Markets Law and General Business Law which prevent local governments from exercising their home rule powers to regulate breeders and pet stores throughout the state. This legislation would not replace or compromise the state’s existing authority over such businesses, but would allow local governments the option for greater local control and management if desired in their communities.
The ASPCA has received numerous inquiries from local governments regarding the ability to go above and beyond the state laws regulating pet dealers, and last Friday, the New York City Council held a hearing to examine this very issue. It’s time to stop putting profit over animal protection. Local governments should be able to reduce animal suffering, protect consumers and control their bottom lines by authorizing municipalities to enact more stringent pet dealer laws, thus allowing citizens to have a voice regarding these retail businesses.
The ASPCA’s “No Pet Store Puppies” campaign aims to reduce the demand for puppy mill puppies by urging consumers to pledge not to buy any items—including food, supplies or toys—from stores or websites that sell puppies.
To learn more about the ASPCA’s efforts to eradicate puppy mills, please visit www.aspca.org.