In a public hearing with the Suffolk County Legislature in Riverhead on Tuesday, local Legislator Jay Schneiderman presented a new bill that aims to support the humane treatment of pet store animals and help keep puppy mill business out of Suffolk County. His proposed “Suffolk County Pet Dealer Bill” (1047-2014) would force Suffolk County pet stores to disclose where each dog was bred — if, for example it came from a puppy mill — and that they are in good health and kept in humane conditions.
Dori Scofield, founder and president of Save-A-Pet Animal Rescue and Adoption Center, attended the hearing to champion Schneiderman’s bill and plead her case against pet shops selling puppy mill dogs. Scofield reports that Suffolk County has approximately nine pet stores and three kennels currently selling dogs from inhumane commercial breeding facilities, often called “puppy mills” by detractors. In what are essentially puppy-making factories, the parents of pet store puppies are forced to breed while living in a world without love or human contact, typically in crates covered with chicken and turkey wire. And they are bred as often as possible — sometimes until death.
Joined by staff and supporters from Save-A-Pet and Guardians of Rescue, Ms. Scofield spoke on behalf of these voiceless and suffering animals at the meeting. Her hope, according to Save-A-Pet, is to help impose strict rules on puppy mills, since New York State will not allow a ban on the retail sale of dogs and cats.
Schneiderman’s bill would also prohibit any sale of animals younger than 14 weeks, and ensure any animal for sale is weaned from its mother. Further, the bill requires that pet dealers keep dogs and cats in cages that are big enough for the animal to lie down, stretch, walk and move freely. The animal must also have access to clean, fresh water and food. Dealers would also be required to provide USDA reports on the breeder or broker who provided each animal. Violations will cost dealers $500 per instance.
The Suffolk County Pet Dealer Bill follows Senator Ken LaValle’s passage of an updated New York pet dealer law, which gives municipalities within the state the right to regulate pet dealers. Earlier this year, LaValle improved then-existing pet dealer regulations to allow local officials to respond more quickly to inhumane animal dealing and breeding practices.
To avoid supporting the puppy mill business, anyone interested in owning a dog should seek out reputable breeders or adopt from one of our many local shelters and rescue organizations, including Animal Rescue Fund of the Hamptons in East Hampton (arfhamptons.org), Kent Animal Shelter in Calverton (kentanimalshelter.com), the Southampton Animal Shelter (southamptonanimalshelter.com) or Save-A-Pet in Port Jefferson Station (saveapetli.net), among others.
The results of Tuesday’s public hearing and the progress of Schneiderman’s bill are forthcoming.