Sportsman's Kennels in Manorville has brought a lawsuit seeking to invalidate Riverhead's new pet dealers law, which is set to go into effect Jan.5. Photo: Denise Civiletti

Sportsman’s Kennels in Manorville has sued the Town of Riverhead, challenging the validity of the town’s new pet dealer law.

A State Supreme Court justice in Riverhead on Nov. 4 signed an order preventing the town from enforcing the law — though it does not go into effect until after the new year — and set a Dec. 1 hearing date on Sportsman’s Kennels application for an injunction pending the outcome of the lawsuit.

The plaintiff alleges in its complaint that the Riverhead law violates N.Y. State Agriculture and Markets Law, arguing that the state law prohibits local laws that “essentially” ban the sale of dogs “raised and maintained in a healthy and safe manner.” The town’s law does exactly that, according to the complaint.

Section 407 of the State Agriculture and Markets Law was amended in 2014 to allow municipalities to enact or enforce a local law, ordinance or regulation governing pet dealers, the health or safety of animals acquired or maintained by pet dealers, the source of animals sold or offered for sale by pet dealers, and the spay or neuter of animals sold or offered for sale by pet dealers. That section of the state law goes on to state, “provided, however, that any such local law, rule, regulation or ordinance shall be no less stringent than the applicable provisions of this article and may not result in essentially banning all sales of dogs or cats raised and maintained in a healthy and safe manner.”

Riverhead’s new law requires dogs, cats and rabbits sold by pet dealers in the town to come from animal shelters, animal control agencies, humane societies or nonprofit rescue groups registered with the state — thus banning the sale of commercially bred animals without respect to whether they are “raised and maintained in a health and safe manner.”

The town’s law is “unconstitutional and violates state law,” said Andrew Martingale, Sportsman’s Kennels attorney. “Fortunately for businesses like Sportsman’s, the State Legislature has very clearly protected against this type of local municipal overreach, where a local law can literally shutter a 52-year old state-licensed business overnight,”Martingale said.

Sportsman’s Kennels owner Helen Camlakides said in an affidavit submitted to the court that the town’s new law “will completely shut down my Sportsman’s — my business of 52 years.” She said in the affidavit Sportsman’s Kennels breeds and raises approximately half of the dogs it sells each year and sources the rest from “reputable breeders” elsewhere. In an average year, the kennel sells between 400 and 500 dogs, Camlakides said in the affidavit. It has approximately 92 breeding dogs at its Schultz Road facility.

An attorney for People United to Protect Pet Integrity, an advocacy group for pet dealers known as P.U.P.P.I, made the same argument as the Sportsman’s lawsuit during the town board’s Sept. 8 public hearing on the proposed local law. The attorney, David Schwartz, said at the time that if the town passed the law, it would be inviting a lawsuit.

“We’re going to be filing our lawsuit in the next few days,” Schwartz said in a phone interview today. He said he expects the lawsuit he files will be joined with the one filed by Sportsman’s Kennels.

Sportsman’s Kennels is one of two pet dealers in the Town of Riverhead. The other, Puppy Experience, is a member of P.U.P.P.I. Both Camlakides and Puppy Experience owner Keith Lewin spoke against the town’s proposed local law at the public hearing.

Town Attorney Robert Kozakiewicz at the time of the hearing expressed confidence that the proposed new law was on solid legal footing.

The town board’s work session agenda today included an executive session discussion of the lawsuit with Kozakiewicz. He could not be reached for comment after the work session today.

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Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.