By Naomi Serviss / New York City
Huzzah! New York recently approved a statewide law banning pet stores from selling dogs, cats and rabbits. It was signed on December 15th, but won’t take effect until 2024.
The goal is not only to shutter puppy mills but to discourage abusive breeders from proliferating, and to encourage pet adoption from reputable, nonprofit rescue organizations.
The law might not shut down all the tyrants and animal abusers, but it should slow down the process.
Those searching for a particular breed will often pay upwards of thousands to satisfy their quest.
How about we all adopt instead? Those searching for the perfect pet may not find it at a shelter, but who needs perfection?
If you’re on the prowl for an adoptable pet, and willing to put in the time, there will (eventually) be a payoff. It’s just a matter of patience. Lots and lots of patience.
It won’t be easy.
I write from experience. It took me more than a year trolling Petfinder (the main source for dogs), the ASPCA and other rescue groups to finally be approved and land a suitable pet for our one-bedroom apartment.
Serendipity brought Petunia to us, thanks to a friend who suggested contacting the New York Humane Society.
That’s where 11 years ago, she had found Porter, her beloved lab mix.
Animal-welfare advocates are celebrating the state ban. Responsible pet owners are as well, because it’s devastating (speaking for myself) to see tiny kittens and puppies cavorting in pet store windows.
“Dogs, cats and rabbits across New York deserve loving homes and humane treatment,” said New York Governor Kathy Hochul upon signing the bill.
There are about 10,000 U.S. puppy mills, some
infamous for their alleged canine abuse. Fewer than 3,000 of puppy mills are regulated by the
U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Commercial breeding facilities churn out puppies
at a breakneck pace. Breeder dogs often have litters before grown. Neglected and abused dogs are the norm. It’s not a pretty picture.
Dogs are sold in nefarious ways: to pet stores, online and direct-to-public through flea markets or classified ads (like Craigslist).
These outlets show little to no regard for the animals’ well-being, according to the U.S. Humane Society.
In my humble opinion, it’s a no-brainer that
pets should be adopted from rescue nonprofits.
During the dawn of the three-year pandemic, lonely hearts sought furry companions to make hibernating less formidable.
Everyone had the same idea at once, resulting in a veritable wealth of needy humans who soon tired of dog or cat ownership responsibilities
and gave up their once-beloved pets.
There was a flood of returnees.
Adoption agencies became even more stringent, setting the application bar even higher. Some places required a home visit or at least a video. At least three references had to pass muster.
No one wants ethically owned pet stores to go belly-up.
Pet owners need pet stores (virtual or brick and mortar) for food, treats, toys, harnesses and whatnot. Snake owners, for example, rely on an endless supply of live prey. My friend’s daughters have one (named Toast), among other amphibious, reptilian creatures and of course, their pet rats.
Susie and her family’s creatures are loved, nurtured pets and I didn’t ask my country friend what they feed their menagerie. Some things are best unknown.
Admittedly, I’m addicted to Chewy.com, which has numerous brands of pet food and all the goodies to boot. But it is important to support local business, including pet stores.
One day, strolling on a nearby avenue, I stopped into the modest (non-animal-selling) Pet Central store. Turns out not only did they stock a particular brand my finicky eater enjoys, but they deliver! Chewy is not the only game in town after all.
The state ban does not foretell bankrupt pet shops. They won’t drift away like fish food tossed in the air. The ethical ones will have no problem complying with the law, if they haven’t already.
It won’t bar shops from displaying those proverbial doggies in the window (try not to sing it). Au contraire, retailers are encouraged to work with rescue groups who will show ready-to-adopt companion animals. Win/Win!
Dog and cat breeders, who are not banned under this regulation, are dissuaded from committing abuses by the legislation. Strict requirements need to be met for them to maintain licenses.
People will be encouraged to adopt rather than buy, but if they do buy, it will be from reputable breeders instead of pet stores. Hopefully.
Once, when I was about 10, I stopped in front of a pet-selling store on one of my wanderings.
I was a free-range kid in hand-me-downs and thin, off-brand sneakers traipsing down a gritty Philadelphia street.
In the back of the disorganized shop, were an assortment of cages, a few kittens in each.
My heart fluttered when I spotted a mewing motley-colored kitten whose paws were so tiny they went through the cage floor.
I needed to rescue that little thing.
Mustering up courage with a side of chutzpah,
I nervously approached the owner, with no money,
but with an offer he couldn’t refuse, I hoped.
It was put on the table: I would clean cat cages for three hours. In exchange, he would gift me the kitten.
A barterer was born.
Three exhausting hours later, the multi-colored kitten was safely tucked into my oversized coat pocket.
I knew Motley would be welcomed because my mother had an affinity for kittens. (Children she was less crazy about, but that’s fodder for another column.)
Motley graced my life for a too short while, her mischievous personality and loving nuzzles forever etched in my memory.
Cats filled my life from early childhood on. Dogs came into play when my kids (Emmy always clamored for a canine) were old enough to take care of a furry friend.
Our shift from cat adoption (allergic husband) to dogs eventually led to encounters with New York animal adoption agencies. It ended with New York’s Humane Society.
Petunia was a cute name for our two-year-old,
10-pound Maltese from the Humane Society--
but it was my husband’s nickname for our daughter Emmy. No dice.
My friend Janice had suggested the Humane Society. Janis was also my maternal grandmother’s name and my late sister Rachel’s middle name.
It was a no-brainer.
Petunia became Janis Joplin, my rockstar rescue, and she learned her name in no time.
Janis has been with us since November 2021
and I count my lucky stars we landed such a pearl.
Naomi Serviss is a New York-based award-winning journalist whose work has been published in The New York Times, Newsday, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Highroads (AAA magazine), in-flight publications, spa and travel magazines and websites, including BroadwayWorld.com