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Getting Your Pet A Tattoo Will Be Illegal Soon

At least in New York state, where body mods have been declared acts of animal cruelty.

If you were thinking of inking your pooch, it's time to reevaluate. Tattooing and piercing pets are soon to be banned in New York state.

On Monday (Dec. 15), Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation into law that declares body modifications acts of animal cruelty. The new law, which carries a sentence of up to 15 days in prison and fines of $250 if violated, will go into effect in the next six months.

"This is animal abuse, pure and simple," Cuomo said in a statement. "I'm proud to sign this common-sense legislation and end these cruel and unacceptable practices in New York once and for all."

Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, a Democrat from Manhattan, introduced the bill back in 2011 after learning about a northeastern Pennsylvania women who was selling "gothic kittens" on eBay. Holly Crawford, a groomer, had pierced kittens with a 14-gauge needle in the ears, neck and down their spines. She was eventually discovered by a PETA agent and sentenced to six months of house arrest and the closure of her animal grooming business.

"Though it may seem inconceivable that anyone would tattoo or pierce their dog or cat, a quick Internet search reveals that it is a growing trend among some misguided individuals," Rosenthal said.

After gathering dust for several years, the bill gained steam again when Brooklyn tattoo artist Mistah Metro posted a photo of his tattooed pit bull on Instagram in March of this year. "One of the many reasons my dog is cooler than yours!" he wrote, explaining that a vet allowed him to ink the dog after being put under anesthesia for a spleen surgery.

Ear tags on rabbits and ID tattoos will be excluded from the law, as well as any cases where piercing provides a medical benefit to the animal and is performed under the supervision of a veterinarian. Oftentimes pets are tattooed by a vet to signify that an animal has been spayed or neutered. Female dogs are marked with a small green slash on the belly so that an unnecessary second procedure isn't performed at a later time in the animal's life.

The ASPCA condoned ID tattoos in a statement to Gothamist earlier this year, writing:

The ASPCA condones the use of tattooing for only identification purposes following spay or neuter surgery. This practice helps animal welfare professionals clearly identify animals that have been altered, thereby preventing unnecessary future surgeries. This painless procedure is performed by a licensed veterinarian or veterinary technician while the animal is under anesthesia. The marks are very small and have a specific purpose, which is to avoid inflicting undue pain and stress later if that animal is unknowingly brought in for a spay surgery a second time.

Tattooing an animal for the vain sake of joy and entertainment of the owner - without any regard for the well-being of the animal - is not at all comparable to the incident in question and is not something the ASPCA supports.

Similar legislation was just passed in the New Jersey assembly today, seeking to ammend the state's animal cruelty statute to include piercing and tattoos. Assemblymen Carmelo Garcia, Jason O’Donnell and Raj Mukherji introduced the bill that would make violations a fourth degree crime punishable by up to 18 months in jail. And if an animal died as a result of the modifications, it would bump the offense up to a third degree crime and a 3-5 year prison sentence.

"It's important to protect animals from those who see them not as living beings, but as a doll or a toy which they can play with, harm or discard," Garcia, the lead sponsor, said. "This bill makes it clear that piercing or tattooing any creature amounts to needless mutilation. And anyone who knowingly or purposely subjects an animal to these and other forms of cruelty will be penalized."