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Animal Welfare Advocates: Government Shutdown Has Curbed Puppy Mill Inspections

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- The ongoing partial government shutdown has meant a halt in inspections for puppy mills and pet dealers, and animal welfare advocates warn this means animals could be put in danger.

Last week, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals warned that since the government shutdown began last Tuesday morning, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has not been able to perform all its duties – including the inspection of puppy mills and pet shops.

As a result, the ASPCA said, animals could be subjected to harm and abuse.

"With limited resources and less-than-vigorous enforcement under ordinary circumstances, we know that the shutdown is a terrible blow to dogs in puppy mills," Cori Menkin, senior director of the ASPCA Puppy Mills Campaign, said in a news release. "Think of the mills that were scheduled for a follow-up inspection today to make sure serious issues had been resolved."

Local SPCA branches are not empowered to step in and conduct inspections themselves, explained Suffolk County SPCA Chief Roy Gross.

"We're not authorized to inspect stores, like the pet stores and those types of facilities. That's the commissioner of agricultural markets in New York State that does that," Gross told WCBS 880. "We had offered to do that way back when and they said that they were going to do it themselves."

Gross said his Long Island jurisdiction has not received any calls of suspected abuse since the shutdown began, although such a phenomenon is possible.

"If some of these owners think that they're not going to be inspected; that they can get away with it and not provide proper sustenance as they normally would where they may have an unannounced inspection, then maybe some unscrupulous owner of one of these types of facilities may do that," he said. "I haven't had any calls like that recently since the shutdown, but we do get calls of suspected animal cruelty at a particular location."

He advised that anyone who suspects animal abuse call his or her local SPCA.

"In the event of a situation right now where they're not being inspected, if anyone suspects or sees – goes into a store, or any type of facility and would see an animal – whether it's abuse or neglect in any way in Suffolk County, they can call the Suffolk County SPCA," Gross said.

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