By Libby Post
For The Sunday Gazette
Each year, records show that thousands of puppies from out-of-state “USDA-certified” puppy mills are sold at astronomical prices to consumers throughout New York state. And during the COVID-19 pandemic, many New York pet stores engaged in price gouging, pushing those prices even higher.
And these high prices do not guarantee a healthy pet — far from it. Consumers often purchase a puppy that has been pumped full of antibiotics to ensure that it appears healthy. Only when the medication has worn off does it become clear that the puppy is sick — many times with a life-threatening illness such as parvovirus. Several thousands of dollars in vet bills later, the puppy might be cured, but just as often the money and care are not enough.
According to reports from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), lax enforcement efforts have failed to disrupt this cruel trade. Transport records regularly link those responsible to the nation’s most notoriously cruel commercial breeders — operations the USDA has failed to hold accountable to the extremely low standards of the federal Animal Welfare Act. The federal government refuses to end this cruelty so it’s up to New York to act.
A bill passed the state Legislature in May, with impressive bipartisan support, that would prohibit New York’s pet stores from selling dogs, cats and rabbits, seeking to stop the flow of puppies coming from puppy mills. The legislation, known as the Puppy Mill Pipeline Bill, would still allow pet stores to showcase animals available for adoption from shelters and other entities.
Businesses routinely must reinvent themselves to stay relevant, and pet stores are no different. Rebranding as a humane pet supply store that supports local efforts to care for homeless companion animals is a win for consumers and animals alike. Shelters and rescue organizations across the state are ready to hold adoption events at their stores — something already happening across New York state. Hundreds of stores have stopped selling puppies and have transformed into profitable pet supply stores.
According to the American Pet Products Association, Americans spend $130 billion a year on pets. Less than 2% of that revenue comes from the sale of live animals — and only a small fraction of that percentage comes from puppy sales. The vast majority of pet retail outlets in New York, about 1,000 big and small, already recognize that selling puppies from these mills is a broken, outdated business model — and consumers are demanding better.
Since becoming governor, Kathy Hochul has shown her commitment to companion animals. She signed two important bills that passed last session: mandatory animal cruelty reporting by veterinarians; and outlawing discrimination in homeowners insurance based on the breed of dog one owns. She also put $5 million into the Executive Budget for the Companion Animal Capital Fund, which helps nonprofit and municipal shelters with capital projects. The Legislature added $3 million. The Animal Protective Foundation (APF) received more than $300,000 in funding during the first grant cycle and made important improvements to its building, including a full-facility generator, improved housing for cats and upgrading outdated medical equipment.
I urge you to contact Gov. Hochul at 518-474-8390 and ask her to continue her commitment to New York’s companion animals by signing the Puppy Mill Pipeline Bill A.4283 (Rosenthal)/S.1130 (Gianaris).
With the stroke of her pen, Hochul will end New York’s complicity in the type of animal abuse that happens at mills across the country.
Libby Post is executive director of the New York State Animal Protection Federation (www.sysapf.org), a coalition of more than 100 animal shelters including the Animal Protective Foundation (APF). APF contributes Animal Chronicles articles and welcomes animal-related questions and stories about the people and animals in our community. Visit animalprotective.org, follow us on social media @AnimalProtectiveFoundation or email [email protected]