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Animal welfare advocates ask Hochul to sign puppy mill ban

Puppy in cage
Sue Byford

Animal welfare advocates are asking Gov. Kathy Hochul to sign a bill that would ban the sale of puppies, kittens and rabbits from so-called puppy mills, which opponents say use inhumane practices to breed pets for sale in pet stores.

The bill, which passed nearly unanimously in the State Legislature, would end the sale of animals who are bred in the “mills,” large-scale commercial breeding facilities that keep animals in substandard conditions while mass-producing them for sale.

Libby Post, the executive director of the New York State Animal Protection Federation, which represents animal shelters and rescue operations, said the female breeder dogs are housed in isolated cages and forced to produce several litters a year. She said the animals suffer physical and psychological damage.

“It’s an inhumane situation,” Post said. “New York is complicit in animal abuse for as long as we allow pet stores to sell animals from these mills.”

The bill also allows pet stores to “rebrand” as ethical purveyors of animals and instead offer pets from animal shelters or rescue organizations for adoption.

Post said Americans spend $183 billion a year on their pets, with 98% of that on food and accessories. She says just 2% of sales involve live animals, as pet owners have moved away from buying animals from the stores.

“Educated consumers are saying no to this,” Post said. “New York should not be in business of propping up a dying business model.”

The measure does not prevent someone from buying a specific breed of dog or cat, or a rabbit, from a reputable breeder, where the potential buyer can visit and see for themselves how the animals are treated.

California and Maryland have enacted similar bans. In Illinois, after a ban was approved, a chain of pet stores closed, citing the new law as the reason.

A national lobby group for pet store owners is urging retail shop owners in New York who sell puppies and kittens to persuade Hochul to veto the bill. A form letter provided by the Pet Advocacy Network says that the bill would limit some rights and legal protections for pet owners. The letter also says that the pet store owners only buy from reputable breeders and that their shop would likely have to close if the measure becomes law.

Hochul has until the end of the month to decide whether to sign or veto the measure. She has not said what she will do.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau chief for the New York Public News Network, composed of a dozen newsrooms across the state. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.