Malliotakis Introduces Legislation to Outlaw Cosmetic Surgery and Alterations on Pets

Bill would save animals from tattoos, piercings, and other non-medical procedures

A dog after being subjected to numerous facial piercings.

Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis (R,C-Brooklyn, Staten Island) has introduced legislation that would establish a misdemeanor for subjecting a dog, cat, or other companion animal to piercings, tattoos, and certain cosmetic surgery. Cosmetic procedures on companion animals have become increasingly common as people seek to alter the physical appearance of their household pets. Pet owners are resorting to cosmetic procedures, from piercings and tattoos to surgical procedures like devocalization, rhytidectomy ("facelifts"), and abdominoplasty ("tummy-tucks") to achieve the desired result. Assemblywoman Malliotakis was driven to address this problem after viewing Pet Crazy, a documentary about such behavior on 20/20.

"I was sickened after seeing the images of dogs with tattoos and piercings through their eyebrows and noses. While the psychological effects on these animals is an area of debate, the fact remains that most of these procedures require an application of general anesthesia which poses a health risk in itself," said Malliotakis. "The animal must then go through the pain of recovery and possible infection, or post-surgery complications. These non-medical cosmetic procedures are not just odd and unnecessary, they amount to animal cruelty."

This legislation also will cover the sale of companion animals who have been subjected to certain cosmetic procedures. This would remove the impetus for retailers to physically modify an animal in the hopes of increasing its value to prospective buyers.

The bill has garnered support from local animal rights advocates, including Anarchy Animal Rescue of Staten Island and No More Tears Rescue.

"Has our society become so vain that we would submit our beloved companions to unnecessary and possible life-threatening procedures? These are loved ones, not accessories," said Dr. Michelle Werner, a veterinarian at Animal Kind Veterinary Hospital.

"I myself think that owning a pet is a privilege, not a right. My blood boils every time I hear about an animal being abused. Every day an animal suffers at the hands of some lunatic," said Catherine Gaffney, a former dog groomer at All Pets Animal Hospital. "If you think that cosmetic surgery is not abuse, think again. If you don't like the way a cat or dog looks then maybe an aquarium would be a better choice."

Conviction would result in a misdemeanor, punishable by no more than one year imprisonment, a fine of no more than $1,000, or both. This penalty would be not unlike similar animal rights violations.

The bill will be carried by Senator Marty Golden (R,C,I - Brooklyn) in the state Senate. The legislators will be garnering support for the bill at the 2nd Annual Animal Advocacy on June 13 in Albany.

A dog subjected to extensive tattooing.