We are proud to represent the New York Pet Welfare Association, whose members include purposely-bred dog owners, breeders, wholesalers, pet stores and veterinarians from across the country. This association, like many other hard-working, animal-loving businesses and individuals, has been increasingly under assault by wealthy nonprofit and retail rescue organizations, including ASPCA and HSUS, (“Retail Rescue Organizations”) intent on eliminating the only source of healthy, humanely-raised, highly regulated puppies in this country.
Over the next several blogs I will describe the legal challenges facing the interstate pet market, including the NYPWA and its members in New York City.
New York City adopted a law which was drafted to essentially eliminate pet stores as a source of pets for City residents—actions that necessarily impact interstate commerce as will be discussed. The law favors the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals, the City’s animal shelter (Animal Care & Control) and Retail Rescue Organizations that, despite their “nonprofit” status, are profiting handsomely from their transactions with pets, particularly dogs. As deputy commissioner of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Daniel Kass testified, the intended effect of this law is to make it “more difficult to acquire [dogs and cats] through pet shops, or more expensive to acquire puppies or kittens from breeders. We hope that, overall, the expanded regulation of pet shops will encourage New Yorkers to adopt from shelters run by Animal Care and Control.”
The City law bans sales to pet stores from all Class B licensees (whom USDA licenses as wholesalers who purchase from breeders and sell to pet stores) no matter how well they take of their animals. There are no stricter standards required for these licensees to comply with. In fact, the law, as it pertains to Class B’s, has no standards at all. As long as you qualify for and have obtained a USDA Class B license, you can no longer sell to pet stores in the City.
The City law also limits sales to pet stores from Class A breeders, as long as they have not been finally determined to have violated the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) within a specified number of years. Only a USDA Administrative Law Judge can make a final determination of such a violation. However, commonly, the Retail Rescue Organizations intentionally misrepresent that findings on USDA inspection reports are violations of the AWA. They are not. Noncompliant items on inspection reports are not considered finally determined violations of the AWA.
By limiting sales to pet stores from Class A breeders, the law silently prohibits sales from hobby breeders to pet stores—those with 4 or fewer breeding females that USDA has exempted from licensure after finding that they meet or exceed the humane standards of care required by federal law.
In addition to these sourcing restrictions, which animal shelters and rescues are expressly exempt from, the law requires that pet stores sell only dogs and cats that are spayed or neutered as long as they weigh a mere 2 pounds and are at least 8 weeks old. Despite testimony from veterinarians, including those with expertise in the field of animal reproduction, informing the City that such a requirement will unnecessarily harm many puppies and kill some, the City has not amended this law.
This law, as we have alleged, impermissibly discriminates against interstate commerce and creates an insurmountable obstacle for the entire interstate pet market to comply with the enforcement mechanisms set forth in the AWA and related regulations, which includes a robust licensing scheme for breeders, wholesalers, and retail operations. The law similarly creates an insurmountable obstacle for veterinarians and pet stores to comply with state laws governing veterinary medicine and also the draconian provisions mandating sterilization of pets before sale.
These issues will be discussed separately in upcoming posts.