Riverhead pet dealers law remains on hold as lawsuits challenging it continue

Riverhead Town remains barred from enforcing the Pet Dealers Act passed by City Council last fall under temporary restraining orders signed by a judge in November.

The law, which would ban the sale of commercially bred dogs, cats and rabbits by pet dealers in Riverhead, is said to have come into force on January 1.

The operators of The Puppy Experience in Aquebogue and Sportsman’s Kennels in Manorville have filed separate lawsuits challenging the law, which was passed unanimously by city council on October 5. A trade organization of pet dealers, People United to Protect Pet Integrity, or PUPPI, has joined the lawsuit brought by the owners of The Puppy Experience.

The lawsuits claim local Riverhead law prohibits the sale of dogs “bred and cared for in a sound and safe manner,” in violation of the state’s Agriculture and Markets Act. See previous stories here and here.

State law allows municipalities to regulate pet dealers, so long as local regulations “do not have the effect of prohibiting essentially all sales of dogs or cats that are soundly raised and maintained.” and safe”.

Riverhead’s new law requires dogs, cats and rabbits sold by city pet dealers to be sourced from animal shelters, animal control agencies, humane societies or nonprofit rescue groups registered with the state – thus prohibiting the sale of commercially raised animals, whether or not they are “bred and cared for in a healthy and safe manner”, according to the lawsuits.

The owners of Sportsman’s Kennels and The Puppy Experience both argued in testimony at a Sept. 8 city council public hearing and in their subsequent lawsuits that the new Riverhead law would put them out of business. Both maintain that they source their pets only from dealers who breed and raise them in a healthy and safe manner. Both deny dealing with disreputable “puppy mill” breeders. The owner of Sportsman’s Kennels, which breeds on site, denies violating any federal or state rules and regulations.

The city in its court documents claims otherwise.

Along with its responses to the complaints, the city submitted documents, including a Kansas inspection report, indicating that at least one out-of-state breeder who sells puppies to the Aquebogue pet store houses hundreds of animals. and in 2021 was deemed non-compliant with health and safety regulations. rules in this state.

The city also submitted a December 2021 report on an inspection of sportsmen’s kennels by the state Department of Agriculture and Markets indicating violations of certain rules relating to animal housing facilities, feeding facilities and watering and veterinary care. Sportsman’s Kennels had 168 adult dogs, 101 puppies for sale and 30 newborns.

The city also submitted reports on the two dealers compiled by the Companion Animal Protection Society. The organization visited each animal dealer and noted the names and locations of the breeders and brokers who supply each of the dealers. Companion Animal Protection Society reports indicate that the puppies come from numerous out-of-state breeders who, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture inspection reports, house hundreds of dogs each.

The parties to the lawsuits are awaiting the court’s decision on the pet dealer’s temporary injunction applications while the trial is ongoing. The current restraining order remains in place until the court issues a decision on the temporary injunctions.

If temporary injunctions are issued, the Pet Dealers Act will not come into effect until the dispute is finally determined, which could take years.

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