New York pet stores balk at ban on selling dogs, cats and rabbits

If passed into law, a bill banning the retail sale of dogs, cats and rabbits in New York could bankrupt Selmer’s Pet Land in Huntington Station, the owner said.

Jessica Selmer prides herself on what she calls the safe sale of live pets, which she says accounts for 80% of the store’s sales over 80 years. Although the pet store’s third-generation owner is supportive of the rescue, she said it’s just not for everyone.

Selmer insisted that the dogs she sells are all from reputable, regulated breeders with proper documentation. She said it was not fair to be forced to source animals from non-profit adoption organisations.

“In New York State, it doesn’t feel like there’s freedom of choice anymore,” she said. “I feel manipulated and I feel like the government is taking my business away from me.”

But Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, who sponsored the bill, said the proposed law is a way to put a stop to what she calls the puppy mill-to-pet store pipeline. The legislation would encourage the adoption of dogs and cats from shelters instead of buying animals supplied by what it calls abusive breeders.

“I’ve seen the heartbreak – people who bought dogs from pet stores for $5,000 and we know they came from puppy mills,” she said. “They are sick and incurable.”

Little Shelter Animal Rescue and Adoption Center executive director David Ceely said the legislation was long overdue. He said he thinks it’s a positive way to give shelter pets more exposure if they partner with stores.

“People would be heartbroken and not know what they were supporting, so this is a huge win for pets and people,” Ceely said.

Officials say the sale of pets accounts for only about 2% of pet store revenue, but owners who were considered essential workers during the pandemic vehemently disagree.

“If it was 2% of my stuff, I wouldn’t waste my heart and soul,” Selmer said.

We contacted the governor’s office, which said Governor Kathy Hochul was reviewing the legislation. Once she receives the bill, she will have 10 days to sign it or veto it.

About Patrick K. Moon

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