The New York State’s new bill: end of pet sale for good?

Chloe Kim

On February 3, 2020, the New York State Senate’s Domestic Animal Welfare Committee approved the bill (S.4234/A.6298) that has been introduced by Senator Michael Gianaris and Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal. The bill would prohibit retail pet stores and commercial pet shops from selling any dog, cat, or rabbit. It then also would prevent retail pet stores from buying dog, cat, or rabbit from a commercial puppy mill or pet breeders. To this date, California (2017) and Maryland (2018) are only two states that have enacted similar bills. If this bill passes, it will make New York the third state confirming its position against the puppy mill pipeline.

Cruel and inhumane conditions of puppy mills are known to some, but not widely and publicly enough to stop them from continuously exploiting puppies on demand. Commercial dog breeders are not afraid to treating and placing breeding dogs as profitable as possible, which include tiny overcrowded cages, unsanitary and dangerous facilities, little to none veterinary care, and merciless separation between mothers and babies and cage mates. The breeding dogs spend their entire lives in confinement, and they are bred at every possible opportunity, sometimes even when they are sick and exhausted, all for the profit. The puppies are then sold to pet brokers and transported to pet shops and retail stores for sale. These puppy mills, brokers, dealers, transporters, and retail shops complete the puppy mill pipeline, and individual customers who purchase the puppies at retail stores, whether they know or not, fuel the puppy mill pipeline to continue in business. This pet mill pipeline is not just limited to dogs. Daunting realities also exist for cats, as found in kitten mills, where their conditions are no better than those of puppy mills – if not worse. The kittens are placed in crowded wire cages to reduce labor cost for waste clean-up, with almost no veterinary care, and adult cats are repetitively bred until they are too sick to produce; once the breeding cats reach that point of sickness, we do not want to know what happens to them next. The new bill would deter this pipeline operation by prohibiting the selling and buying process between puppy (kitten) mills and retail stores.

Despite tremendous work of organizations, activists, scholars, and legislators to stop the pet mill operation, the results have been shown on only two states so far: California and Maryland. The federal government has also tried to regulate puppy mills but failed to do so successfully. It has been reported that the standard for breeder licenses is inadequate; enforcement power is weak, and penalties are light.

It should also be noted that the general target (including the new bill) of the pet mill bans so far only focuses on the sale of dogs, cats, and rabbits. Although we are generally aware of dogs, cats, and rabbits being somewhat the most popular demands at retail pet stores, we also know that retail pet stores also sell so many other species, which include but not limited to birds, hamsters, ferrets, fish, and turtles; the list goes on. No laws are regulating a sale of other animals, nor are there any laws at least ensuring their condition at retail pet stores. No law yet cares about whether they are well fed and watered. The New York State’s new bill also does not mention anything else about the sale and purchase of pets other than dogs, cats, and rabbits. Retail pet stores could continuously sell and purchase hamsters, birds, gerbils, fish, and frogs, as many as they want, regardless of where and how these animals are bred and treated before they are sold to the customers. There is nothing that can stop retail pet stores to even operate hamster mills on their own, no matter how unethically and inhumanely they do so – as long as they do not buy or sell dogs, cats, and rabbits from commercial breeders and pet mills. How ethical and humane is that? We may rejoice New York’s great news on this bill. It will shut down, or lead to shut down, lots of puppy and kitten mill pipeline in New York pet sale market. It will also encourage retail pet stores to connect with local animal rescue organizations and animal adoption shelters that could help to guide the public towards adopting their companions from shelters, rather than purchasing them. However, the efforts should not stop there. New York is only the third state to ban on retail puppy sale (only if the bill passes), and we have lots of other animals that are still popular in demand without any regulation to ensure their safety. The new bill also does not ban an individual from purchasing dogs, cats, and rabbits from commercial breeders and mills directly. A small improvement should not blindfold us; the factories are still up and running unless we stop them all for good. 

What’s going on with feral cats?

Chloe Kim

It is estimated that about 68 percent of U.S. households live with animal (non-human) companions, and there are approximately 94 million pet cats in the U.S. On the other hand, the number of feral cats in the U.S. is estimated as many as 160 million. Although this number is only an estimate, it still suggests that there are almost the same or a greater number of cats living without owners than pet cats who are (hopefully) well-fed and waters by their human companions. 

Feral cats are often used to mean stray cats and vice versa. Under some circumstances, they can mean the same thing. However, they are not entirely the same. Generally, a stray cat is a cat who was once domesticated, then was lost or abandoned and strayed from their home. A feral cat is a cat who was never domesticated or whose interaction/socialization with a human was lost. When a cat is born in a wild state, it is more likely that a cat would become (or remain) a feral cat. Sometimes, when a stray cat is left in the wild too long that his/her interaction with a human dwindles, he/she can become a feral cat. Either way, they both live in our communities, being exposed to a harsh and dangerous environment.

When one finds an unknown cat who seems to belong to no one, there are many things one can do: trying to find the owner first, making sure the cat does not look sick or in dangerous state, taking the cat in for scanning for a microchip and TNR (trap-neuter-return), or calling a local animal rescue center. One simple, easy, and very effective way to help the cat would be feeding and providing fresh water for the cat, and the legal consequences of giving hands for the cat may differ by states. There are only thirteen states that have laws addressing feral cats. In New York State, feral cats are considered as companions rather than as wildlife, and you can freely feed feral cats without violating any law. In Virginia and Delaware, you may feed feral cats, but then specific responsibilities may come along with the action; you may be considered the owner or caregiver after feeding feral cats consecutively, which means that you may have to be responsible for complying specific regulations for providing adequate care for them. Some states, like Connecticut, where each town adopts its ordinance as to keeping and registering feral cats, may impose certain requirements on feral cat keepers such as vaccinating and sterilizing them. New Jersey maintains managed cat colonies where feral cats are cared for by groups of volunteers, and the managed cat colonies should have their cats checked by a vet for public safety purposes. Depending on where you feed and provide shelter for feral cats, you may freely enjoy doing so or be liable for providing necessary services for them, and in extreme cases, may become liable for damages done by feral cats you feed.

Feral cats under anti-cruelty laws also vary by state. In all 50 states and the District of Columbia, one can be charged with a criminal offense, from as light as a misdemeanor to as heavy as a felony, for intentional killing and injuring of a cat. Sometimes a definition of a cat includes a feral cat as well. However, it does not mean that those laws were written with a specific intent to protect feral cats because the laws are generally more focused on pets under personal ownership. In some states, instead, feral cats are expressly excluded from their well-deserved protection. For example, Wyoming treats stray cats as a predatory animal, and therefore, there is no protection for them under anti-cruelty law. In South Dakota, one can be criminally charged under anti-cruelty law by poisoning or killing a cat who actually has an owner; feral cats or stray cats where their owners are unknown – or doesn’t exist –, South Dakota’s anti-cruelty law can’t do much for them.

A number of feral cats are growing every year, and their overpopulation poses various issues in many communities. If they are not well fed and sheltered, they may roam for food in trash and areas where food wastes are, which may develop into public sanitary and safety issues. Recently, researchers raised concern for endangered birds in Hawaii as feral cats become the birds’ predators.

Although their nature now made them difficult to socialize with humans, most of the feral cats (if not themselves at least their parents or grandparents) were once someone’s companions, who deserved nutritious food, fresh water, and a safe home. Once they were lost and abandoned, we started treating them as strangers and, in some cases, as dangers. Without specific guidelines and regulations, most people can only rely on their own resources and private organizations at best to feed and take care of feral cats; it may be challenging to protect feral cats in every aspect of law. However, state and local governments may start addressing the issue of feral cats so that we could better take care of them with what we have. Most feral cats only live less than two years on his/her own, and it is way too shorter than ten to twenty years if they are with their human companions providing them love and care they need. We should at least be able to provide them a healthy life, no matter how short it is, while they are with us.

Chemically Castrate the Swamp

  Alexis Tomaino

Atrazine wreaks havoc on the sex lives of adult male frogs, emasculating three-quarters of them and turning one in 10 into female. The 75 percent that are chemically castrated are essentially “dead” because of their inability to reproduce in the wild. The 10 percent (or more) that turn from males into females – something not known to occur under natural conditions in amphibians – can successfully mate with male frogs but, because these females are genetically male, all their offspring are male. The impacts of atrazine are most pronounced in frogs because they have highly permeable skin that can easily absorb the chemical. Exposure to atrazine at levels as low as 0.1 parts per billion has been shown to affect the development of sex characteristics in frogs. 

            Based on the evidence that atrazine is an endocrine disruptor to amphibians, the EPA should ban the use of Atrazine.  First, frogs are vital to a healthy ecosystem and their disappearance can disturb an intricate food web with cascading effects felt throughout an entire ecosystem. As tadpoles, they eat algae, helping regulate blooms and reducing the chances of algal contamination. As adults, their consumption of insects helps control populations, including adult mosquitoes and their larvae that can transmit diseases including Dengue fever, Malaria, West Nile fever and Zika.  Frogs are also an important source of food for a variety of animals, including birds, fish, and snakes.  But more fundamentally, frogs have existed for nearly 300 million years and have a right to exist unmolested.  As frogs are currently threatened by disease, pollution, habitat loss, invasive species and climate change, their populations have declined dramatically since the 1950s, and it is believed more than 120 species have already become extinct since 1980s.  Failure of the EPA to take action to protect frogs from the harmful effects of atrazine is tantamount to ignoring its mission to “reduce environmental risks … based on the best available scientific information.”

            Instead the Trump EPA has loosened restrictions on atrazine following the tenure as EPA adviser of Jeff Sands, a former pesticide-industry lobbyist for Syngenta.  Sands’s presence at the EPA drew criticism when the EPA scaled back a $4.8 million fine levied against Syngenta during the Obama years for violating pesticide regulations that resulted in the sickening of farm workers in Hawaii. The Trump EPA settled this case for a tiny fraction of $150,000, though the EPA also ordered Syngenta to spend a minimum of $400,000 to conduct worker training on how to use pesticides. Although Sands has asserted he did not influence these EPA decisions, Sands’s connection to Syngenta muddies the water and is in line with other actions from Trump’s EPA, which has focused on reducing regulatory burdens on industry and easing enforcement actions while bringing industry insiders into the administration to the detriment of the flora and fauna it is charged to protect.  

            Sands’s employment was permitted because of an ethics waiver in which the White House allowed Sands to work on issues he dealt with in the private sector because of “his deep understanding of agricultural issues forged through his previous service with Congress, a trade association and a company.” The waiver allowed him to work on issues that could affect his former industry, the agricultural sector, at large. While the waiver request did not expressly ask that he be exempted from rules prohibiting him from being involved with any agency action that would specifically affect a former employer, there is no evidence of compliance with these rules.  And although Sands’s departure from EPA in 2018 (and has subsequent employment as an adviser for Rep. Ted Yoho (Fla.), a conservative Republican lawmaker who sits on the House Agriculture Committee)  predates the November 2019 atrazine policy change announcement, the swampy smell lingers around the EPA’s decision to sacrifice frogs and promote Syngenta’s business.

Animal Mistreatment Causes Environmental Damage

Gabriela Tavarez

Pollution impacts animals just as much as it affects humans.  Human activity (factory farming, waste disposal, etc.) impacts wildlife’s habitat.  In addition, erratic and long-lasting wildfires in California have caused over a billion animals to die.  According to the National Audubon Society, even though pollution affects humans, it severely impacts birds since birds spend more time in the open air as opposed to humans.  Birds become vulnerable to catching diseases when they inhale the air.  Nonetheless, pollution affects aquatic animals when waste is disposed into waterways.  Specifically, water pollution infects the water, along with aquatic animals, which can ultimately be toxic for human consumption.

Furthermore, human activity such as factory farming lead to devastating environmental effects.  Factory farming focuses on increasing productivity and economic efficiency.  As a result, farmers are exempted from animal welfare regulation.  Such devastating effects include the deterioration of topsoil and water quality and quantity.  Meanwhile, factory animals such as pigs and cattle are confined to small spaces where they are prevented from roaming free.  Also, factory animals are forced to undergo unnatural diets.  For example, cattle are fed corn due to its low cost, in order for them to grow faster.  However, their stomachs were not designed to digest corn, so they are given antibiotics to prevent illnesses when they eat corn.  Also, factory farming releases carbon dioxide (greenhouse gases) into the atmosphere.  Particularly, livestock releases methane, which increases temperature. 

Additionally, the quality and quantity of water is dwindling as factory farming increases production.  Factory farming removes trees to create more space to raise livestock and removes other natural wildlife from their habitat.  Factory farms also demolish topsoil.  Humans rely on soil to provide nutrients for food, but factory farms dilute the soil since farmers clear the fields in order to grow crops.  Specifically, they clear fields to grow corn and soy to feed their cattle.  Many animal activists call for stricter regulations on factory farming to decrease production.  This can reduce pollution and its harmful effects on animals.  However, that is not without opposition.  Factory farmers call for minimal regulation since prohibition would lessen economic efficiency and increase the cost in meat production since grass-fed cattle is costly.  Nonetheless, people would be willing to eat grass-fed meat since it is a healthier option.  When an animal is in distress, it causes the meat to darken and becomes unsuitable for consumption.     

Factory animals are confined within lagoons where their waste can trickle into open water and affect aquatic animals.  Aquatic animals are not able to sustain these environmental changes.  The unfavorable tides and changes in water temperature expose them to new predators.  Humans also become vulnerable to diseases from drinking or swimming in the toxic water.  However, humans can choose not to swim or drink the water.  Humans can also change their habits to reduce environmental damage.  Nevertheless, aquatic animals do not have such privilege because they are forced to stay in the water.  The toxic chemicals also lead to an increase in nitrogen and phosphorus, which increases the growth of toxic algae.  Animals die from consuming toxic algae.  Factory farming demonstrates an endless cycle where one effect on a certain species can trickle down to other species.  Furthermore, high levels of mercury found in water causes behavioral and reproductive changes in aquatic animals.  It is important that humans take imperative steps to reduce the damage to wildlife.  For example, humans can stop littering on beaches, seas, lakes, rivers, etc.  When garbage is thrown into the water, it can entrap marine animals.  Most water-dwelling animals such as sea otters, become trapped in the debris and can drown from being trapped.  Water pollution even affects the soil, which humans need to grow crops for food. 

Pollution is caused by overpopulation.  Due to overpopulation, humans continue to consume resources that it forces the animal population to diminish at a rapid rate.  The human population is substantial that it exceeds the resources available to sustain it.  The environment cannot replenish itself before it is conquered by human consumption.  As the population increases, it leads to more factory farming, which increases food production and deforestation.  It also leads to waste thrown into waterways and causes an imbalance within the ecosystem.  When it comes to maximizing production and minimizing costs, the government seems to disregard the suffering of non-human species.  It is important that there are stricter government regulations that would reduce pollution.  That is why it is important that states have the freedom to regulate or prohibit certain conduct pertaining to animal welfare that the federal government disregards.       

Retail Pet Sales Ban (A Hope To End Puppy Mills)

Rebecca Powers

The Animal Welfare Act (AWA) gives the Secretary of Agriculture the authority to promulgate regulations for the sale, housing, and treatment of pets. “A puppy mill is a breeding operation that breeds dogs for profit, prioritizing financial gain over the health or well-being of the dogs.” The AWA does not limit the number of dogs that can be at one facility and does not require a minimum number of people to work there taking care of the dogs. Dogs can be stacked in small cages with wire flooring and be caged for 24 hours a day it’s entire life. Additionally, inspections are very limited and, once the initial license is given by the USDA, the facility may not be inspected again for 2-3 years.

I recently went to a large mall in Albany, New York. While there I passed by a pet store selling “purebred” and “designer” puppies. In the small store was a wall of glass and behind it a wall of small cages. They were stacked about four high and eight across, most about 2 feet by 2 feet. The puppies were pacing and barking or lying down shivering. I was surprised because I had heard of recent New York State legislation to ban the sale of puppies at retail stores, moving to use the space for rescue dogs and adoption. These dogs were obviously not from animal shelters.

            In the past few years pictures, videos, and more information has come out about the horrors of puppy mills. There is a system that has developed between puppy mills and pet stores. Basically all puppies in pet stores across the country are from these puppy mills. This is because the puppy mill and the pet store have put money ahead of humane, sanitary, quality care, and most Americans walking into a pet store in a mall have no idea about the conditions the dog was bred in. The pet store can say that they only sell from USDA approved breeders, and the average person may think that means a healthy, often checked environment. However, that is not the case as these facilities are rarely checked and the regulations about them are very minimal. Then it is simply a matter of money, some of the puppies can cost close to $1000. There are no real questions about the experience or ability of the buyer/future owner. Someone could literally walk in, point to a puppy behind a glass wall, swipe a card, and walk out with a new living being to take care of.

            Recently, California and Maryland have passed statewide bans on retail pet store sales. These are first of their kind at such a large scale, as almost 300 cities and counties have already enacted such bans. By limiting where those puppies can be sold it limits the demand on the supply side. These bans seek to end the “pipeline” from puppy mill to retail pet store. Legislation was introduced in New York in March 2019 that would add it to the growing list. The New York amendment would make the “sale of dogs, cats, and rabbits prohibited” at retail pet shops. However, it would allow for these pet shops to “showcase” animals for adoption by partnering with recognized shelters and organizations. It explicitly states that a store cannot use breeders or brokers, which would target puppy mills. It hopes to move retail pet stores away from being a for-profit business.

            A positive goal of these laws is that it should minimize the number of dogs euthanized at animal shelters. People go to pet stores to buy a puppy. There could be various reasons why someone might go to a pet store as opposed to a shelter. But regardless of the reason, if we can change it so that the puppies in the pet stores come from animal shelters, then we can save lives. There are plenty of puppies in shelters and numerous pure breed rescue organizations. If they are given the opportunity to bring the dogs to people, it could help raise money and awareness.             There is growing public awareness of both puppy mills and the New York legislation. It is time we end this inhumane pipeline of dogs. There are millions of adoptable pets out there waiting for a good home. Hopefully the public will get behind the amendment and call for state action on this issue.

How Backyard Breeders are Negating Pet Shop Bans

Elizabeth Burns

Just over a month ago, two pug babies were surrendered to The Pug Queen and Tiny Paws Pug Rescue. Sisters Bella and Sadie were only 3.5 months old, but both had tested positive for canine distemper. The virus begins by attacking the respiratory system before replicating and attacking the rest of the dog’s lymphatic system, gastrointestinal tract, and central nervous system. Canine distemper is usually fatal if contracted, and even if a dog survives the disease, it often has lasting nervous system damage. Sadly, despite all these rescues did to treat and care for these babies, both succumbed to the disease. Distemper, while incredibly deadly, is highly preventable with the distemper vaccination.

Photo courtesy of The Pug Queen (instagram: @thepugqueen)

The Pug Queen and other rescues in Southern California are all too familiar with situations like this. Most of the dogs that these rescues take in come from backyard breeders. Backyard breeders are generally different from puppy mills. Puppy mills are considered large-scale commercial facilities that breed as many puppies as possible to sell to vendors (i.e. pet stores). The dogs are often kept in deplorable conditions with little care. Backyard breeders share some similarities with puppy mills. These breeders are considered to be unethical, and they are often in the business solely for the money. They are usually inexperienced in dog breeding, and they take little consideration of their dogs’ needs, often providing minimal food, water, shelter, and veterinary care. Most backyard breeders also don’t take selective breeding or genetic issues into account. The result is sickly puppies often sold before they are supposed to be separated from the mother. However, backyard breeders are often attractive because they advertise “purebred” dogs.

Despite the purported benefits of owning a mutt, a lot of people are still drawn to purebred dogs. When getting a purebred people know what they are getting, i.e. there are breed standards for each recognized purebred that help inform a potential owner of health issues, temperament, or care requirements. Respectable, reliable breeders also know the history and health of the bloodline of their dogs and can inform potential owners of any issues to watch out for. Breeders also often guarantee the “quality” of their dogs and will even take “returns” of dogs that fail to meet health or other standards. There is also a sense of prestige and status that comes with owning a purebred dog. When buying a puppy from a breeder, the owner is given purebred paperwork that can be filed with the American Kennel Club (AKC).

Many people also choose to buy purebred puppies from pet stores. Before the plight of puppy mills became widely known, people often chose to buy puppies from pet shops. With campaigns against puppy mills, pet stores have tried to rebuild their reputations by showcasing the “breeders” they obtain their puppies from. Putting a face and name to the breeder often helps consumers feel better about buying from a pet store. Puppies still come with paperwork, and it is easy to find the breed you are looking for. There is also a misconception that pet store puppies are well-taken care of as opposed to buying from other sources. However, California, Maryland, and possibly New York have decided to ban the sale of puppies, kittens, and rabbits in pet stores, but pet stores can offer services and allow shelters to showcase adoptable animals. While this sounds like a great way to stop supporting puppy mills and encourage adopting a shelter animal, it also drives people to find other ways to get the specific dogs they desire.

Unfortunately, as with any product on the market, consumers look for the cheapest way to get what they want—maximize benefit at the lowest possible cost. Pet stores and good breeders charge a lot for their dogs, and these prices are not affordable for a lot of people. For example, a purebred French bulldog from a reputable breeder can average about $3,000 depending on the coloration. Why buy a $3,000 puppy when you can get a puppy of the same breed for $800? Backyard breeders are filling in a gap in the marketplace that allows buyers to get dogs at lower prices under the guise of a “family breeder.” People inherently feel better when they buy from a person breeding dogs in their home. The operation is not a puppy mill, and there is an expectation that small-time and hobby breeders take good care of their dogs. But, as The Pug Queen and other rescues know too well, the majority of the dogs they take in come from backyard breeders who neglect their dogs and only breed for profit.

Horse Racing: An Elitist Sport or Animal Abuse?

Erika-Marie Kissh

The life of a racehorse is one that even before its conception is planned out and greatly influenced by human beings. Their birth, life, and death, are unnatural and can be seen as out-and-out abuse in every stage of the horses’ life. The main reason why racehorses are forced to live such unnatural lives at the hands of humans is because horse-racing is an extremely lucrative “sport”. The International Federation of Horseracing Authorities estimates that prize money for races worldwide is approximately $3.5 billion dollars a year, and the global industry of horse-race betting makes approximately $116 billion dollars of revenue in a given year.

For thoroughbred racehorses, in particular, their conception and birth is planned out as meticulously as possible to ensure maximum race training time. Mares are forced to Continue reading