ALBANY — Pet store representatives are dogging lawmakers calling for a ban on the sale of canines and felines from shops, arguing the proposal would rob consumers of choice while boosting unregulated breeders.
So far, only California and Maryland have clamped a ban on the sale of dogs and cats at pet shops, though Maine is now considering following suit.
Supporters of the legislation say it would crimp a pipeline that keeps pet shops stocked with dogs from “puppy mills.” The measure, they say, would also encourage pet shops to host adoptions of dogs, cats and rabbits arranged by non-profit animal shelters while sparing those animals from being treated as if they are commodities.
But David Jacoby, who has owned the Citipups pet shops in Manhattan for 30 years, said the measure would hinder the ability of consumers to acquire the kind of pets they want.
Jacoby also said state Sen. Michael Gianaris, D-Queens, a prime sponsor of the proposed ban, misrepresented the potential consequences of the bill by contending pet stops could still profit from selling food, treats and accessories often purchased by pet owners.
“We would be gone in a week,” Jacoby said. He said while consumers can indeed get various supplies at shops, that business has dwindled with the explosive growth in sales by Amazon and other online retailers.
“Who is going to pay my rent if they bring shelter dogs to my store?” Jacoby said. Many people shopping for dogs “don’t want one that is two to seven years old, and they don’t know where it came from.”
Libby Post, director of the New York State Animal Protection Federation said shelters are poised to assist pet shops in running adoption events.
The legislation also has the support of the Humane Society of the United States. More than 300 municipal governments across the nation have already enacted local bans on the sale of dogs and cats from pet stores.
The opponents include the American Kennel Club, which argues that pet shops are well vetted and contends that the measure ignores the problem of “irresponsible” distributors of animals
The Assembly sponsor of the bill, Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, D-Manhattan, met success last year when her proposal to ban the declawing of cats was signed into law. Rosenthal said there is growing support in the Assembly for the proposed ban on the sale of cats, dogs and rabbits at pet shops.
A pet-shop industry-backed group, People United to Protect Pet Integrity (PUPPI), said acquiring shelter pets “comes with more risk and uncertainty than people may be prepared for or are aware of.” PUPPI cited instances of rescue dogs mauling members of families that offered to rescue the animals.
At an unrelated event, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the legislation, as described to him by a journalist, “does sound a little silly.” An aide to Cuomo later clarified the remark, saying Cuomo, a dog owner who acquired his pet from a breeder, was unfamiliar with the details.
Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi said the governor would give consideration to all proposals that promote the welfare of pets.
Referencing the governor’s best canine friend by name, Azzopardi jested, “We’ll review this legislation in consultation with the state’s top kibble and chew toy advocate, Captain.”
Joe Mahoney covers the New York Statehouse for CNHI’s newspapers and websites. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.