New York State Could Ban Pet Stores From Selling Dogs, Cats, and Rabbits

The goal is to cut off the "puppy mill pipeline."

Golden Retriever Puppies
Golden retriever puppies nap in a pet shop window. TriggerPhoto / Getty Images

The New York State Senate has passed a bill banning pet shops from selling dogs, cats, and rabbits.

The bipartisan legislation would stop stores from selling pets and instead encourage them to work with rescue groups to make animals available for adoption. People will still be able to buy from responsible breeders. The goal is to stop dogs coming from puppy mills, which are breeding facilities that keep animals in terrible conditions with the only goal to make money.

The bill now must be approved in the Assembly. Last year, the bill passed in the Senate but didn’t get to the floor in the Assembly.

“It's really encouraging that New York is poised to become the fifth state to enact a humane pet sales law," Elizabeth Oreck, national manager of puppy mill initiatives at Best Friends Animal Society, tells Treehugger. "Puppy and kitten mills are in business to supply the retail pet trade, so by shrinking the market for those pets to be sold, we can finally put an end to inhumane pet mills once and for all.”

In discussing the bill on the Senate floor, sponsor state Senator Mike Gianaris said, he wants to cut off what he calls the "puppy mill pipeline."

“We should not be treating animals as if they are a commodity as if they are a can of soup that we take off the shelf at the supermarket to buy," he said. "These are living things that deserve our respect and are beloved members of our family.”

More than 300 cities and counties throughout the United States have passed retail pet bans, with California passing statewide legislation in 2017 and Maryland doing the same in 2018. All of these laws ban the sale of puppies at retail stores, while some also forbid selling kittens and rabbits.

"New York, Illinois, and Texas all have bills that have cleared at least one chamber in their state legislature this year and would stop the sale of puppies in pet stores," John Goodwin, senior director of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) Stop Puppy Mills Campaign, tells Treehugger. "Lawmakers from both red states and blue states are showing a strong desire to do whatever they can to save these mother dogs from a life in a cage, being bred every heat cycle until their bodies wear out."

The Story of Puppy Mills

The Humane Society of the United States estimates that there are at least 10,000 puppy mills in the country, and fewer than 3,000 of them are regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

These commercial breeding facilities typically keep animals in crowded, dirty cages where they get little human interaction or veterinary care. The animals often don’t get relief from heat or cold, can be underfed, and don’t have a separate place to go to the bathroom. Many of the animals born and raised in these facilities end up with physical and emotional problems.

Most puppy mills are legal unless the authorities are brought in to shut down particularly inhumane conditions.

Gianaris pointed out that the bill deals with something a lot of people aren’t necessarily familiar with.

“A lot of folks will walk down the street, down the retail strip in their neighborhoods and see puppies dancing in the window and they look cute as they’re supposed to and they can’t imagine there’s anything wrong with it,” he said. 

“What they don’t know is where those animals are coming from and how they are treated at these mills throughout the country that are abusive to these animals, to their mothers, and the list of violations is long. There is hardly a retail pet shop that is not tainted by the puppy mill industry.”

View Article Sources
  1. "Prohibits the sale of dogs, cats and rabbits by retail pet shops; authorizes space for adoption." The New York State Senate, 2021.

  2. "States with Retail Pet Sale Bans." Save Them All.

  3. "Ending Retail Puppy Sales: Standing Against Puppy Mill Cruelty." ASPCA.

  4. "Puppy Mill Research." The Humane Society of The United States.

  5. "Puppy Mills FAQ." The Humane Society of the United States.