Proposed restrictions on the sale of pets backed by majority in city council, as pet group threatens court challenge

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A majority of Riverhead City Council has indicated it will vote in favor of a new city code to restrict the sale of commercially farmed dogs, cats and rabbits at pet stores on the outskirts of town. However, the passage of the new law will likely lead to legal challenges from the stores they hope to regulate.

City Councilor Ken Rothwell – who proposed the legislation in July – City Councilor Frank Beyrodt and City Councilor Catherine Kent told RiverheadLOCAL that they would vote yes on the resolution on the agenda of the City Council meeting in tomorrow, making it law.

Supervisor Yvette Aguiar and City Councilor Tim Hubbard did not respond to calls for comment until this article was published.

The proposed code requires stores with dogs, cats and rabbits for sale to prove that the animals came from animal shelters, animal control agencies, humanitarian companies or non-profit rescue groups registered with of State. Besides an amendment to the code to add rabbits, the bill remains unchanged since it was introduced by Rothwell in a working session on July 29.

The new law would not affect adoption procedures at local animal shelters, nor would it prevent individuals from dealing directly with pastoralists.

“If a business is based on an animal exploitation model, then it’s a bad business model and it has to go,” Kent said.

“I have read all the letters, the correspondence and heard all the testimonies,” Beyrodt said. “I am an animal lover myself and as a businessman I feel for people who have to change their business model to accommodate the new resolution. However, I think this is a more important issue regarding animal safety and welfare at this point. ”

The city council heard from people both for and against the law in a public hearing on September 8. are raised, and often killed or abandoned after they are unable to reproduce, according to the Humane Society of the United States. Puppies raised in factories often suffer from health problems after leaving the facility.

There are an estimated 10,000 operating puppy mills in the United States; About 500,000 dogs are kept for breeding purposes only in factories and 2.6 million crushed puppies are sold each year, according to the Humane Society.

Among those breaking the law was David Schwartz, a government relations attorney representing People United to Protect Pet Integrity, or “PUPPI,” a New York-based organization backed by pet dealers opposed to restrictions on pet health. sale of dogs bred in a so-called puppy. mills. He and others argued that the process of obtaining dogs was already heavily regulated and that the law would put pet stores out of business.

The law would affect two pet stores in the town of Riverhead that sell commercially-bred dogs, The Puppy Experience in Aquebogue and Sportsman’s Kennel in Manorville. The Puppy Experience is part of the PUPPI organization.

Schwartz, also a lobbyist for Gotham Government Relations & Communications, said the city would launch legal action if the code change goes through. A memo from Schwartz to the city claims that the proposed change violates state law which states that new municipal laws cannot “essentially result in a ban on all sales of dogs or cats raised and maintained in a healthy manner and safe”. Since state law in this case supersedes local law, the new code would be considered invalid, the note argues.

The memo also states that the new law “destroys the commercial breeding of cats and dogs, interferes with the viability of the pet stores themselves as well as their leasehold interests in their premises without fair compensation and in violation of the law of the State”.

“This is a ridiculous law in which the city is going to vote to do it on the basis of a few radicals threatening people on social media, including members of the city’s board of directors – which I think is really the collapse of democracy at the local level when you know this law so inherently violates state law and is so illogical to begin with, ”Schwartz said on a call with RiverheadLOCAL.

City prosecutor Robert Kozakiewicz said the prosecutor’s office remains confident in the legality of the code.

The day after the code changes were introduced during a working session, emails obtained through the Freedom of Information Act show that Aguiar tried to prevent the legislation from appearing in the news. agenda for the next city council meeting. She ordered Assistant Supervisor Devon Higgins not to include the resolution on the city’s system, MinuteTraq.

“I get huge opposition. I knew we had to rethink this, but Rothwell insisted it should be tabled. We have to rethink that, ”she wrote in an email to Higgins two days after the legislation was discussed in the working session.

That Monday, she asked city clerk Diane Wilhelm not to include the bill in the preliminary agenda before sending city council a notice of opposition from “PUPPI”, and asked the advice to “reconsider not going ahead and learning more about the long-term ramifications of its legislation.”

Aguiar condemned the puppy mills in a guest column on RiverheadLOCAL the following week, in which she wrote: “No one in our society should ever tolerate abuse of animals and people. She described the Facebook comments against her as a political attack.

In an interview with Newsday, Aguiar said the city had received requests from grandfather or to exempt “certain persons authorized by the state” from the law.

A bill currently pending in the New York state legislature would completely ban the sale of dogs, cats and rabbits by pet stores. The bill passed by qualified majority in the state Senate in May, but remains in committee in the state assembly.

The proposed code provides for fines from a minimum of $ 250 for the first offense to a maximum of $ 2,500 for a third or subsequent offense, as well as a jail term of up to 30 days. Pet facility operators would have up to 90 days to comply with the new code after its effective date.

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