A bill that is expected to save the lives of "thousands" of dogs, cats and other animals in New York just cleared a major hurdle.

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On Tuesday, New York Senate Deputy Leader Michael Gianaris and Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal announced legislation to prohibit sales of dogs, cats and rabbits in retail pet stores was approved by both the Senate and Assembly Agriculture Committees, the first procedural hurdle to the bill becoming a law.

“With so many good animals in need of rescue, there is no need for puppy mills that abuse animals to supply pet stores. Our four-legged companions should be treated with respect, not like commodities,” Gianaris stated. “I am pleased this important proposal continues to build momentum in the legislature.”

Most of the animals available for sale in pet stores come from notorious dog, cat and bunny mills, which are known to be inhumane, lawmakers say. Offspring of mill animals often have congenital issues resulting from poor breeding and can cost families thousands of dollars in veterinary care.

“New York State has a real opportunity to shut down the puppy mill-to-pet store pipeline once and for all and to provide homes to so many animals in need of fur-ever families,” Rosenthal said. “Despite all regulations, the vast majority of animals for sale in pet stores still come from puppy mills, which are places of unimaginable cruelty. Until we pass this law to stop the sales of dogs and cats in pet stores, more well-meaning animal lovers will be duped into buying sick animals that will cost them both financially and emotionally.

Pet breeders and stores are loosely regulated under the Animal Welfare Act by the United States Department of Agriculture, officials add. Recent investigations revealed, however, that under the Trump administration, USDA inspectors have been less aggressive in enforcing these regulations, according to New York lawmakers. In addition, the USDA is issuing fewer serious violations that would ordinarily trigger swift follow-up by the agency.

“There is no excuse for the abuse of animals that happens in puppy mills across the country," Agriculture Committee Chair Senator Michelle Hinchey said. "This legislation, which I am proud to have passed through the Agriculture Committee, takes us a step closer to ending this practice by cutting off one of the puppy mills largest markets. I am pleased to have worked with Senator Gianaris on this important legislation.”

According to the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, the state agency tasked with regulating pet dealers, there are approximately 80 pet stores registered throughout the state.

“This law will save thousands of dogs, cats, and rabbits from immeasurable suffering. Voters For Animal Rights applauds Senator Gianaris and Assembly Member Rosenthal for leading the pack to shut down the cruel puppy mill pipeline in New York," Voters For Animal Rights President Allie Feldman Taylor said.

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