A male poodle rescued from a New York state puppy mill. Credit: USDA via ASPCA
Backyard breeders and puppy mills in New York state haven't been properly regulated for over a decade, according to Upper West Side Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal — and she's hoping to change that.
Since 2002, the state has prohibited local governments from regulating pet dealers, but an amendment sponsored by Rosenthal and Buffalo Sen. Mark Grisanti would return control to municipalities.
"By doing so they can pass laws that would crack down on puppy mills," Rosenthal said.
Animal rights advocates and Rosenthal will rally at City Hall Friday to support the legislation, which they said would reduce an increasing number of puppy mills.
"People were doing home-based breeding before, but the Internet is definitely extremely helpful for them to avoid regulation," said Bill Ketzer, senior state director of ASPCA government relations in the northeast.
The state passed the original bill in order to regulate the industry better, requiring pet breeders to obtain licenses and setting standards for animal care.
But during last-minute negotiations, a provision was added to pre-empt municipalities from enacting laws regulating pet dealers entirely, Ketzer said.
"It has been extremely difficult to regulate based on the explosion of backyard breeders over the last several years," he said. "They can't get a handle on it, no state agency could."
Like the state, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has been ineffective at enforcing animal welfare laws, according Ketzer and an audit from the U.S. Inspector General.
Without proper state or federal regulation, some animals in New York mills are killed, kept in deplorable conditions where they're at risk of contracting diseases or put through invasive surgeries, Ketzer said.
Breeders then sell sick animals at a premium, advocates said. Some of the animals' diseases, like ringworm, can be passed to unsuspecting families.
"I've seen dogs in puppy mills with their tongues permanently out, with no teeth because they're inbred," Rosenthal said.
At the rally, she and Ketzer will ask Gov. Andrew Cuomo to sign the amendment, which was supported by a City Council resolution in June.
Cuomo's office said he will review the legislation when it comes to his desk.