By Joe Anuta
A Middle Village councilwoman wants puppies that are sold in the city to come with birth certificates in order to cut down on inhumane dog-rearing practices.
The birth certificates would allow potential buyers to see, for example, where a dog came from and its history of disease and vaccinations, Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) said at Bobbi and the Strays animal shelter, 71-03 80th Street in Glendale last week. The certificates would be issued by the Department of Health.
“We need to allow the city to have authority to ensure we do not become a puppy-mill society,” she said.
About 90 percent of dogs in New York City’s pet stores come from puppy mills, which are large farms where the animals are mass produced, according to Crowley.
“Puppy mills are unsanitary and cruel,” she said.
Crowley co-sponsored a resolution in August that defines puppy mills as trying “to breed the greatest number of dogs, without regard for the suffering of the animals, physical defects and disease … Dogs in puppy mills generally will not receive adequate veterinary care, food, water and space.”
Because of the large percentage of dogs in pet stores that come from puppy mills, Crowley suggested residents go to animal shelters instead. The animals get better care, and at Bobbi and the Strays, volunteers even screen potential owners to ensure the animal will go to a good home, she added.
“Don’t buy from pet stores that will get their pets from puppy mills,” she said.
The majority of puppy mills are located in Missouri, according to Michelle Villagomez of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, who was also present at the event. About 40 percent of all puppies in the country come from breeding facilities there.
“There might be two people taking care of 300 dogs,” Villagomez said about conditions at some of the mills.
It is not illegal to run a puppy breeding facility, but Villagomez said the facilities are regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and must not stray outside of animal cruelty laws.
However, in a report issue by the USDA in May, the department found that puppy breeding facilities were loosely regulated and received minimal oversight.
A spokesman for the USDA said “even one problematic breeder is one too many. We took at look at our program and are doing a lot to improve things.”
The problem is compounded around the holidays, according to Villagomez, when demand for puppies increases because they are given as gifts. But once the reality of owning a pet sink in — the feeding, walking and visits to the vet — those puppies often end up in shelters.
“We would like New Yorkers to think twice before buying that puppy in the window,” she said.
Animal shelters get bogged down with the unwanted gifts, according to Steven Serota, a volunteer at Bobbi and the Strays.
“We get completely inundated,” he said.
Because of the overload, many of the animals have to be euthanized. An estimated 5 million dogs and cats are euthanized each year in America, according to Serota.
Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4566.