NY should not rush to ban pet stores

Many New York businesses and residents are struggling economically and emotionally from the pandemic, and some legislators want to make it worse by advancing legislation under the guise of animal welfare that will irreparably harm neighborhood pet stores and drive people seeking the companionship of a pet to unregulated sources. With all the misinformation surrounding a proposed retail pet sale ban in New York and what this legislation does — and more importantly what it doesn’t do — it is time to set the record straight.

This legislation, S.1130/A.4283, would prohibit the sale of dogs, cats and rabbits in pet stores across New York state, putting the welfare of pets and their owners at risk and damaging the responsible pet care community statewide, including the local mom-and-pop pet stores that are staples of their communities and who have been bearing the brunt of the economic fallout caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

This bill will have no effect on the illegal and substandard breeders that it claims to target. Instead, it will foster an unregulated market for puppy sales, take away current legal protections for New Yorkers, and harm responsible and regulated breeders and pet stores who prioritize animal health and well-being.

During these challenging times, many pet owners are finding pet companionship more important than ever. A recent survey by the American Pet Products Association found that 73% of pet owners agree that spending time with their pet is helping to reduce their stress and increase their sense of well-being during the pandemic. The peace of mind and ability to consider transparent and fully regulated sources for pets is more crucial than ever.

We all agree that puppy mills and other sources that neglect or mistreat animals need to be shut down, but pet sale bans don’t do that. Families seeking a specific breed won’t be able to visit a local pet store where they can choose their pet in person, and will be driven to the unregulated market for puppies, which has zero oversight and no system in place to protect the animals or the families who bring them home. Last year, the Better Business Bureau reported that pet scams now comprise 24 percent of all online fraud, tripling in 2020 compared to previous years.

In 2019, California became the first state in the nation to enact a retail pet sale ban. In the months after the ban was put in place, pet stores were forced to close their doors. Almost immediately, California veterinarians saw an increase in cases where families acquired puppies from unregulated sources only to have them get sick and even die, leaving the family heartbroken and with costly veterinary bills.

New York should not rush to follow in California’s short-sighted footsteps without understanding the real impact pet sale bans have on animal welfare and how they eliminate protections for both pets and their owners. New York’s pet stores are one of the few options to get a pet that is subject to certain state laws regarding veterinary care, transparency and consumer warranties.

The Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council stands in opposition to any proposal that puts the well-being of pets and pet owners at risk. It is our hope that Senator Hinchey, the chair of the Agriculture Committee, understands the far-reaching impacts of this bill. Now is not the time to hurt our small businesses. We urge the New York State Legislature not to advance this misguided legislation and instead to work with the responsible pet care community to expand and enforce animal care regulations in order to better protect pets, prospective pet owners and small businesses.

Mike Bober is the President and CEO, Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council.

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