New York City Bans Bunny Sales, Ramps Up Legislation on Dog and Cat Sales



New York City has joined the ranks of the growing number of municipalities that are regulating how pet retailers sell animals—as well as which animals they can sell. 


The city’s powers-that-be passed a package of bills this week that will force upon retailers a greater level of accountability concerning where they purchase the cats and dogs they sell, as well as how they sell them. 


The legislation also touches upon sales in the small animal category in a big way. The City Council passed a bill, that if signed by the mayor, will ban the sale of rabbits in New York’s five boroughs. According to news reports, Democratic council member Elizabeth Crowley said that because rabbits reproduce so prolifically, many unwanted rabbits bred in pet owners’ homes wind up fending for themselves in city parks, where they often fall prey to other animals. She noted that shelters often have no space for these bunnies. 


As is often the case in these situations, the intention seems well meaning. Yet it is unclear what the impact of such a ban will have on the local pet business economy or if it will set a precedent for legislation on other species down the road, which is naturally a major concern for many in the industry. 


Meanwhile, the bills also addressed other areas of the pet sales industry, including legislation designed to keep “puppy mill” dogs out of New York retail kennels. One bill would require stores to buy their cats and dogs from federally approved breeders that have not violated the Animal Welfare Act of 1966, which regulates transport and treatment. It would also require pet stores to obtain a health department permit—or else pay a $500 fine. Another bill requires pet stores to have all dogs and cats for sale sterilized by a licensed veterinarian, and customers who want to purchase a dog would be required to file an application and pay a fee. 


The package also seeks to ensure that more lost dogs find their way back to their owners. It includes a bill that would require cats and dogs to be implanted with microchips before being sold. The microchips would contain the pet owner’s contact information, and pet retailers would have to maintain records of sales and microchip information for 10 years.


The passing of this legislation is a strong reminder to retailers to not only stay attentive to the coming waves of legislation that will affect their businesses, but also to get politically involved. In the January issue of Pet Business magazine, the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC) offers five tips for how retailers can make sure they are doing all they can to be engage and proactive in the political processes affecting the industry.


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