City council unanimously approves puppy mill law

Riverhead City Council on Tuesday approved a law banning the sale of commercially farmed dogs, cats and rabbits, completing an effort to curb what some residents have called “inhumane” and “cruel” practice.

The law aims to break the “puppy mill pipeline” and “promote animal welfare and encourage best practices in the breeding and purchasing of dogs, cats and rabbits offered for retail sale in the UK. Town of Riverhead ”, according to the resolution which was passed unanimously. approved in city council.

“There are few times when you have the opportunity to lead by example,” said Councilor Ken Rothwell, before voting yes. “I have a feeling New York State will catch up with us eventually. But when you see an inhumane practice and we have the opportunity to act, I intend to do it. “

The law prohibits the sale of these particular animals unless they were obtained from a city or county animal shelter, an animal control agency, a humanitarian company or ‘a non-profit rescue organization registered with the New York State Department of Agriculture. All pet stores must keep a certificate of provenance for each animal and make it available upon request to any official such as a code enforcement officer, according to the resolution.

City Councilor Tim Hubbard said the law is “term ahead and it is the right thing to do.”

“I think all of us sitting here are animal lovers and especially dog ​​lovers,” he said.

Anyone breaking the law is liable to a fine of $ 250 to $ 750 for a first offense, according to the resolution. The fine is reduced from $ 500 to $ 1,500 for a second offense. A third offense is considered a misdemeanor with fines ranging from $ 1,000 to $ 2,500. Violations of separate animals would be prosecuted separately. Violations could also result in jail time, up to 15 days for a first or second offense and up to 30 days for a third offense.

City Councilor Catherine Kent said any business based on an animal exploitation model “should go.”

“There are definitely a lot of reputable breeders out there,” she said.

Supervisor Yvette Aguiar added, “I never believed in the generalization of people. I think this particular legislation may indicate that all pet stores are puppy mills and I’m not sure whether or not that is the case. When legislation is passed at national and local levels, everyone should make sure that it does not conflict or replace laws.

“However, I want to make it absolutely clear that anyone who abuses animals should be prosecuted with all the force of the law.”

In a public hearing last month, supporters urged the board to pass the law as a way to break the “puppy mill pipeline.”

Riverhead City Council at Tuesday’s meeting. (Credit: Tim Gannon)

The council also heard from several supporters of the law at Tuesday’s meeting, including a woman from Sayville who described her experience buying a sick dog at a pet store in Port Jefferson who she said was raised in a puppy mill.

Diane Madden, animal advocate and co-founder of Hope for Hempstead Shelter, said passing the law would be an example for other municipalities to follow.

“There are so many people watching this forum because if you do that, first of all you will be a bunch of heroes in the animal welfare community,” she said. “But also, we’re going to take what you do and hold it high and set an example for you of what can be done for taxpayers.”

The Humane Society, an animal welfare organization, defines a puppy mill as “a high volume inhumane dog breeding facility that produces puppies for profit, ignoring the needs of puppies and their mothers.”

Puppy Experience in Aquebogue and Sportsman’s Kennels in Manorville are the two main retail establishments in Riverhead Town that the law would affect. Keith Lewin, the owner of Puppy Experience in Aquebogue, said during the hearing that it is already heavily regulated.

Helen Camlakides, the owner of Sportsman’s Kennels, stood up for her business at Tuesday’s meeting and had several staff members with her to support her. She said her business was not a puppy mill and encouraged board members to visit the more than six-acre site. She said they’ve been in business for over 50 years and her company has a warranty that goes beyond what the state requires.

“We don’t sell puppies at eight weeks old,” she said. “We sell puppies that are three months old at the earliest, most of them are much older.

She said the law would force residents out of the state to buy dogs and would be more likely to get ripped off.

After a speaker read a number of critical compliance issues found in a November 2020 inspection report from the US Department of Agriculture, Camlakides said it happened when the company had a crew reduced due to COVID-19 and that veterinary notes were not attached to dog contracts. She said a black lab cited for having no hair was due to a recent childbirth.

“We take great care of our puppies,” she said.

After the vote, Ms. Camlakides returned to the podium and asked the board to pick “a fair number” if they intend to minimize the amount she can reproduce.

“Don’t kick me out of business 50 years later, when I’m 85,” she said.

The law allows the sale of cats obtained by donation from a resident, but the pet store owner must keep a source certificate on file and notify the city in writing of any sale of a given cat, according to the resolution.

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