A few weeks ago, Capital Tonight reported on a bill commonly referred to as the puppy mill pipeline bill.

The bill is intended to end New York state’s participation in the commercial puppy mill system that advocates say promotes animal suffering and cruelty. 

But pet store owners are adamant that the bill will put them out of business. 

“I know that sometimes the proponents of the bill suggest that it isn’t going to put us out of business because we can sell supplies and things like that, but it doesn’t take into consideration the amount of employees that we have, our lease, the insurance and all the overhead that we have,” said Emilio Ortiz, manager of Citipups. “Eighty-five percent of our sales is the sales of puppies.”

Animal rights activists argue that many pet stores buy their animals from unscrupulous mills, many in the Midwest. Ortiz admits it’s an issue.

“I would say that’s a justified criticism. There have been countless examples of really bad breeders and really bad pet stores that aren’t doing the best that they can and they are treating their dogs inhumanely,” said Ortiz. “But there are thousands of [U.S. Department of Agriculture] licensed breeders.”

Ortiz argues that it’s misleading to suggest that all pet stores in New York buy from unscrupulous breeders.

“In an effort to take out the worst ones, we’re inadvertently punishing some of the stores that actually do a good job and care about their animals,” he said. 

Part of the issue is that the USDA has stated that its own oversight of puppy mills is substandard. 

This is verbatim from the USDA website from June 2021: 

We identified data reliability issues with reports generated from the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS’) Animal Care Information System (ACIS) database. This occurred because the agency no longer has a data manager for ACIS, and several large patches to the system have made it unreliable.

As a result, APHIS is impeded in its ability to make informed management decisions, identify trends in noncompliant items, and identify how many inspections have been completed.  We also found that APHIS did not consistently address complaints it received or adequately document the results of its follow-up.”

Ortiz argues that the USDA’s issues with oversight need to be addressed by the USDA. 

“If we want to talk about additional transparency, additional regulations, it needs to be done there,” he said. “But if a law-abiding pet store in New York City that hasn’t broken any rules and they’re following everything by the book all of a sudden you’re going to take it out on them while not even addressing the issue at the source.  To me it doesn’t seem like it’s helping the animals.”