12:19, July 05 185 0 law.com

2017-07-05 12:19:04
State Registry for Animal Rescuers Awaits Cuomo's Signature

 

Animal shelters and rescue organizations may soon have to register with the state under a bill that passed both houses of the New York Legislature last month.

Pet stores and home-based sellers of cats and dogs must be licensed and inspected by the Department of Agriculture and Markets, but nonprofit animal shelters and rescue organizations currently are exempt from the licensing requirement, creating a “troublesome loophole,” according to the office of state Sen. Phil Boyle, R-Bay Shore, who sponsored the bill (S.5599).Under the legislation, any non-governmentally run animal shelter or rescue organization would have to proactively register with the Department of Agriculture and Markets, which would cost $100 annually. Facilities that don’t comply would be charged with a civil penalty of between $100 and $1,000.

According to Boyle’s office, more than 35 states have laws on the books to regulate shelters and rescues, but New York lags behind with “bare bones” food-and-water regulations.

Roughly 90 percent of the almost 500 incorporated animal groups registered with the Attorney General’s Charities Bureau are unregulated, Boyle’s office said.

The legislation has received the backing of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the New York State Animal Protection Federation and the New York State Veterinary Medical Society. A spokesman for Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office said it would review the legislation.

The Animal Protection Federation said in a memo of support for the legislation that the Department of Agriculture and Markets doesn’t have the ability to “oversee the burgeoning number of animal organizations that import, transport and shelter animals into the state. There are usually no medical records for these animals that come into the state, at times, in the back of someone’s SUV or truck.”

The group claims that there are pet dealers who don’t want to abide by the state’s regulations and “rebrand and reincorporate as a nonprofit rescue that now avoids any and all oversight.”

Bill Ketzer, the senior director of the ASPCA government relations for the Northeast region, urged the governor to sign the bill. “Animal shelters across New York state and their rescue partners have done an incredible job reducing animal homelessness to a fraction of what our communities faced 20 years ago,” Ketzer said in a statement. “This long overdue legislation will support those shelters by closing the existing loophole permitting unscrupulous pet dealers and animal sellers from evading state oversight by obtaining non-profit status.”

The Pet Lemon Law, established in 2000, requires that pet dealers guarantee the good health of any animal sold by a dealer to a customer. There had been a push to add shelters and rescues to the Pet Lemon Law, but adding that amendment would “undermine” the main intent of the legislation, Boyle’s office said. The purpose of the bill is to learn about the “size, scope types and true nature” of shelters and rescue facilities, the office said.

In April, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office launched an investigation into Suffolk County-based Friends of Freddie, a nonprofit pet rescue facility, after accusations that it was selling sick and dying dogs to customers. The Attorney General’s Office said on Monday that the probe into Friends of Freddie is ongoing.