Laws that protect humans should be enforced to protect animals as well, two Erie County lawmakers said today.
Instead of drafting a local law to crack down on poorly cared-for pet shop animals, they want the Public Health Law to protect the pets from abuse at the hands of pet shop and kennel operators.
Research found the county does not have the power to enact the strict law they had envisioned, according to Democrats Charles M. Swanick of Kenmore and Joseph R. Desmond of Eden.
"We as a county are precluded by state laws from directly regulating pet shops," Swanick said. "But we can get at many of the problems by approaching it from a human health angle."
Tips coming to the county Health Department regarding unsanitary conditions will trigger a visit from health inspectors, the legislators said.
The move to regulate local pet operations was triggered by the discovery of dead and mistreated animals at the former A to Z Pet Store on Hertel Avenue in Buffalo last summer.
Local SPCA officials were stymied in their efforts to rescue the dogs, cats and other pets from squalid, cramped conditions under the state agriculture and markets regulations.
"We now have a way to get in the door immediately," Swanick said. "That's what's been missing until now."
County health inspectors are now empowered to check complaints involving excessive excrement in pet cages, excessive waste odor, improper disposal of pet waste, rats, insect infestations and the improper disposal of medical waste and animal carcasses.
Under public health laws, pet shop operators face closure and fines if they are found in violation of the state health regulations.