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After pictures emerged in 2011 of so-called “gothic kittens” with ear piercings being sold online, New York Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal decided to take action and draft a bill to outlaw both piercings and tattoos for pets in the state of New York. Her efforts proved successful, with the state officially introducing new legislation in 2014.

Tattoo History in NY

Tattoos may seem like something of a modern trend, and it’s true that they’ve never been more popular or widespread than they are today. However, looking back through history, we can see how tattoos and an interest in the art of tattooing have been a part of New York City culture for many years.

All the way back in 1870, for example, a man named Martin Hildebrandt opened the city’s first ever tattooing business. It is also believed that this was the very first tattoo shop in the whole of the United States, situated in what is now Chinatown. Hildebrandt’s daughter, Nora, had hundreds of tattoos and toured with the Barnum and Bailey circus.

A few years later, in 1875, Samuel O’Reilly set up a popular tattoo studio at Chatham Square, and just a year after that, Thomas Edison painted an electric pen that was used as the basis for modern tattooing machines. In the years after that, the likes of Bob Wicks and Millie Hull helped to popularize tattoos around the city. 

These days, 43.5 percent of New Yorkers aged 25 to 44 have a tattoo and there are hundreds of tattoo shops in the city. If you want to find out what tattoo styles are popular in NY nowadays you can check out some Brooklyn tattoo shops and consult with tattoo artists.

What Is Considered Animal Abuse in NY?

In the state of New York, any act or situation that involves a person causing unjustified harm or suffering to an animal can be classed as animal abuse or cruelty. This includes failing to provide a pet with proper food, shelter, and medical care, as well as physically inflicting pain onto an animal.

The Pierced “Gothic” Kittens

In 2011, a debate around the definition of animal abuse and cruelty arose after a story emerged about a woman selling what she called “gothic” kittens on eBay. 36-year-old Holly Crawford of Sweet Valley, Pennsylvania, had pierced the ears and necks of three kittens, as well as docking their tails, and tried to sell them for $100 online.

Crawford was sentenced to six months of home detention and electronic monitoring after she was caught. An investigator from PETA posed as a customer and entered Crawford’s home to learn more, seeing the kittens with their various piercings and mutilations. Crawford admitted that she had carried out the piercings herself with the aid of a 14-gauge needle and no anesthetic.

How Brooklyn Tattoo Artist Tattooed His Dog

The subject of tattoos on pets became a particularly hot topic in 2014, after an Instagram user and tattoo artist shared a photo of his own dog with a tattoo. The artist, known as “Mistah Metro” of the Red Legged Devil tattoo parlor in Prospect Heights, shared the dog with a caption “One of the many reasons my dog is cooler than yours.” 

The artist went on to explain that the dog had been undergoing a spleen removal procedure at the vet, and the artist had requested permission to tattoo his dog while she was asleep under anesthetic. The tattoo in question depicted a red heart with the names “Alex” and “Mel” written on it. 

The tattoo shop’s owner, Chris Torres, quickly shared a comment to say that the tattoo had not been carried out at Red Legged Devil. Meanwhile, leading animal authorities like the ASPCA and American Veterinary Medical Association shared statements on the matter, with the ASPCA saying that it did not support the idea of tattooing animals for vanity or entertainment.

Pet Piercing and Tattooing Are Banned in New York

Animal rights advocate and New York Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal decided to take action regarding piercings and tattoos on pets after first seeing the gothic kittens story. She drafted a bill in 2011, and the tattooed dog story in 2014 helped to accelerate its movement, leading to an official ban on pet piercings and tattoos across the state of New York.

The Bottom Line

Piercing or tattooing a dog or cat are now illegal, but there is a better way that pet owners can honor their furry friends is by getting actual tattoos of them on their own bodies.

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