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Joe Putrock

Not in Their Backyard

When it comes to making laws, the fun part, it seems, is signing the legislation. The not-so-fun part—and perhaps the one where some politicians lose interest—is finding the money and the mechanism to put the law into practice. With that in mind, it’s no wonder that Gov. George Pataki is postponing his promise to put into law a bill that would regulate the pet-dealer industry in New York state.

The Pet Dealer Consumer Protection and Animal Care Standards Act was signed by the governor on Aug. 16, 2000. The bill, which was supposed to take effect this past Monday (April 1), would require that pet dealers and breeders meet minimum requirements in order to do business in New York. Among other things, it would require state licensing of pet dealers, dependent on inspection of the dealers’ facilities; dealers’ compliance with humane standards of animal care, including feeding, housing and veterinary care of animals; and routine inspections of dealing and breeding facilities. The intent of the so-called “pet dealer” law was to protect puppies and kittens from the deplorable conditions commonly found in backyard-breeding and puppy-mill facilities across the state, and to protect consumers from purchasing diseased pets that were raised in unhealthy, unsafe environments.

The consumer-protection portion of the law took effect in February 2001. But the portion of the law that applies to the thousands of cats and dogs put up for sale in New York each year has been put on hold for now—and, some fear, indefinitely.

Pataki has requested in his budget proposal that the state postpone enforcement of the animal-protection part of the pet-dealer bill. So far, the bill has been delayed until April 30, but according to Stacy Wolf, director of New York State Government Affairs for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, it may very well be delayed by at least a year. The law is in jeopardy unless funding is included in this year’s pending budget (which, by today’s count, is now four days late in passing).

“Postponing the law for yet another year could well mean it will be postponed indefinitely,” Wolf said. “Gov. Pataki and the Legislature should keep the promise they made to New Yorkers 20 months ago.”

According to the ASPCA, the funding necessary to put the bill into effect is “a nominal amount of the state budget.” The ASPCA predicts that it would take only between $200,000 and $800,000 to implement the second part of the pet-dealer bill.

—Erin Sullivan

Zoned In

It looks like Bill McLaughlin will be renovating his building at 57 Dove St. in Albany after all [Newsfront, Feb. 21]. Last month, the Albany Zoning Board of Appeals gave McLaughlin the green light to turn the top three floors of his building, which currently houses only a Laundromat on the ground floor, into three apartments. However, the decision does not sit well with the Center Square Association because it goes against the neighborhood’s current zoning laws, which call for one- and two-family row houses.

“I think it’s wrong,” charged Harold Rubin, chairman of the Center Square Association’s zoning committee. “We are very concerned that this will set a bad precedent that any application that doesn’t fit the criteria for a variance can be approved.”

Part of McLaughlin’s appeal to the board was that the project was not economically viable unless he could convert the building into three units. Otherwise, he said, he would keep the building’s top floors boarded up, as they are now.

But Rubin strongly disagreed. He said that the board did not check the figures that McLaughlin handed them to see if two apartments would be too costly to maintain.

“If an applicant tells them that the sky is falling, then they would accept that,” said Rubin. “If McLaughlin could have proved that the only way he could have made a go of it was with three apartments, then we could accept that. But he didn’t prove that, and the zoning board did not attempt to verify the figures he proposed.”

The association is also concerned that three apartments would add to an already-crowded neighborhood by bringing more renters to the area rather than new homeowners.

“The more you turn things into rental units, the less likely you are to have owner occupants and the less strong the neighborhood,” said Rubin.

For months McLaughlin, who lives on State Street and owns other rental property on Chestnut Street, had a petition hanging in the Dove Street Laundromat. The petition asked people to support his proposal.

“The people in the neighborhood voted 257 to 30, or so, in favor of it,” said McLaughlin. “The Center Square Association voted 16-7 against it. The problem is that the people in the association represent themselves and their own idea of what they want the neighborhood to be like, without considering what the people want.”

McLaughlin said that he is confident that the high-end renovations he plans for the building will greatly add to the neighborhood. He has hired a preservation architect to ensure that the building will meet the state preservation standards.

—N.G.


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