No more pet store puppies? New York may finally ban sales.

Hundreds of postcards, containing deep images of undernourished golden retriever puppies living in squalid conditions, flood the governor’s New York office. A massive email campaign has been launched by national animal rights groups.

However, the pet store industry and its lobbyists have moved on. Zoom meetings were held with the governor’s staff; A pet store employee created an independent campaign of well-treated dogs that went viral on TikTok.

Of the hundreds of bills that Gov. Cathy Hochhol must decide whether to sign before the end of the year, few seem to carry more emotional weight than one that affects the well-being of a constituency that can’t even vote: puppies.

After years of wrangling, New York state lawmakers passed a bill in June with rare bipartisan support that would ban the sale of dogs, cats and rabbits in New York’s pet stores, leading to a violent clash between animal welfare groups and the pet store industry.

Over the past few weeks, they have redirected their efforts toward lobbying Ms. Hochhol, meeting with her office to plead their case while she decides whether to sign or veto the bill, with both sides trading accusations of lying and spreading disinformation.

If Ms. Hochhol signs the bill, New York will follow in the footsteps of California, Maryland, Illinois and other states that have passed similar bans intended to rein in commercial breeders, sometimes called puppy factories or cat factories.

Breeding facilities have for years been a source of intense controversy because, according to animal rights advocates, they operate with little supervision and breed dogs in harsh and inhumane conditions, often resulting in sick puppies being sold to consumers.

The bill seeks to shut down that pipeline by banning the sale of animals in New York’s 80 pet stores — ubiquitous to display puppy windows that can be worth thousands of dollars — and encouraging New Yorkers to adopt pets from shelters instead. People will still be allowed to purchase animals directly from breeders, in an effort to allow potential pet owners to visit and purchase from responsible breeders.

Jenny Lintz, director of the Puppy Mills Initiative at the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said. “New York remains one of the largest markets for these commercial facilities, so the bill can have an impact not only here, but across the country.”

Pet stores have vehemently opposed the legislation, arguing that the bill would put them out of business, put hundreds of workers unemployed, make it difficult for people to get a pet in the state, and possibly lead to an underground market for pet sales — arguments that bill proponents dismissed as It is exaggerated.

One of the industry’s biggest grievances is its claim that animal activists have demonized much of the breeding industry as abusive. She argues that the unhealthy puppy mills that have been the target of indictment investigations do not represent the entire industry.

“Let’s not pretend there aren’t people doing it the wrong way, but they are few and far between,” said Mike Popper, president and CEO of Pet Advocacy Network, a national pet trade association. “We are deeply insulted and frustrated by the fact that people are deliberately and intentionally distorting the image of reproduction in the country.”

Ms Hochhol, a Democrat who is running for a full term in November, has not publicly shared her thoughts on the bill and her office said it was still reviewing the legislation.

The country’s 2,000-plus dog breeders are largely regulated and licensed by the federal government, but animal rights advocates argue that the minimum standards of care they are supposed to provide are outdated, inadequate and rarely enforced.

In New York, the state attorney general’s office has filed lawsuits in recent years against a few pet stores, including those in Albany and New York City, accusing them of misleading consumers and selling injured or abused puppies that came from unauthorized breeders. So.

In 2021, Attorney General Letitia James sued Shake a Paw, which operates two stores on Long Island, for tampering with health certificates, discouraging customers with unexpected veterinary costs and selling at least nine dogs who died of serious illnesses shortly after their sale. brief. The shop owners vehemently denied the allegations.

The lawsuits helped support the ban, despite the industry’s belief that banning the retail sale of small dogs would lead to a series of unintended consequences, including more online fraud and less legal protection for consumers who adopt sick dogs.

While New York is home to about 40 commercial breeders, according to the ASPCA, the majority of puppies sold in pet stores in the state are imported from breeders elsewhere, mostly from the Midwest.

Emilio Ortiz, a manager at Citipups, a two-location pet store in Manhattan, said the company has carefully sourced hundreds of puppies it sells each year from about 30 different breeders across the country that he said exceeded federal standards and provided a “living situation for their dogs.” .

Ortiz, who has met with state lawmakers and the governor’s office to lobby against the bill, argued that the industry’s biggest obstacle is a “distorted view and public narrative” that all breeders and pet stores are bad actors. In response, he’s started creating videos that seek to show a behind-the-scenes look at how stores treat the pets they sell. Mr. Ortiz has amassed over 300,000 followers on TikTok and his videos have garnered millions of views.

“It’s an uphill battle,” he said. “We are just small companies versus some of these big national organizations that raise millions of dollars and have this marketing machine behind them. Usually people just hear about these horror stories, so I wanted to show people like what’s really going on.”

“We would have totally gone out of business” if Ms. Hoechul had signed the bill, he added, noting that about 90 percent of the store’s sales come from selling puppies.

Supporters of the bill argued that stores selling animals could adapt by switching to selling pet supplies, although the industry claims that it would require stores to invest heavily to remodel floor plans originally designed to house live animals.

Pet stores are allowed to partner with shelters and rescue organizations to host adoption events, although they will not receive any of the fees associated with adoptions. All but two of California’s 28 pet stores selling dogs, Mr. Popper said, have ceased operations two years after the ban went into effect in 2019, according to data compiled by the trade union.

State Senator Michael Gianaris, the self-described animal-lover Democrat who introduced the bill in New York, shrugged off the industry’s trade concerns, saying the ban had a more fundamental goal: to stop treating animals as commodities, or “an item on a supermarket shelf.”

Mr Giannares, Deputy Majority Leader and owner of the rescue cat, Alley, and a unique mixed-breed Cavapoo puppy, said he bought them from a reputable breeder. “I hope it doesn’t take the governor as long as it takes the entire legislature to figure out the right thing to do.”

Although many Republican lawmakers voted in favor of the bill, it did not gain serious momentum in Albany until Democrats took full control of the Capitol four years ago. The legislation passed the state Senate in 2020 but stalled in the Assembly.

Some moderate Assembly Democrats opposed the bill and proposed more targeted alternatives to regulating the pet trade, while some animal activists loudly accused Carl Hesty, the chamber’s president, of obstructing the legislation.

That changed on the last day of the legislative session this year, when the 150-seat House passed the bill, which Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, a Manhattan Democrat, introduced with just 15 votes against.

“The last nonpartisan stronghold is puppies and kittens,” said Libby Post, executive director of the New York State Animal Protection Federation, an organization representing animal shelters and rescue organizations, which supports the bill.

The pet store industry has accused shelters and rescue organizations of hypocrisy, arguing that they operate with few regulations in New York, although a second bill on Ms. Hochhol’s office aims to change that by enforcing uniform standards for veterinary care and rescue housing. the animals.

Ms Post said the animal retail ban would ease pressure on more than 100 shelters in New York and 400 rescue organizations, many of which she said are overflowing with dogs, including those that people acquired during the pandemic but may have abandoned after being called to return. to their workplace.

“What’s going on in a puppy mill is absolutely inhumane,” Ms Post said. “And New York is complicit in animal abuse as long as we allow the sale of ground animals.”

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