NY pet shops balk at ban on selling dogs, cats, rabbits

If signed into law, a bill banning the retail sale of dogs, cats, and rabbits in New York could put Selmer's Pet Land in Huntington Station out of business, the owner said.

Jessica Selmer takes pride in what she calls the safe sale of live companion animals, which she said accounts for 80% of sales at the more-than-80-year-old shop. While the third-generation owner of the pet store is pro-rescue, she said that just isn't for everyone.

Selmer insisted that the dogs she sells all come from reputable and regulated breeders with proper paperwork. She said it is not fair to be forced to source animals from nonprofit adoption organizations.

"In the state of New York, it no longer feels like there's freedom of choice," she said. "I feel manipulated and I feel like the government is taking my business from me."

But Assembly Member Linda Rosenthal, who sponsored the bill, said the proposed law is a way to put a dent in what she calls the puppy-mill-to-pet-store pipeline. The legislation would encourage the adoption of dogs and cats from rescue shelters instead of buying animals supplied by whom she calls abusive breeders.

"I've seen the heartbreak — people who have bought dogs from pet stores for $5,000 and we know they're from puppy mills," she said. "They're sick and incurable."

Little Shelter Animal Rescue and Adoption Center Executive Director David Ceely said the legislation is long overdue. He said he believes it's a positive way to give shelter pets more exposure if they partner with stores.

"People would experience heartbreak and didn't know what they were supporting so it's a massive win for the pets and people," Ceely said.

Officials say the sale of pets only accounts for about 2% of revenue in pet stores but owners who were deemed essential workers during the pandemic vehemently disagree.

"If it was 2% of my business I wouldn't waste my heart and soul," Selmer said.

We reached out to the governor's office, which said Gov. Kathy Hochul is reviewing the legislation. Once she receives the bill, she'll have 10 days to either sign it into law or veto it.