New push to ban pet tattoos and piercings

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Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal wants to make it illegal for pet owners to tattoo their animals.

Rosenthal, an animal advocate, is sponsoring a bill in the Legislature to ban the tattooing and piercing of animals, following an online uproar over pictures of a tattooed pit bull.

A Brooklyn artist who goes by the name "Mistah Metro" posted photos after he tattooed his pit bull while the dog was undergoing spleen surgery. 

“One of the many reasons my dog is cooler than your[s]! She had her spleen removed today and the vet let me tattoo her while she was under," wrote Metro, under a photo of the dog, who'd been inked with a heart.

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The photo sparked online outrage, including from Rosenthal.

Lauren Schuster, a spokeswoman for Rosenthal, said that while law enforcement could argue that tattooing falls under animal cruelty statutes, it is not explicitly illegal under the state’s criminal codes.

“It seems crazy to us that it isn’t already illegal,” Schuster said.

In a release, Rosenthal noted that animals were unlikely to appreciate their own body art.

“If a person is weighing whether to get a tattoo, they will consider the amount of pain the procedure will cause both during and afterward against the benefits that they will receive from it," she said.

“As we all know, animals do not have the capacity to make these decisions, nor can they contextualize that the pain they feel might result in what some might consider beautiful body art; sadly, all they know is the pain.”

Rosenthal’s spokeswoman said the assemblywoman was shocked to find pictures of dogs and other pets who’ve been tattooed and pierced by their owners.

“Initially when we heard about this we were like, this has got to be a one-off thing,” said Schuster, who said a Google search had turned up dozens of results for pictures of dogs, especially pit bulls, who had been tattooed and were being sold online.

"There was a case of woman selling gothic kittens," Schuster said.

A version of the bill was first introduced in 2011, in response to the goth kittens, and it was reintroduced in 2013, and again in 2014.

Rosenthal’s bill would exempt commercial farm-animal branding and microchipping of pets. Schuster couldn't forecast the bill's chance of becoming law, saying it “hasn’t really gained any traction."