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Astoria Pet Store Sees Future Up in Smoke After Hochul Bans Retail Sales of Dogs, Cats and Rabbits

Haidee Chu/THE CITY

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This article was originally published by The CITY on Dec. 15

Gov. Kathy Hochul on Thursday signed into law a bill that will ban the sale of dogs, cats and bunnies by retail operations starting next December.

Animal welfare advocates applauded the new law they say will eliminate the market for unscrupulous commercial breeders that have provided pet stores with living merchandise in bulk but don’t provide their animals adequate food or care.

But the mood was very different inside of Astoria Pets, where a small golden puppy lay asleep atop a bed of shredded paper inside a glass case facing Astoria’s bustling Steinway Street — its body curled and its head tucked into its tail.

George Flanagan, who has worked at Astoria Pets for 22 years and grew up on a farm, said they had been expecting the ban for a few months now, and have been devising a back-up plan in preparation.

“It’s heartbreaking, I put my life into this place,” the 47-year-old said in a soft and deflated voice as he stood next to twin golden retrievers eager to greet every passerby. “They’re all my little babies, they’re my little monsters.”

Astoria Pets displays puppies for sale, Dec. 15, 2022.Haidee Chu/THE CITY

Not all pet shops are untrustworthy operations sourced from “bad places,” Flanagan said, pointing to a teal-colored bible he keeps on the counter as a reminder to not be “dishonest.”

He noted that lawmakers have taken steps to protect pets over the years, without closing stores like his. The Animal Welfare Act, for example, requires that pet shops source from USDA-licensed breeders; another regulation requires microchipping pet shop animals.

“We followed the law, and there were places that didn’t want to follow the law — and they closed, because they were doing shady stuff,” Flanagan added. “We complied, and we still got cracked down.”

Giant Dogs and Tiny Windows

Advocates of the new law, however, said that it was long overdue.

“New York State will no longer allow brutally inhumane puppy mills around the country to supply our pet stores and earn a profit off animal cruelty and unsuspecting consumers,”  Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal, who sponsored the bill, said in a statement.

Under the new law, pet stores will be able to use their display space to showcase pets up for adoption, but Flanagan said he’s skeptical that pet shops and adoption services will follow through.

“Nobody’s gonna do that,” he said. “No one wants to see a gigantic dog in a little tiny window.”

Chirstina Dillemuth, who has worked at a dog daycare near Astoria Pets for seven years, holds a license from the city for animal care and handling and once resuscitated a cat with CPR, was in the store Thursday to help her sister scout out puppies for her son. She said she has her doubts about the new law.

“I think it’s not fair because all the animals — they need a home,” Dillemuth said. “It would be wrong just to abandon them or just put them in a pound. In some of these shelters, they do have a thing where they like to euthanize them and I am against abuse.”

In the meantime, as Astoria Pets face the possibility of closure, Flanagan meditated on what the pets he’s worked with for the past two decades have taught him about unconditional love — and on the future of the business. After all, its affiliate, Gabby Pets, had been one of the businesses approved for a marijuana dispensary license last month.

“We won’t be able to change people’s lives for the better anymore, in a positive way,” Flanagan said. “But we’re gonna make moves — until they outlaw that shit as well.”

THE CITY is an independent, nonprofit news outlet dedicated to hard-hitting reporting that serves the people of New York.

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8 Comments

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Deborah

Good. Now that the weather is getting colder less dog owners are cleaning up after their dog! Clean up your dogs poop. And a snowstorm is not an excuse to let your dogs run wild. I will be watching and calling 311 if I see that this year again. The dog waste is a health hazard and we have enough rats to worry about win the city. Start ticketing dog owners who are not following the law! Not all of them moved to Fl. Give them something to do.

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Glenn or Glenda

Ticketing dog owners for not picking up feces? Lady, the mayor and governor told police to stand down, while stores were looted, minorities murdered and police attacked during the BLM/Antifa riots! That was the reason nobody cares now, especially the police. If it was OK then, why not OK now? Anyway, y’all voted for this, so please stop complaining.

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Adopt don't shop

You adopt from a shelter-those dogs are inbreed and have health complications because of it

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are you only "good" b/c of your faith?

If a person needs a bible on hand to remind them not to be dishonest, does that mean when they don’t have it around they cheat and lie??

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Magilla Gorilla

I really dislike how the pet store on 46st by the arch packs those parakeets into the cages with insufficient room to move IMO. The cages are vertical too. Parakeets need horizontal space. A few toys in there would keep them amused as well. I mentioned this to the owner once years ago who promply ignored me. The interior of the shop is revolting too.

This law was, no doubt, passed with people like this in mind. I feel bad for the more ethical store owners.

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Woodside Zoo

I know exactly the pet store you are referring.Yes the place is a health hazard I wont not buy anything from this place it looks so gross.

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