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New York lawmakers ban piercings, most tattoos on pets

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NEW YORK (CNN) — Put your dog in a bow tie: weird but cute. Dress your cat in a bear costume: odd, but let the kitty dream. Push your overweight dog in a stroller: ridiculous, but sweet. Give your dog a tattoo covering its entire stomach and pierce its ears with mini barbells: WAIT!

The New York Legislature believes some pet obsessions have gone too far.

A bill banning the piercing and tattooing of companion animals, the most common of which are cats and dogs, was unanimously passed in both chambers on Wednesday. The bill awaits signing by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

If Cuomo signs the bill, violators face possible fines or imprisonment.

The legislation was initially introduced in 2011 when a groomer, Holly Crawford, of Sweet Valley, Pennsylvania, began marketing “Gothic kittens” on eBay.

New York State Assemblywoman Linda B. Rosenthal, who represents Manhattan, introduced the legislation immediately after reading an article about the kittens, said Lauren Schuster, her chief of staff.

The kittens were pierced down their entire back, according to Schuster. That practice was brought to the attention of law enforcement by the animal rights group PETA

The groomer was prosecuted and convicted in Pennsylvania. Court documents showed she was sentenced to six months of electronic home monitoring and a period of probation. Crawford did not return a CNN call seeking comment.

Under the New York bill, tattooing is acceptable as a form of identification for animals or to indicate that a medical procedure has been done, but “not for design purposes.”

Animal advocates hope people will move to having pets “microchipped” instead.

Last year, a North Carolina man came under fire for putting tattoos on his two dogs. Ernesto Rodriguez, a tattoo artist, said he put the intricate tattoos on the bellies of his dogs so they could be easily identified if they were lost, CNN affiliate WGHP-TV reported.

New York’s bill gained momentum in early March, when a Brooklyn resident tattooed his pitbull while it was having surgery to have its spleen removed. This was the “catalyst for [the bill] to move again,” said Schuster.

Response from the public and animal rights groups was immediate, said Schuster. “I think people have a natural knee jerk for something like this,” she said.

People began to ask the question, “This really happens?” said Schuster.

Under the bill, piercing and tattooing of companion animals would only be allowed for medical or identification purposes and must be performed by a licensed veterinarian.

While tattooing in the past has been used as a form of identification, PETA says it prefers the microchip because it is the most effective.

“Under no circumstance should an animal be pierced,” said Daphna Nachminovitch, senior vice president of cruelty investigation for PETA.

Nachminovitch calls the bill a “wonderful thing” even though this “should be common sense,” she says. While many states have animal cruelty statues, this is the only ban she has heard of to legally ban the tattooing and piercing of companion animals.

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