The retail sale of puppies by pet stores may soon be banned in Suffolk County — unless the puppy comes from an animal shelter, rescue organization or breeder located in Suffolk County.

The vast majority of puppies available for sale at retail pet stores in Suffolk are products of puppy mills, according to a bill introduced by Legislator Jon Cooper (D-Huntington).

Cooper wants to put a stop to that both because puppy mills mistreat animals and because there are so many unwanted dogs available for adoption.

According to the Humane Society of the United States, between 2 million and 4 million dogs are born in U.S. puppy mills every year.

Puppy mills are “large breeding businesses that breed their animals frequently and sell the puppies to pet stores.” Motivated by profit, puppy mills keep animals in unsafe living conditions and provide minimal care to the dogs in order to keep expenses low and income high, according to Cooper.

“Puppies and their mothers are kept in small, unclean cages, unprotected by extreme temperature fluctuations. They are undernourished, they are not provided with veterinary care or socialization and are at an increased risk for serious health problems and genetic defects,” according to the bill.

Violations of the ban would carry a penalty of $500 for the first offense and $1,000 per puppy offered for sale in each subsequent violation. The proposed law would require the county’s department of consumer affairs to hold a hearing to determine if a violation has occurred.

A ban on the retail sale of puppies would mean more dogs would be adopted, according to animal advocates, who say that 4 to 5 million unwanted dogs die in shelters every year.

If Cooper’s measure becomes law, Suffolk could become the first municipality in New York to attempt to ban retail puppy sales.

Other municipalities in other states have taken the step, including Albuquerque, New Mexico, where such a ban went into effect in 2006, resulting in significant increases in adoptions and equally significant decreases in euthanasia, according to Animal Humane/New Mexico. Two cities in California have adopted a ban, and the City of Los Angeles is currently considering it. The Texas cities of Austin and El Paso, South Lake Tahoe in Nevada and Lake Worth, Florida have also banned puppy sales.

A ban was proposed by a councilman in the Town of Amherst, New York but it was rejected by the Town Board there in February because such regulation is pre-empted by the state constitution, according to Amherst board members who voted against the bill. See story in Amherst Bee.

New York State regulates the sale of cats and dogs, requiring pet dealers to be licensed by the state department of 2011_0608_puppies_2agriculture and markets.

There is one pet store in Riverhead Town where puppies are offered for sale, The Puppy Experience on Main Road in Aquebogue, which opened in 2006 and initially drew picketers and protesters. It is a New York State-licensed pet dealer. The owner of The Puppy Experience could not immediately be reached for comment on the proposed legislation.

Roy Gross, chief law enforcement officer with the Suffolk County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said he supports adopting dogs from licensed shelters and rescue organizations, but if you want to buy a puppy from a pet store, you should look into both the pet store and the origin of the puppy.

“Know where the animal came from,” Gross said. “Make sure it’s not coming from a puppy mill.”

The legislature’s public hearing on the proposed law is scheduled for June 21 at 2:30 p.m. at the Riverhead County Center.

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