2024 Critter Corner News
Pet Stores Get Ready for What’s Coming in December 2024 You may have heard that, on December 14, 2022, Governor Kathy Hochul signed into law a bill that bans pet stores from selling dogs, cats, and rabbits in New York State. The law, sponsored by State Senator Michael Gianaris and Assembly member Linda Rosenthal, will go into effect on December 15, 2024. The intent of the law is good. It targets “puppy mill” breeders who heartlessly raise animals in horrible conditions before wholesaling them to pet stores for resale. What often goes on in these operations is horrible to say the least. To begin with, the animals are often treated like commodities, not living, loving creatures. The only value an animal has to a puppy mill breeder is expressed by the dollar sign. Because making money is the one-and-only name of the game, sick animals are often denied veterinary care. The idea is, if Pluto isn’t going to sell, why bother with him at all? No sense spending any money there—where’s the profit in that? As for the healthy animals, they’re repeatedly bred until they can breed no more. After that, they’re often cruelly cut loose to fend for themselves or thoughtlessly put down. And you can bet that the living conditions for these animals aren’t deluxe. They often exist in tight, filthy cages with no exercise or playtime. Their food is cheap and often contaminated…as a result, many of these poor creatures fall victim to malnutrition. Even in cases where an animal is lucky enough to be rescued from such a place, long-term effects from the trauma remain. Pets that have survived puppy mills don’t like to be held. They may not want to be touched at all. They cower. In some cases, they try to escape from their new homes. In others, they shut down. Often, they will become aggressive. So, attempting to stop these things from happening is definitely necessary. And the lawmakers who voted in favor believe this law is the way to do it. “If a consumer went to a mill and saw the awful conditions, they wouldn’t buy these animals,” Sen. Gianaris told NPR. “Dealing with a breeder allows people to see where their dog comes from, and it cuts off the middlemen that serve as a way to wash off the awful activities that take place at the mill” (www.npr.org). So, what exactly does the law say? Well, as we’ve seen, beginning December 15, 2023, pet stores in New York State will no longer be allowed to sell dogs, cats, and rabbits. Stores that refuse to comply will suffer penalties. This doesn’t mean that you won’t see dogs, cats, and rabbits in pet stores anymore. The law allows the stores to rent space to animal shelters to offer abandoned animals for adoption. I’m betting a bunch of stores will go this route. Oh, and private breeders—who breed and sell animals on their own private property—aren’t affected at all. But, as you might imagine, not everyone is happy about the new law. This includes Jessica Selmer, president of People United to Protect Pet Integrity (yes, PUPPI). “By ending licensed and regulated local pet stores,” Selmer told The New York Times, “you remove the people who vet breeders, ensure the health of newly-homed pets with established veterinarians, and guarantee the success of a new pet family” (www.reuters.com). There are also those who believe that unethical breeders will simply fly under the radar. “This bill would not shut down one single breeder,” said David Boelkes, who owns a pet shop in Buffalo. “It would only make it harder for people to obtain a puppy through a transparent source. We offer the addresses. We offer [kennel] tours. So, if people want to go and see the kennel themselves, they can, but then again, that’s why they come to us” (www.nypost.com). Other pet store owners figure that the new law will torpedo their businesses. “Eighty-five percent of our business is puppies,” Emilio Ortiz, out of Chelsea, notes, “so you make it illegal for pet stores to sell pets, how are they going to stay in business?” Still others point out that the law will have no effect across state lines. So, while only time will tell if the new law will have a positive, neutral, or negative effect, there are some things we can do now to curb the inhumane practices that go on in puppy mills. The first thing we can do is recognize when we’re dealing with one. What are the signs? Well, you might not be allowed to go and see the puppy’s home or kennel. And you might not be allowed to meet the puppy’s mama (dad might not be a regular resident in the household). These are big red flags. Then, there may not be any veterinary records for the pup. And any vaccinations may have been administered by the breeders themselves. Oh, and it seems like this breeder always has puppies to sell. And puppies of many different breeds, at prices that seem way too high…or way too low. And puppies are available for purchase before they’re eight weeks old. Also—though this isn’t always a sign of a puppy mill—unethical breeders do post animals for sale on social media. Then, beware of sketchy paperwork or no-contract sales. If your breeder checks too many of these boxes, you’re likely dealing with a puppy mill. Get away fast. Now…how can you find a respectable breeder? Here are some actions to take: If you’re looking for a specific breed, get a list of breeders from a local breed club. You can also meet breeders at dog shows. Always ask for referrals from folks who have dealt with the breeder. Go and see where the puppy is being raised, and meet the mom. Ask the breeders what genetic testing they might be doing to rule out potential health issues. Don’t be surprised if you have to wait for a pup. Ethical breeders often have waitlists. Make sure there’s a legitimate contract. Oh, and get all veterinary-related paperwork before taking the puppy home. New law or not, a little extra work on our part now may be exactly what we need to put the kibosh on puppy mills in the future. And that’s certainly a good thing to do in 2024.
Happy New Year!
Dr Barbara J Bodolosky
DVM Animal Hospital of Sullivan County
667 Harris Rd Ferndale NY 12734