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Animal Advocates Push Bill to Shutter 'Puppy Mills'

By Emily Frost | November 1, 2013 5:15pm
 Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal is calling on Gov. Cuomo to sign a bill that would give control of regulating pet stores back to cities. 
Puppy Mill Bill Aims to Stop Animal Abuse
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UPPER WEST SIDE — Animal advocates are asking Gov. Andrew Cuomo to put his paws to a bill that would move the state closer to abolishing the "puppy mills" they say are breeding dogs in inhumane conditions. 

The bill, sponsored by Upper West Side Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, would hand back local control of regulating pet stores and breeding facilities to cities and towns. 

"Backyard breeding has exploded," and state health inspectors can't keep up, said Bill Ketzer, the senior state legislative director for the ASPCA, at a City Hall press conference Friday. He could not provide specifics on the number of puppy mills his group has dealt with.

With home rule, if the state approves the measure, the City Council could pass legislation that Rosenthal hopes would ban the sale of puppies from disreputable sellers.

The assemblywoman said she has received interest from local councilmembers in sponsoring anti-puppy mill legislation if Cuomo signs her bill into law and reverts animal-welfare regulation back to municipalities.

"Puppy mills are large-scale commercial breeders who operate outside of the law," said Rosenthal, describing their "filthy, cramped conditions."

At the mills, dogs are "forced to give birth to litter after litter," and there's rampant inbreeding, she added. 

The mass production and poor conditions lead to medical problems, added Dr. Andy Kaplan, an Upper West Side vet. 

"[Local pet stores] hide the diseases and behavior problems behind cute faces," he said. 

After new owners get their puppies home, they often realize that they have genetic problems from inbreeding or diseases like ringworm or mange from living in bad conditions, Kaplan said.

Unable to handle the medical costs associated with a sick dog or one with genetic issues, owners then send the dogs to shelters where they may be euthanized, he said.

"What's in the window may not always be what happens downstairs or upstate," said State Sen. Brad Hoylman, who supports the bill. The measure has already been approved by the Senate.

Ketzer said there are hundreds of underground, unregulated puppy mills in the state, feeding discounted puppies to local pet stores who then jack up the price for consumers. 

"These stores are littered all over the city and people don't even know about it," said Corey Johnson, a City Council candidate in District 3, where a pet store that he claimed uses puppy mills is regularly demonstrated in front of by animal advocates. "It's all about money and it's all about profits."

Kaplan said a potential owner's best bet is to adopt a mixed-breed dog from a local shelter, as mixed breeds tend to have fewer health issues because they're not as likely to be inbred. 

Cuomo will likely sign the bill into law in the next few weeks, Rosenthal said.

Cuomo's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.