Legislature

Bill banning pet stores from selling dogs, cats and rabbits passes New York legislature

A bill banning New York state pet stores from selling dogs, cats and rabbits has passed the state legislature and is awaiting the signature of Governor Kathy Hochul (D).

The bill, which was passed by the legislature this week, is largely aimed at combating 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 therefore outside the jurisdiction of New York State law. Instead, it focuses on pet stores, which primarily source pets from these locations, according to animal welfare advocates and lawmakers who support the bill.

“Currently, out-of-state puppy mills ship their puppies through a pipeline of middlemen to New York pet stores, where they are marketed as healthy puppies from responsible breeders, a said Maureen Linehan, spokeswoman for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty. Animals, said in an email to HuffPost.

The bill encourages pet stores to partner with shelters and rescue groups and use their retail spaces to “show off” animals for adoption.

New York’s bill aims to curb “puppy mill” breeders and encourage the adoption of homeless animals.

Joshblake via Getty Images

New York law wouldn’t completely ban people from buying animals from breeders. It would still be legal for breeders to sell animals directly to future animal owners; the legislation would only prohibit sales by third-party retailers like pet stores.

The bill has the support of many animal rights 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 was met with opposition from the pet retail industry, as well as the American Kennel Club. The AKC regularly advocates against pet retail bans, arguing that the laws are “anti-breeder” and hurt consumers in the pet market.

If signed, the law will ban pet stores in New York from selling cats, dogs and rabbits, making it the last of its kind in the United States to be adopted statewide.
If signed, the law will ban pet stores in New York from selling cats, dogs and rabbits, making it the last of its kind in the United States to be adopted statewide.

New York State has one of the highest concentrations of pet stores that sell puppies in the country, according to the ASPCA. This makes the bill particularly important.

In 2017, California passed a law banning pet stores from selling unrescued cats, dogs, and rabbits. Maryland, Maine, Illinois and Washington State have since passed similar laws.

Additionally, many cities and towns across the country have enacted local pet retail bans. Prior to this bill, New York City already banned pet stores from selling rabbits — but not cats and dogs — in part because of welfare concerns specific to long-eared animals. Some people mistakenly think of rabbits as low-maintenance “starter pets,” when in reality, they need highly specialized care.

Rabbits can be great pets, but people often don't realize how much space, time, and effort they need to thrive.
Rabbits can be great pets, but people often don’t realize how much space, time, and effort they need to thrive.

Simon Potter via Getty Images

One of the country’s most comprehensive bans on pets is in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where pet stores are not allowed to sell birds, reptiles, spiders, and small mammals like hamsters and spiders. gerbils, unless the animals come from a shelter or rescue group. The Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals argued in favor of the law, citing the poor conditions these animals often experience in high-volume breeding operations.