New York State Bans Pet Stores From Selling Dogs, Cats, Rabbits

Shops can work with rescue groups to end the puppy mill pipeline.

puppy in New York pet shop
Puppy on display in a New York pet shop. Corbis via Getty Images / Getty Images

New York has become the most recent state to ban the sale of some animals in pet stores.

A new law signed by Governor Kathy Hochul bans the sale of dogs, cats, and rabbits in retail shops, working to end sales of animals from the "puppy mill-to-pet store pipeline." Puppy mills are mass breeding facilities where animals are typically kept in horrible conditions with the only goal to make money.

The new law encourages pet stores to work with animal rescue groups and shelters to make space for rescued animals that are available for adoption.

California was the first state to pass a retail ban in 2017. Maryland followed in 2018 and a statewide ban in Illinois went into effect in February. Maine and Washington passed laws that ban the sales in new pet stores. Now, more than 300 cities and counties throughout the United States have passed pet-sale bans.

New York’s law goes into effect in 2024. It still allows the sale of pets by reputable breeders but limits them from selling more than nine animals each year.

“At a time where there are healthy and loving pets waiting to be adopted from animal shelters statewide, there is simply no reason to allow the sale of puppy mill animals. Puppy mill animals are mistreated from birth, and often develop behavioral or physical health problems later in life despite their high price tags,” the legislation states. “This bill would encourage the adoption of dogs, cats, and rabbits and ensure that animals no longer have to face the cruelty, physical and psychological abuse—to which the puppy mill supply chain subjects animals.”

Terrible But Legal Conditions

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, according to estimates from the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS).

In these commercial breeding facilities, animals are usually kept in dirty, crowded cages with limited access to veterinary care and human interaction. They often don’t get enough to eat or drink, have little protection from cold or heat, and don’t have a separate place to go to the bathroom. Many animals raised in puppy mills go on to have physical and emotional problems.

“For years, we have exposed New York pet stores for cruel practices including selling puppy mill puppies to unsuspecting consumers,” John Goodwin, senior director of the HSUS's Stop Puppy Mills campaign, tells Treehugger. “New York is now the sixth state in the U.S. to prohibit the sale of puppies in pet stores. The dozens of puppy-selling pet stores that currently operate in New York will have to convert to a humane business model, cutting off a critical outlet for puppy mills.”

Although conditions are often deplorable, puppy mills are usually legal unless authorities are called in to close those with excessively inhumane conditions.

"Dogs, cats, and rabbits across New York deserve loving homes and humane treatment," Governor Hochul said in a statement. "I'm proud to sign this legislation, which will make meaningful steps to cut down on harsh treatment and protect the welfare of animals across the state."

Some pet store owners have argued that the legislation will not curtail out-of-state breeders or force them to offer better care. They’ve said it could cause dozens of pet stores in New York to close.

“Ninety percent of our business is selling dogs. We’re not going to survive this,” Emilio Ortiz, a manager at Citipups pet shop in New York City, tells the Associated Press. Ortiz said he thinks the law is unfair to stores that work with reputable breeders. “They’re closing the good actors along with the bad actors.”

Why This Matters to Treehugger

At Treehugger, we are advocates of animal welfare, including our pets and other domestic animals. We hope stories like this one will highlight to our readers the importance of adopting rescue pets instead of shopping from breeders or pet stores.  Learn more about how to support local animal shelters.

View Article Sources
  1. "Governor Hochul Signs Legislation to End the Puppy Mill Pipeline." New York State, 2022.

  2. "Senate Bill S1130." New York State Senate.

  3. "States with Humane Pet Sales Laws." Best Friends.

  4. "Puppy Mill Research." The Humane Society International.

  5. "Puppy Mills FAQ." The Humane Society International.