The Town of Amherst would be one of the first communities in the state – if not the first – to adopt a local law cracking down on pet dealers and the retail sales of puppies.

In a move applauded by animal rights organizations, the Amherst Town Board on Monday directed the town’s attorney to draft local legislation creating more oversight of pet dealers, in an effort to end the “puppy mill”-to-pet store connection in Amherst.

Animal advocacy groups have been pushing for tougher regulations on pet dealers, whose dogs are supplied by inhumane breeders, referred to by critics as puppy mills.

Animal rights groups say some puppy mills abuse animals by raising them in cramped cages and outdoors. Besides the mistreatment, consumers who buy the pets often end up unknowingly taking home a sick dog that soon after needs expensive care or dies.

“We took a giant first step,” Amherst Council Member Mark A. Manna said Monday, “but the real fight is how strong a local law we can make.”

Both Manna and Supervisor Barry A. Weinstein introduced resolutions proposing more oversight of local pet dealers, but it’s unclear how stringent the town can make the law.

Weinstein acknowledged that the town doesn’t have the expertise to determine which dogs are coming from a healthy and safe environment, or what pet dealers should be banned from selling puppies.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo recently signed legislation allowing municipalities to enact their own rules when regulating pet dealers and puppy mills, but those rules cannot ban sales if the animals are properly treated and raised, according to the state law.

If localities do so, they will now have the legal responsibility – not the state – to regulate and inspect dealers.

Manna three years ago tried to introduce legislation banning the retail sales of puppies in Amherst, but that was not permissible because state pre-empted that, making it difficult for any measure to stand up in court.

However, the recent state legislation – which was sponsored by State Sen. Mark Grisanti, R-Buffalo, and signed by Cuomo last month – now makes it easier for localities to regulate puppy mills and pet dealers.

A number of animal rights advocates talked about the horrible mistreatment endured by some of these animals bred in puppy mills and spoke in favor of local legislation during Monday night’s Town Board meeting.

“Tonight we’re back,” said Jeanette Dickinson, from the New York State Citizens Against Puppy Mills. “You told us before to go to Albany, which seemed insurmountable, but we did.”

The Town Attorney’s Office was expected to work with advocacy groups on the new legislation, which would make Amherst a leader in the state, Dickinson said.

email: jrey@buffnews.com