A bill that would ban pet stores in New York state from selling dogs, cats and rabbits has passed the state legislature and is awaiting the signature of Gov. Kathy Hochul (D).
The bill, which passed the legislature this week, is largely aimed at fighting large-scale “puppy mill”-style breeding operations. However, the bill does not directly target these facilities ― many of which exist outside of New York and thus outside the jurisdiction of New York state law. Instead, it focuses on pet stores, which primarily source their pets from such places, according to the animal welfare advocates and lawmakers who back the bill.
“Right now, out of state puppy mills ship their puppies via a pipeline of middlemen to New York pet stores, where they are marketed as healthy puppies from responsible breeders,” Maureen Linehan, a spokesperson for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said in an email to HuffPost.
The bill encourages pet stores to partner with shelters and rescue groups and to use their retail spaces to “showcase” animals up for adoption.
New York’s legislation would not totally prohibit people from purchasing animals from breeders. It would still be legal for breeders to sell animals directly to prospective pet owners; the legislation would only prohibit selling by third-party retailers like pet stores.
The bill has support from numerous animal advocacy groups, including the ASPCA, The Humane Society of the United States, the Animal Legal Defense Fund and the New York State Animal Protection Federation, among others.
However, the legislation has faced opposition from the pet retail industry, as well as from the American Kennel Club. The AKC routinely advocates against retail pet sale bans, arguing that the laws are “anti-breeder” and hurt consumers in the market for pets.
New York state has one of the highest concentrations of pet stores that sell puppies in the country, according to the ASPCA. That makes the bill especially significant.
Additionally, numerous cities and towns across the country have enacted retail pet bans at the local level. Prior to this bill, New York City already banned pet stores from selling rabbits ― though not cats and dogs ― in part because of welfare issues specific to the long-eared animals. Some people mistakenly think of rabbits as low-maintenance “starter pets,” when in reality, they need highly specialized care.
One of the country’s most comprehensive retail pet bans is in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where pet stores are barred from selling birds, reptiles, spiders and small mammals like hamsters and gerbils ― unless the animals come from a shelter or rescue group. The Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals advocated for the law, citing the poor conditions these animals often experience in high-volume breeding operations.