Gianaris recognized for work to shut down puppy mill pipeline

Senate Deputy Leader Michael Gianaris received the prestigious “Champion for Animals” award from The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, in recognition of his work to end the puppy mill-to-pet store pipeline in New York State. He received the award alongside the bill’s Assembly sponsor, Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal of Manhattan.

The Puppy Mill Pipeline Bill would end the retail sale of dogs, cats, and rabbits in New York pet stores. Senator Gianaris’ legislation to better protect consumers, public health and animal welfare passed the State Senate in 2020 and 2021. It is currently awaiting a vote in the State Assembly.

The legislation comes with the support of the ASPCA, the Humane Society of New York State, New York State Animal Protection Federation, Voters for Animal Rights, and the New York City Bar Association Animal Welfare section.

“With so many good animals in need of rescue, there is no need for puppy mills that abuse animals to supply pet stores. Our four-legged companions should be treated with respect, not like commodities,” Gianaris said. “I thank the ASPCA for this award and their ongoing support in passing this important law.”

The term, puppy mills, is used for out-of-state and often inhumane commercial breeding facilities that supply New York pet stores with different breeds of pets. Offspring of mill animals often have congenital issues resulting from poor breeding and can cost families thousands of dollars in veterinary care.

Pet breeders and stores are loosely regulated under the Animal Welfare Act by the United States Department of Agriculture.

In Iowa, Daniel Gingerich was licensed by the USDA in 2019, however, the agency didn’t inspect the facility until 2021. Upon inspection, the agency found dead and dying dogs, dogs hidden from inspectors, ongoing disease outbreaks, heat distress, lack of water, and food –– totaling up to 190 violations.

Based on veterinarian inspection documents filed with New York State, dogs were sold to over 25 locations in New York, including to Astoria Pets in Astoria and to HeyPets Inc in Flushing. Different breeds of dogs were also sold to a number of locations in Brooklyn and the Bronx.

According to the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, the state agency tasked with regulating pet dealers, there are approximately 80 pet stores registered throughout the state.

Also receiving ‘Champion for Animals’ awards were Robyn Dobernecker, Joe Stafford, Tina Updegrove, and Megan Wiedmann with the Animal Rescue League of Iowa. The group was recognized for its role in the removal of 500 dogs living in horrific conditions in a USDA-breeding facility in Iowa.

ASPCA President and CEO Matt Bershadker praised the work being done by legislators and animal advocates on the frontline.

“This year’s ASPCA ‘Champion for Animals’ Award recipients share a deep commitment to helping and protecting victims of animal cruelty through on-the-ground rescue work and effective state legislation,” Bershadker said. “We honor their dedication and accomplishments, and hope these efforts inspire even more acts of compassion to support animals in need.”