Two Albany County legislators have worked for months with the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals on developing tight regulations for pet sellers to curb inhumane conditions.
Legislators Gary Domalewicz, D-Albany, and Bryan Clehanan, D-Guilderland, on Tuesday, May 6, unveiled their proposed local law requiring the permitting of cat and dog sellers, along with regulating breeders. The bill would establish standards and allow for regular enforcement.
Both legislators touted the law as hopefully being the first such law statewide to be implemented. Clehanan said the law would stop “terrible conditions” animals face in the county and hopefully would spread throughout the state.
The proposed law would require anyone selling more than nine dogs or cats per year to obtain a permit, which costs $200 for those selling more than 25 annually and $100 for less than 25. Humane societies and animal protective associations are excluded from the law. Only seller and breeders of cats and dogs are regulated.
“Our local law will finally put strong regulation and supervision on scrupulous pet dealers, breeders and indifferent pet sellers,” Clehanan said. “There are too many pet breeders operating under the radar, and they keep and breed animals in cruel, unsafe and unhealthy conditions. All too often, the pet sellers, many of whom maintain their own unsanitary and unsafe conditions, turn a blind eye to the practices of the breeders they do business with.”
Last night, county legislatures approved holding a public hearing on the local law on Tuesday, May 27, at 7:15 p.m., in the Legislative Chambers at the county court.
Clehanan claimed 99 percent of puppies sold in pet stores from “puppy mills” and “nearly all” of such puppies come from a mother who spends her “entire life in a cage,” never receiving proper care.
“Nearly all of these puppies in pet stores arrive there with parasites, and over half generally have some kind of an illness of incubation of an illness,” Clehanan said. “These are real issues. … These are some of the most important things that I think we can do.”
The law would regulate the minimum standards of care required for cats and dogs, such as necessary housing, exercise, grooming, sanitation and feeding and watering. There are also consumer protections included in the 22-page bill.
Any violation is a civil offense with a minimum fine of $100 to $500 per offense. Pet sellers could also be banned from the county if they knowingly import, offer for sale, sell or barter any dog from a source breeder not complying with standards.
Bill Ketzer, senior state legislative director of the ASPCA Northeast Region, said state officials in January repealed a 15-year prohibition on local laws regulating the pet industry.
“New York was really the only state in the country that expressively prohibited local government from doing this,” Ketzer said.
Ketzer said county officials started with the state law and worked on making it stronger.
“Right now in New York, the state and federal laws are just not working,” Ketzer said.
He said local government is better positioned to regulate and enforce the laws than the state.
“Local governments are intimately familiar with the character of their own communities, and they know what they need to do to do the job right,” he said. “This legislation provides a fair and enforceable standard for pet sellers. … These standards are already being met by many sellers and breeders.”
Clehanan said the issue is personal for him because his family previously bought a dog and then found out she came from a “very, very questionable breeder.” He said his dog suffers from “terrible allergies,” constantly taking medication and sometimes scratches herself until she bleeds.
“A few months ago, she developed the onset of cataracts and lost her sight,” he said. “We had a surgery to remove the cataracts. She regained her vision for a little while, and then shortly after that glaucoma set in. … My parents made the awfully hard decision just a couple weeks ago to have her eyes removed.”