COMPANION ANIMAL LAWS
Copyright 2005 by Elinor Molbegott
Law Office of Elinor Molbegott
419 Latham Lane
East Williston, New York 11596
This presentation will cover New York’s companion animal laws,
in particular, laws pertaining to overpopulation, animal shelters, pet
stores and breeders, and dangerous dogs. Laws regarding
mistreatment of companion animals will be discussed in another part of
II. ANIMAL POPULATION CONTROL
1. The fund was established under section 97-xx of the State
1. Section 117-a of the Agriculture and Markets Law provides
that the Department of Agriculture and Markets shall establish and
implement an animal population control program. It is funded by a
$3.00 surcharge on the dog license fee for unneutered dogs [Agriculture
and Markets Law, sec. 110(4)(c)], and revenue from animal friendly
license plates (Vehicle and Traffic Law, sec. 404-p). The fund may also
accept donations from public and private sources. The $3.00 surcharge
and the program are statewide, including New York City.
2. Eligibility in the program is restricted to New York State
residents who submit proof to a veterinarian participating in the
program in the form of an adoption agreement that their dog or cat was
adopted from a pound, shelter, society for the prevention of cruelty to
animals, humane society or dog or cat protective association.
Additional restrictions apply.
3. Persons utilizing the program
pay $30 to the participating
veterinarian for spaying and neutering. Additional compensation to
the veterinarian is distributed from the fund.
III. SPAYING AND NEUTERING OF DOGS AND CATS (Section
377-a, Agriculture and Markets Law)
1. Provides that animal shelters, pounds, dog control officers,
humane societies, dog or cat protective associations or duly
incorporated societies for the prevention of cruelty to animals shall
not release a dog or cat for adoption unless the dog or cat has been
spayed or neutered, or the adopter leaves a deposit in an amount of at
least $35 and executes a written agreement to have the dog or cat spayed
within 30 days from adoption or 30 days of the dog or cat reaching 6
months of age, or the adopter paid an adoption fee which includes the
cost o the spay/neuter procedure and executes a written agreement to
have the dog or cat spayed or neutered within 30 from adoption date or
30 days of the dog or cat reaching 6 months of age.
2. Deposits collected that are not claimed within 90 days or
days after the animal has reached 6 months of age, shall be deposited in
the animal population control fund.
* There are also local laws that address dog and cat overpopulation.
For example, below is a summary of a New York City law.
NEW YORK CITY ANIMAL SHELTERS AND STERILIZATION
(NYC Administrative Code, sec. 17-801 through 810)
1. Requires animal shelters to have dogs and cats, eight weeks
of age or older, spayed or neutered prior to adoption or return to
owners. There are exceptions for medical reasons and for certain show
dogs and cats.
2. Requires reporting to the Health Department of the number of
animals sterilized at full-service animal shelters, number of animals
returned to their owners, number of animals accepted, adopted, provided
to other shelters, euthanized (must specify numbers of adoptable animals
euthanized as well as the total number of animals
3. Requires a full-service shelter in every borough. A
full-service shelter must accept dogs and cats 24 hours a day, 7 days a
week, have an adoption program open 7 days a week. (In actuality,
however, there are not full service shelters in each borough.)
4. Law as enacted also required pet shops to have dogs and cats
sterilized prior to release to a consumer. However, this language
seems to have been rendered moot due to the passage of Article 26-A of
the Agriculture and Markets Law which specifically states that it shall
supersede any local law, rule, regulation, or ordinance regulating or
licensing pet dealers.
5. Provides for establishment of rules by the Commissioner of
Health as he/she deems necessary.
6. Provides for civil penalties.
IV. SALE OF DOGS AND CATS
A. General Business Law, Article 35-D
1. It is applicable to those who, in the ordinary course of
business, sell more than nine dogs and/or cats per year for profit to
the public. The law does not apply to animal shelters, even if a
fee is charged for adoption. Breeders who sell directly to consumers
fewer than 25 dogs or cats per year that are born and raised on the
breeders’ residential premises are not considered a pet dealer as
a result of the sale of such animals and most of article 35-D is not
applicable to these breeders.
2. Consumers have three specific remedies under the law if
fourteen business days following purchase a veterinarian certifies that
the animal was unfit for purchase due to illness, a congenital
malformation which adversely affects the health of the animal, or the
presence of symptoms of a contagious or infectious disease. These
remedies include the return of the animal and a refund of the purchase
price and reasonable veterinary costs related to the
veterinarian’s certification that the animal was unfit for
purchase, the right to return the animal and receive an exchange animal
of equivalent value and reasonable veterinary costs related to the
veterinarian’s certification that the animal was unfit for
purchase, and the right to keep the animal and receive reimbursement for
veterinary services for the purpose of curing or attempting to cure the
animal. The reimbursement shall not exceed the purchase price of
the animal. Consumers are not limited by the remedies specified in this
3. Requires pet dealers to have a licensed veterinarian conduct
examinations and tests appropriate to breed and age to determine if the
animal has any medical conditions that would adversely affect the
animal’s health. For animals eighteen months or older, the
examination must include a diagnosis of any congenital conditions that
adversely affect the health of the animal.
4. At the time of sale, pet dealers must provide the purchaser with
information on the animal’s source, and, if known, the
breeder’s name and address, and a detailed health record for the
5. Pet dealers may not knowingly sell dogs and cats that
have diagnosed congenital conditions that adversely affect
the health of the animals without informing the consumer, in
6. Law also contains provisions regarding animal pedigree
7. At the time of sale, each pet dealer must provide the
purchaser with information on the value of spaying and neutering.
8. This law specifically states that it shall supersede any
local law, rule, regulation or ordinance regulating or licensing pet
9. Requires pet dealers who directly sell dogs or cats to
consumers to post a visible notice setting forth the rights provided
under this article.
V. CARE OF ANIMALS BY PET DEALERS
A. Agriculture and Markets Law, Article 26-A
1. This law specifically states that it shall supersede any
local law, rule, regulation, or ordinance regulating or licensing pet
2. Provides for minimum standards of animal care in areas such
as housing, feeding, and veterinary care.
3. Requires records of purchase and sale be kept by pet
4. Requires pet dealers to be licensed.
5. Provides that money generated from this law either be placed
in the pet dealer licensing fund established pursuant to section 99-7-rr
of the state finance law, or be used by municipalities to enforce this
article and article 35-D of the General Business Law.
6. Requires pet dealers to include license number in
advertisements for sale of dogs and cats.
7. Provides that yearly inspections of pet dealers’
facilities be made by commissioner or his or her agents or by
municipalities designated by commissioner.
8. Specifically states that Article 26 of the Agriculture and
Markets Law and other laws relating to the humane treatment of animals
are still applicable to pet dealers.
9. States that violation of this article subject pet dealers to
denial, revocation, suspension or refusal of license renewal and civil
VI. DANGEROUS DOGS
A. Agriculture and Markets Law, Article 7.
1. Dangerous dog is defined in section 108 (24) and includes any
dog which without justification attacks a person, companion animal, farm
animal, or domestic animal and causes physical injury or death, or a dog
which behaves in a manner which a reasonable person would believe poses
a serious and unjustified imminent threat of serious physical injury or
death to a person, companion animal, farm animal or a domestic animal,
or a dog which without justification attacks a service dog, guide dog or
hearing dog and causes physical injury or death. Dangerous dog
provisions are found at section 121 and 121-A of the Agriculture and
Markets Law. “Serious physical injury” is defined in section
108 (29) to include injury which creates a substantial risk of death, or
which causes death or serious or protracted disfigurement, impairment of
health or loss or impairment of the function of any bodily organ.
2. Dangerous dog provisions (sec. 121) are applicable to the
entire state, including New York City. [sec. 107 (5)]
3. Section 107 (5) also states that municipalities may adopt
their own programs for the control of dangerous dogs but such programs
shall not be less stringent that this article and shall not regulate
dogs in a manner that is specific as to breed. Thus, laws
prohibiting certain breeds, such as pit bulls, are not allowed.
4. Dangerous dog law at section 121 gives authority to people
who witnessed an attack or threatened attack upon a person, companion
animal, farm animal or a domestic animal to make a complaint. Dog
control officers and police may also file such a complaint. Provides
that judge or justice may order seizure of dog prior to hearing if there
is probable cause to believe the dog is dangerous. Regardless of whether
dog was seized, provides for dangerous dog hearing within five days of
filing of complaint upon written notice of not less than two days to the
owner of the dog.
5. Petitioner shall have the burden of proving a dog is
dangerous by clear and convincing evidence.
6. If a dog is determined to be dangerous, the judge or justice
shall then order neutering or spaying of the dog and microchipping of
the dog. In addition, the judge or justice may order one or more of the
following: evaluation by a behaviorist, secure confinement, restraint of
dog on a leash by an adult when the dog is on public premises, muzzling
when the dog is on public premises, and maintenance of a liability
insurance policy. The judge or justice may order euthanasia or permanent
confinement of the dog if one of the following aggravating circumstance
is established: the dog, without justification, attacked a person
causing serious physical injury or death, or the dog has a known vicious
propensity as evidenced by a previous unjustified attack on a person,
which caused serious physical injury or death, or the dog, without
justification, caused serious physical injury or death to a companion,
farm, or domestic animal and has in the past two years caused
unjustified physical injury or death to a companion or farm animal as
evidence by a dangerous dog finding.
7. Provides that a dog shall not be declared dangerous if
conduct was justified as specified in the law.
8. Provides for appeal process.
9. Provides for civil penalties for owners who negligently
permit dogs to cause physical injury to another person or service, guide
or hearing dog.
10. Provides that owner of a dog previously declared
shall be guilty of a misdemeanor if the dog causes serious physical
injury or death to a person.
11. Provides that owner of a dangerous dog shall be strictly
liable for medical costs resulting from injuries caused by such dog
to a person, companion animal, farm animal, or domestic animal
except where actions of dog were justified as specified in the law.
12. Section 121-a exempts from liability persons who destroy
a dog that they witness attacking a person, companion, farm
or domestic animal, without justification, or behaving in a
manner which poses a serious and unjustified imminent
*Important to note is that there are also local laws regulating
dangerous dogs. For example, below is a summary of New York City’s
dangerous dog law.
B. New York City Administrative Code (Section 17-342 et
1. Contains a broad definition of dangerous dog to include dogs,
when unprovoked, who menace persons in a dangerous or terrorizing manner
or in an apparent attitude of attack and dogs with a known propensity to
attack when unprovoked and dogs which bite or inflict injury or attack a
human being or domestic animal and dogs owned or trained for dog
2. Provides for a hearing to determine if a dog is dangerous
grants the commissioner of health the power to order the owner of
a dog declared dangerous to comply with certain requirements, including
registering the dog, muzzling, confinement, procuring liability
insurance, removal of the dog from the city, completion of
anti-bite and/or obedience training, humane destruction if the dog kills
or causes severe injury to a human being.
C. NEW YORK CITY HEALTH CODE
1. Provides that trained guard or attack dogs must be
registered with Health Department and owners must adhere to certain
requirements, including warning signs and use of special tags on dogs.
2. Provides that if Health Department finds dog to be
vicious or dangerous, it may order the animal to be surrendered for
humane destruction, order the animal to be permanently removed from the
City, require the animal to be muzzled in public places or areas
abutting a public place, and such other action as the Department deems
sufficient. (sec. 161.07)
VII. DOG LICENSE LAWS
A. New York State, with exception of New York City (Agriculture
and Markets Law, Article 7)
1. Sets dog license fees, including special purebred license
fees for multiple purebred dogs, requires establishment of
animal shelters for dogs, provides for seizure of
unidentified dogs, sets holding periods for dogs at shelters which vary
depending upon if animal is identified and further allows municipalities
to change holding period. Limits disposition of animals at shelters to
adoption, redemption or euthanasia.
B. New York City (Laws of 1894, Chapter 115, as amended).
This law is not in the consolidated laws but appears in the notes of
Article 7 of the Agriculture and Markets Law.
In addition to setting license and redemption fees, providing
for seizure of unlicensed dogs and unidentified cats, and
sheltering of dogs and cats, this law states that dogs and cats not
claimed and redeemed from shelters within 48 hours may be
destroyed. Further prohibits animal shelters from releasing
homeless animals to any person for research, experimentation, testing,
teaching or demonstration. Important to note is that section 17-810 of
the NYC Administrative Code provides that “In determining when a
full-service shelter may euthanize a lost, stray or homeless animal held
by it, such shelter shall exclude from the calculation of the number of
hours that such shelter is required by law to hold such animal before
euthanizing such animal those hours when such shelter is not required to
accept dogs and cats…”