Riverhead passes pet store restrictions unanimously

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A ban on the sale of commercially farmed dogs, cats and rabbits in Riverhead Town was passed unanimously by city council on Tuesday, to the celebration of animal rights activists and an owner’s wrath animal facility present.

The new law, introduced by City Councilor Ken Rothwell, requires stores with dogs, cats and rabbits for sale to prove the animals came from animal shelters, animal control agencies, humanitarian companies or New York State registered nonprofit rescue groups. The new law will not affect adoption procedures at local animal shelters or prevent individuals from dealing directly with breeders.

According to the Humane Society, the intent of the law is to cut off stores from “horrible” and “inhumane” commercial breeding facilities, often referred to as puppy mills, where bitches are too bred and often killed or abandoned after they are unable to reproduce, according to the Humane Society. the United States. There are an estimated 10,000 operating puppy mills in the United States.

2.6 million crushed puppies are sold in factories each year, according to the Humane Society. Puppies raised in factories often suffer from health problems after leaving the facility and are adopted.

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

“Certainly any business that is based on an animal exploitation model, it’s a bad business and it should go, there are definitely a lot of reputable breeders out there,” said city councilor Catherine Kent.

“I think all of us sitting here are animal lovers and dog lovers in particular, and I agree that it takes time and it’s the right thing to do,” said Councilor Tim Hubbard.

The municipal worker Yvette Aguiar was worried before her yes: “I never believed in the generalization of people. I think this legislation may indicate all pet stores and puppy mills and I don’t know if that’s the case or not, ”she said.

“When legislation is passed at the federal, state and local levels, everyone must ensure that it does not conflict with [or] replaces laws. So these are things I didn’t really have an answer to, ”Aguiar said. “However, I want to be perfectly clear, anyone who abuses animals must be prosecuted with all the force of the law.”

Emails between Aguiar and city employees show she was reluctant to push forward the legislation after its introduction, asking city employees not to let a public hearing be scheduled at the next city council meeting and asking that ‘she be dropped off for more conversation. She sent a letter of opposition to the board of directors of People United to Protect Pet Integrity, or “PUPPI,” a New York-based organization backed by pet dealers opposed to restrictions on the sale of bred dogs. in puppy mills, asking for more conversation. .

Aguiar condemned the puppy mills and animal abuse in a guest column on RiverheadLOCAL the following week, where she described the Facebook comments against her as a political attack. In an interview with Newsday after the public hearing, she said the city had received requests from grandfather or for exemption from “certain persons authorized by the state” from the law, although the law did not has not been amended with such a clause before the adoption.

RiverheadLOCAL reported on Monday that the passage of the law is likely to spark legal challenges from PUPPI, according to David Schwartz, a government relations lawyer for the group. The Puppy Experience in Aquebogue, one of the two stores affected by the new code, is a member of the organization.

What Aguiar referred to before voting, and part of PUPPI’s argument against the new code, is state law that says municipalities cannot pass laws that “essentially result in the ban. of all sales of dogs or cats raised and maintained in a safe and healthy environment. way, ”according to a note to town.

The group also said the law would bankrupt pet stores affected by the law “without fair compensation.”

City prosecutor Robert Kozakiewicz said Monday the prosecutor’s office remains confident in the legality of the code. Rhonda Greenstein, a city resident and retired New York State Attorney General’s office specializing in animal rights, urged the board not to give in to “threats” of litigation from the United States. group and adopt the code.

“Honestly, I couldn’t believe what I was reading. I was shocked at the tone of the letter which I found to be misleading and very honestly disrespectful, ”she said of PUPPI’s note.

She said the legality of similar codes was supported by the Animal Law Committee of the New York Bar Association. “Unlike the lawyer for PUPPI, it is indisputable that this council has the power to promulgate the law,” she said.

Greenstein and other supporters of the law have said the argument that pet stores go bankrupt is wrong. They said stores can pivot their business model to provide other pet-related services, citing Petco and PetSmart as successful examples of pet stores that don’t sell commercially-raised puppies.

Helen Camlakides, the owner of Sportsman’s Kennel in Manorville, which will be affected by the new law, made a last-minute appeal to city council, telling them the animals at the facility are being kept healthy and asking that the regulations be modified. . She suggested the new law would shut down her business.

Over the past two years, state inspections have found Camlakides’ activity to be “critical non-compliant” to the facility’s veterinary care. This is one of 100 stores on the Humane Society’s 2021 “Horrible Hundred” Puppy Breeders and Sellers List. Camlakides told city council that the non-compliance issue was the result of circumstances related to missing documents, which was the result of a low staff shortage during the pandemic.

Before the resolution was passed, city council heard from residents urging them to enact the law, including Carol Sclafani of Wading River, a veterinary technician and coordinator of Riverhead City Council.

“At the end of the day, pet stores are not the victims, animals are,” Sclafani said. “Puppy mills exist because the public finances them by buying puppies from pet stores. How to stop the cruel cycle? Ban the retail sale of dogs, cats and rabbits, period.

Katie Sweeney of Sayville said she bought a puppy from a Port Jefferson store that sources from an out-of-state puppy mill and her puppy suffered from a variety of health issues. “The majority of people who find out about the horrors of puppy mills are against them. Nobody wants innocent animals to suffer needlessly like this, their fate is in your hands, ”she said.

Diane Madden, a Hempstead resident and founder of an animal rights group called Hope for Hempstead Shelter, said the council will set an example for other municipalities to enact similar laws.

“There are so many people watching this forum because if you do that you will first of all be a group of community heroes committed to animal welfare, but we will also take what you do and salute him aloud and set an example of what can be done… and make sure every municipality has the same standards and expectations for animals that you will hopefully show us, ”Madden said.

Former city councilor James Wooten and the assistant to the supervisor’s office also spoke in favor of the settlement. “This city can face a lot of controversial things in the future, this is not one of them. It shouldn’t be one of them. It is the right thing to do to help animals who cannot speak for themselves. The [pet store] the business model can be changed, ”he said.

Supporters of the law praised the board after the law was passed. Some people in the audience returned to thank the board and said they had tears in their eyes.

Puppy Mill Free Long Island, a Long Island-based group that organizes protests against alleged animal abusers and advocates for the passage of animal rights laws, urged its followers to pressure city council to quit ‘it adopts the new code since its introduction. In a statement to RiverheadLOCAL, the group welcomed the passage of the legislation.

“We could not be happier and grateful to learn that the Town of Riverhead has passed its Puppy Mill legislation to save the millions of dogs imprisoned at Puppy Mills as well as to help provide homes for rescue dogs, ”the organization wrote. Councilor Rothwell said it best when he said this bill was a ‘great opportunity to lead by example’ and which will undoubtedly be a vital stepping stone to help push through EU legislation. New York State and with that, no more bans in more states. “

Any business caught breaking the law can face fines ranging from a minimum of $ 250 for the first offense to a maximum of $ 2,500 for a third or subsequent offense, as well as up to 30 days in jail. Pet facility operators would have up to 90 days to comply with the new code after its effective date.

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