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The Riverhead Town Board yesterday voted unanimously to set a public hearing on town code changes to ban the sale of commercially bred dogs and cats — and now, rabbits.

The public hearing is scheduled for the town board meeting of Wednesday, Sept. 8 at 2:05 p.m.. 

Councilman Ken Rothwell, who introduced the legislation last month, asked that the bill be amended to include commercially bred rabbits in the ban, to mirror the language of a bill passed by the New York State Senate and being considered by the Assembly. 

Besides that amendment, the law remains unchanged from when it was introduced by Rothwell during a July 29 work session. 

The law requires that stores provide a certificate of origin for dogs, cats and rabbits, showing that they are sourced from animal shelters, animal control agencies, humane societies or nonprofit rescue groups registered with the state. The legislation would not restrict the individual purchases from licensed breeders, or affect the adoption of pets from shelters or rescue groups.

Rothwell said the legislation targets puppy mills, which are “an inhumane high-volume dog breeding facility that churns out puppies for profit, ignoring the needs of the pups and their mothers,” according to the Humane Society of the United States. Female dogs at mills are overbred, and often killed or abandoned after they are unable to breed, the society says. Puppies who come from mills often suffer with health issues after they’re bought.

The law would affect two pet stores within the Town of Riverhead that sell commercially bred dogs, The Puppy Experience in Aquebogue and the Sportsman’s Kennel in Manorville.

The proposed code provides fines from a $250 minimum for the first violation to a $2,500 maximum for a third or subsequent violation, as well as imprisonment of up to 30 days. Pet store operators would have up to 90 days to comply with the new code after its effective date.

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Alek Lewis is a lifelong Riverhead resident and a 2021 graduate of Stony Brook University’s School of Communication and Journalism. Previously, he served as news editor of Stony Brook’s student newspaper, The Statesman, and was a member of the campus’s chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Email: [email protected]