YORKTOWN, N.Y. - The Town Board has unanimously voted to prohibit the sale of commercially bred dogs and cats in Yorktown pet stores. The board passed the legislation after an Aug. 2 public hearing.

The amendment was first proposed in May, when the puppy mill issue was brought to light by the closing of American Breeders in Mohegan Lake. Councilman Ed Lachterman spearheaded the proposed law and the board worked with animal rights activists who had seen similar laws passed in other Westchester municipalities such as Mamaroneck, which banned the sale of commercially bred animals and required pet stores to stock their businesses with pets supplied through shelters and rescue groups.

Much of the debate at Town Board work sessions concerned the term “commercially bred,” as some residents said the term was open to many interpretations.

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To address that, the new law allows only for the sale of dogs or cats that come from breeders who possess no more than 10 cats or 10 dogs in a calendar year, an animal shelter or Humane Society located in New York State, or a nonprofit rescue and humane organization registered with the New York State Department of Agriculture.

Violation of the article will result in a $250 fine and/or up to 15 days of in jail. Subsequent violations will be prosecuted as misdemeanors and violators will be fined up to $1,000 and/or imprisoned for no more than 30 days.

Several members of the audience at last Tuesday’s meeting were residents of other towns with laws on the books banning the sale of commercially bred pets. Mamaroneck Mayor Norman Rosenblum congratulated the board on what he called a “fantastic move.”

Melissa Romita, a resident of Harrison, who also sits on the board of directors for the Humane Society of Westchester, applauded the effort.

“It’s a problem that goes all the way up to the federal government but the fact that we’re starting a grassroots movement is effective for our communities,” she said.

Romita did, however, warn that crossbreeding and inbreeding can occur within the guidelines of the 10-dog-or-less component of the law, resulting in dogs with congenital issues that cause them to be abandoned, in shelters and euthanized.

“In addition to being an animal welfare issue, I really think it’s a consumer fraud issue and a taxpayer issue because any animal control agency that is in any particular town—taxpayers are funding that,” she said, adding that the situation is “entirely preventable.”

Elana Goren, who worked alongside the Town Board throughout the process, recognized the board’s willingness to look at the puppy mill issue and thanked Lachterman for initiating the conversation.

“The real impact on the problem is only going to end up coming from statewide or county legislation,” Supervisor Michael Grace said. The idea behind making local changes, he said, is to create a groundswell that will gain attention at higher levels.