New York bans cosmetic pet tattoos, piercings

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ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Body art is not for animals, at least not in New York.

It will soon be a crime to pierce or tattoo your companion animal anywhere in the state.

"It's simply cruel," said Assembly member Linda Rosenthal. The Manhattan Democrat sponsored the legislation. While people can choose the pain of tattoos or piercings to satisfy their own "aesthetic predilections," companion animals don't have that luxury, she said.

The law signed Monday by Gov. Andrew Cuomo takes effect in 120 days.

There's an exception for markings done under a veterinarian's supervision for a medical reason or identification.

Rosenthal said that's intended, for example, for pets like her cat, which was spayed by a vet and given a little green mark to indicate that.

When done specifically for identification, the law says tattoos should include only numbers and letters allotted for a tattoo identification registry.

The law also doesn't apply to ear tags on rabbits and guinea pigs.

Penalties for violations range up to 15 days in jail and fines up to $250, according to the governor's office.

"This is animal abuse, pure and simple," Cuomo said.

Similar legislation was introduced this summer in New Jersey.

Lauren Schuster, Rosenthal's chief of staff, said she believes Pennsylvania was first to enact this kind of legislation and the only other state so far. That followed the 2011 case of a woman who was piercing kittens and selling them on the Internet as "gothic." Rosenthal's bill was introduced soon after that, Schuster said.

She said support grew this year after Brooklyn tattoo artist posted a photograph of his tattooed dog online, saying he did it after the dog had surgery and was still under anesthesia.

Teresa Chagrin, animal care and control specialist for PETA, said tattooing and piercing animals causes them pain and violates existing laws against animal cruelty in all 50 states. She said she wasn't immediately aware of others that clarified their laws like New York did.

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