Suffolk County legislators unanimously voted Tuesday to pass a bill that would prohibit pet stores and dealers from selling dogs that have been bred at inhumane dog farms known as puppy mills.
The bill, if Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone signs it into law, would create $500 fines for pet retailers that buy animals from breeders that have received violations on recent inspection reports from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
“This bill is a verifiable way to prevent pet stores from buying animals from disreputable breeders,” said Legis. Jay Schneiderman (I-Montauk), who co-sponsored the bill with Dr. William Spencer (D-Centerport).
The Companion Animal Protection Society, one of several animal advocacy groups that expressed support for the bill, credited Suffolk lawmakers with being the first in New York State to take advantage of a state law passed in January that allows local governments to more strictly regulate pet dealers.
Before the vote, one supporter compared allowing puppy mills to abuse dogs to “letting a pedophile teach kindergarten.”
Pet stores would be required to make their most recent USDA inspection reports and their animals’ states of origin available to customers. The bill also mandates that stores keep each invoice from their animal suppliers for at least two years to be given to the county Department of Labor, Licensing and Consumer Affairs, which would enforce the law.
The bill also sets regulations for the size and labeling of animal enclosures in pet stores and prohibits the sale of any pet that is under eight weeks old or in poor health.
Pet dealers will be required to provide fresh water and food to each animal at least twice a day as well as sterilization services for customers buying animals that are old enough to be spayed or neutered safely.
“This will help protect not only the animals but also the consumers who have had problems with puppy mills in years past,” said Roy Gross, the chief of the Suffolk Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA). “It’s definitely a step in the right direction.”
Animal legislation has been a hot issue elsewhere on Long Island and in the state recently.
Nassau County lawmakers created the Animal Abuse Registry Law last month, three years after Suffolk did the same—although the Suffolk version has yet to go online. The laws forbid anyone convicted of animal abuse from adopting or buying new pets.