Riverhead holds hearing on bill aimed at puppy mills

A proposed change in law to ban the sale of commercially-bred dogs, cats and rabbits in pet stores in Riverhead aired at an emotionally charged public meeting on Wednesday afternoon.

Proponents of the proposal, presented by Councilor Ken Rothwell, described the conditions in commercial breeding facilities as “terrible” and “inhuman” and spoke out in favor of the proposed ban in order to make them more difficult to continue operating.

Opponents of the proposal said it wrongly targets pet stores that are already adequately regulated by local, state and federal agencies and, if passed, would put local pet stores out of business.

Carol Sclafani of Wading River, a veterinary technician, animal rights activist and advocate of the proposed change in law, told the board she would help “cut off the puppy mill pipeline,” which she described to the board.

“First the puppy is born in a kennel. Then it’s taken from the mother, usually before it’s weaned, and sold to a broker for $ 50 or $ 100. They are stuffed into boxes – and yes, they are stuffed into boxes, as many as they fit in one box – and sometimes transported to other countries for days. And then they are delivered to the pet store. And then the whole process is repeated all over again. This is the puppy factory’s pipeline, ”said Sclafani.

Puppies bred in puppy mills are “often physically and emotionally damaged” and the dogs being bred are “forced to have one litter at a time until they can no longer breed, and they are thrown away, some shot, others abandoned and others left behind ”. for dead, “she said,

According to Sclafani, puppy factories make profit before animal welfare, so they typically don’t provide adequate veterinary care.

“Animals may appear healthy at first, but later show signs such as congenital eye or hip defects, parasites or even deadly parvoviruses. These animals suffer from untreated fractures, chronic skin infections, chronic ear infections, intestinal parasites, whatever, ”she told the board. The neglect also manifests itself in dogs’ neurotic behavior patterns, such as incessant turning on the spot, she said.

“Some mills hold dozens of dogs and others thousands, but regardless of size, most puppy mills share the same basic characteristics: barking dogs crammed into rows of small overcrowded cages, smelly air, ammonia, urine and feces, nowhere can dogs play or going for a walk, no toys or soft bedding, no human affection or socialization, ”said Sclafani. She was holding up a collage of pictures of puppy mills.

“No responsible breeder will ever sell a dog to a broker or pet store,” said Sclafani.

Sclafani also showed an illustrated picture of a dog in a cage.

“This is a standard size USDA legal cage,” she said. “USDA? minimal standards. Do you know what the metric is? Six inches taller and six inches longer than the dog. Imagine that you are in a cage that is 6 inches taller than you and 6 inches wider than you. You live in this cage. OK? These are the USDA standards. We’ll talk about that, ”said Sclafani.

Sclafani, who is the coordinator of the Riverhead Town Board and also teaches veterinary science, asked the board to watch a documentary entitled. to watch “The Shocking Truth About Puppy Mills.” She said she let her students look at it so they can see what these facilities are like.

David Schwartz, an attorney for a pet shop group called PUPPI, spoke out in front of the city council against the pet shop proposal. Photo: Denise Civiletti

David Schwartz, a lawyer who People united to protect the integrity of pets, a group of 16 pet stores that started about six years ago, he said to combat pet trader legislation that the county’s legislature is considering, he said the proposed code change to Puppy Experience in Aquebogue, a member of the organization, and other member animal shops would bring closed.

“This is just to shut down small businesses and doesn’t affect the ability for – quote – no definition puppy mills or bad breeders to work the way they do now. It will leave a vacuum in the market that will allow bad players to thrive, ”Schwartz said.

“Seventy-five percent of the profit comes from selling puppies. So it is argued that they could sell toys and pet food and all these other things, that is totally wrong. They will only close small businesses, ”said Schwartz.

He said brick-and-mortar pet stores meet a consumer need, which is why most have been in business for many years. Consumers want to buy dogs at pet stores, he said.

“Pet stores are the only regulated source for buying pets,” Schwartz told the board. “And they offer protection for both the animal and the consumer. They are tightly regulated and controlled by the state health department and the USDA, ”he said.

“Our animals come from USDA-licensed and controlled breeders who regularly check the members. That’s one of the reasons you would buy a puppy from a pet store because they know who they’re getting the animals from, ”said Schwartz. “The prospective parent receives breeder information, including three-year clean inspection reports from the breeder’s health records, family information for the dog, and a comprehensive health guarantee that provides financial recourse under New York State law,” he said.

The ban on selling pet stores will only increase purchases made “blindly on the Internet,” Schwartz said. He said that puppy store owners hear a lot of complaints from people who “bought their pets on the Internet.”

Keith Lewin, owner of Puppy Experience, said animal breeders and pet stores are heavily regulated and the proposed bill is unnecessary. Photo: Denise Civiletti

Keith Lewin, the owner of Puppy experience in Aquebogue, said the whole process was already very heavily regulated. His business deals with USDA regulated breeders who are subject to frequent controls, he said. Dogs are transported in vehicles that are inspected by the Department of Transportation, and the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets inspects pet stores and checks breeders, Lewin said. The Suffolk County’s Department of Consumer Protection also “keeps an eye on” pet stores, according to Lewin. And if a customer has the feeling that something is wrong, they call the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and also inspect the shops, said Lewin.

Lewin said the city should start looking for rescue groups, which he believes make big bucks rescuing animals.

“And you know what? There are a lot of people out there who have a little baby, a 3 year old, a 4 year old, you know, they just don’t want a pit bull,” said Lewin. “Weird, crazy. They do a cute dog. So yes, we want to be able to offer people what they want. “

Pam Green, CEO of Kent shelter in Calverton thanked the board for dealing with the problem. During the hearing, she lamented “the misinformation flying around the room”.

“To say that a nonprofit is just making money and taking people’s money, they all have millions of dollars in the bank – I don’t know where they got that because it’s not true,” said Green.

“Carol Sclafani, I don’t know Carol personally, she hits everything she said. These pictures, take a look. This is where these pups come from. Every Long Island pet store gets their puppies from puppy mills – commercial breeders. And it’s all about money, ”said Green.

“Go to a puppy mill. If they let you in … you’ll see what we’re talking about firsthand, ”Green told the board.

“These animals are physically and emotionally scarred. Imagine being in a cage for 10 years breeding over and over again, ”she said. In her 35 years in Kent, Green said she saw animals from puppy factories, either those that were discarded by breeders or dogs that were bought from pet stores and brought to the shelter by owners who couldn’t handle themselves medically troubles to take care of an animal.

“Someone asked where animal shelters get their animals from. We mostly get them from animal shelters that kill them. And they do it every day, ”said Green. “Why that? Because they are overwhelmed. They don’t have enough space for all these animals. That’s where we get our animals – we save their lives,” said Green.

The supervisor left the minutes open for written comments until 4:30 p.m. on September 20. Comments can be sent to the Riverhead Town Clerk, Riverhead Town Hall, 200 Howell Avenue, Riverhead NY 11901 E-mail to the town clerk Diane Wilhelm.

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