New York has the dubious distinction of being home to more puppy-selling pet stores than any other state in the nation. This could be about to change as lawmakers there move on legislation that would prohibit all dog, cat and rabbit sales in pet stores.
Bills have already been introduced in the state Assembly and Senate (S.1130/A.4283), and we have reason to be optimistic because a similar bill passed the full Senate last year. If it becomes law, residents in New York would still be free to bring home a pet from a rescue or shelter or from responsible breeders they have met in person. Responsible breeders do not sell through pet stores or to people they haven’t met. The New York bill would also allow retail stores to make space available for shelters to showcase adoptable pets.
Pet stores often serve as fronts for puppy mills, which mistreat the animals in their care, denying them the most basic needs like food, water and medical care. The suffering is further exacerbated once the animals are at the stores. While undercover at a chic Manhattan pet store in 2017, our investigator found a “back room” filled with sick puppies. The puppies were delivered en masse from known puppy mill states and buyers were misled about puppies’ health. Among the sick dogs our hidden camera documented were a French bulldog puppy who shed a quarter of her body weight, a Pomeranian with such an advanced eye infection that her eyes were crusted shut, and an English bulldog with pneumonia so severe that the animal was struggling to breathe.
The store, Chelsea Kennel Club, closed down soon after and last year a Manhattan Supreme Court judge fined the owner $3.9 million for failing to obtain needed veterinary care for puppies and misleading the public about their health.
Our eight investigations of Petland, the only national pet store chain that still sells puppies, over the past three years have revealed similar problems.
Fortunately, our push to cut off the puppy-mill-pet-store pipeline has resulted in three states—California, Maryland and Maine—passing legislation to end such sales in recent years. In Washington state, a bill has been introduced that would prohibit additional pet stores from selling puppies and require a handful of stores that now sell dogs to adhere to increased transparency requirements. Bills prohibiting the sale of puppy mill puppies in pet stores have also been introduced in Florida, Indiana and Kentucky.
Additionally, more than 375 towns and cities have passed ordinances prohibiting sales of puppies in pet stores, and more are joining every week, with San Antonio in Texas, Madison in Alabama and Port St Lucie in Florida among the latest additions. Lawmakers in Arizona and Connecticut have introduced bills that would ensure localities have the authority to regulate pet stores. This has become necessary because in some states, lobbyists with deep pockets, including Petland, have pushed back with preemption bills designed to stop localities from making laws ending puppy sales in pet stores. We have already blocked many such bills from moving forward in recent years, and we are excited to see lawmakers move proactively to stop these efforts.
Ending pet store sales of dogs is critical if we are to end America’s huge puppy mill problem. Mother dogs at these mass breeding operations spend their entire lives locked up in wire cages with wire flooring. Their feet never touch grass and they never get a kind touch or any enrichment. It is cruelty, pure and simple, and it should not be allowed to exist. That’s why we are fighting puppy mills on so many fronts, by helping pass legislation, by taking offenders to court, by conducting undercover investigations and by raising awareness among the public. This is a long and tough fight, and we are heartened that lawmakers in states like New York, Washington and more are joining us to lick the puppy mill problem for good.