Amherst Board Votes on Puppy Mills Proposition

February 7, 2011 Updated Feb 8, 2011 at 12:31 AM EDT

By WKBW News

February 7, 2011 Updated Feb 8, 2011 at 12:31 AM EDT

AMHERST (WKBW) One highly divisive issue that has gotten a lot of local attention recently are "puppy mills," mass-producing breeders selling sometimes sick and abused animals to local pet stores. In Amherst, the issue made it all the way to the town board.

Monday night, it was a heated debate between divided sides at the Amherst Town Board Meeting.

The proposition that came before the board was to ban the sale of puppies in retail stores in Amherst. This was led by the group Western New York Citizens Against Puppy Mills. On the other side, the only retailer that sells puppies in the town, Steve's Wonderful World of Pets. Ultimately it became a legal issue, where New York State law trumps any local municipality. Because of this, the board voted 5 to 1 against the proposition.

The owner of Steve's Wonderful World of Pets has been under fire since the issue came out. He said after the vote that he was relieved to get back to his business. He said he was surprised the proposition made it all the way to a board vote. "I am State regulated and State inspected. I am licensed to sell puppies in the State of New York. And there are federal laws regarding this. This is not a local issue."

Joan Aeschbach is a member of Western New York Citizens Against Puppy Mills. She was far less thrilled at the outcome. "The board has already stated that they think that this needs to be moved to a higher level, to Albany. And that basically threw out the whole plan," she said.

Both sides did agree that there could be compromise, including putting locally rescued dogs in retail stores, and doing everything possible to stay away from bad breeders.

Moving forward, if anti-puppy mill groups still want change, it would have to be enacted at a state level. And the owner of Steve's Pets agreed that tougher state regulation of breeders makes for better dogs, and everyone benefits.