Pet Piercing and Tattooing Banned in New York

A 2011 story about a woman selling kittens with body piercings (referred to in the ad as “gothic kittens”), got animal advocate Linda Rosenthal all stirred up. So stirred up, in fact that this New York Assemblywoman authored and introduced a bill outlawing the tattooing or piercing of pets.

Interest in Ms. Rosenthal’s bill accelerated earlier in 2014 in response to an Instagram posting. The photo, by Brooklyn tattoo artist Mistah Metro, featured his own dog bearing a large, fresh, over-the-shoulder tattoo. The Instagram caption stated, “One of the many reasons my dog is cooler than yours! She had her spleen removed today and the vet let me tattoo her while she was under.”

Thanks to Linda Rosenthal’s efforts (and Mr. Metro’s desire to strut his stuff), this story has a happy ending. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has just signed legislation that bans tattooing or piercing of pets in his state. Cuomo stated, “This is animal abuse, pure and simple. I’m proud to sign this common-sense legislation and outlaw these cruel and unacceptable practices once and for all in New York.”

Animal advocacy track record

Linda Rosenthal’s anti-tattoo/anti-piercing legislation is not her first foray into the animal advocacy arena. This seasoned legislator has been called a “one-woman animal rights league”. She’s authored multiple animal protection bills that:

  • Provide cities the authority to enact laws against puppy mills.
  • Provide for the humane removal of downed animals.
  • Relate to the sale of birds by pet dealers when such birds have not yet been fully weaned.
  • Allocate funding for the New York City animal population control fund.
  • Relate to acts of animal cruelty in the presence of a child.
  • Recodify animal cruelty laws from the agriculture and markets law to the penal law.
  • Create a task force to study how to improve investigations of animal abuse and enforcement of anti-animal abuse laws.
  • Include wildlife animals as those subject to the animal cruelty laws.

And, the list goes on and on! If I didn’t love where I live so much, I might just move to New York, thanks to Linda Rosenthal!

This veterinarian’s perspective

I was delighted to learn that tattooing and piercing of pets in New York have been banned. I have zero tolerance for performing procedures on pets that serve no purpose other than “cosmetic enhancement.” The animal derives no benefit from the forced change in appearance, but is certainly subject to complications such as pain, infection, and scarring that can be associated with such procedures.

By the way, tattooing animals is medically warranted in some cases for tracking ownership or making neutering status known. Such tattoos are exempt from New York’s recently signed legislation. To my knowledge, purposeful piercing is never medically warranted in the world of small animal medicine.

In summary, I say, way to go New York! Let’s hope your new legislation will be contagious around the country.

What’s your opinion on animal tattoos and piercings?

Best wishes,

Nancy Kay, DVM

Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Author of Your Dog’s Best Health: A Dozen Reasonable Things to Expect From Your Vet
Recipient, Leo K. Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Recipient, AKC Club Publication Excellence Award
Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook

Please visit to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health.   There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health are available at,, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.




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12 Comments on “Pet Piercing and Tattooing Banned in New York

  1. I agree that tattoos for cosmetic purposes should be illegal but for identification purposes or neutering they are warranted.

    They should stop the ear cropping ( which now only serves for looks) Many years ago it ensured the safety of a lot of dogs.( like Mastiffs ) from falling victim to wild boar & wolves. Now its just for that guard y look.

    Tail docking i don’t feel is that bad if it is done very early ( like when first born) at that time the neurological response to pain is minimal.

    Some breeds like Cane Corsos would beat their owners up, if allowed to keep their big thick tails ( for they never stop wagging them)

  2. Thank God for Linda Rosenthal’s anti-tattoo/anti-piercing NYC legislation. Hopefully, all the states of the American Union copy her legislation.

    Everyone should stop being cruel to animals. Enough is enough. For centuries animals have endured torture to them by humans. As a result, today millions of humans are against animal cruelty.

    Dr. Nancy good post!

  3. I am not in favor of piercing and tattooing animals for appearance sake. However, tattooing has long been done for identification purposes or racehorses, and of dogs undergoing Schutzhund trials. Without these tattoos, the animals cannot compete.

  4. It hurts my soul to see this dog. More than anything, I am shocked that the vet let him do it. Let’s see… take a dog who has undergone the trauma of organ removal and pile on with a painful shoulder tattoo. Really? A vet thought that was a good idea??? The vet’s license should be revoked.

    I’m only surprised that this doesn’t happen more.

    I was glad to see a sensible ID tattoo exemption is included.

    Some modifications are understandable… I’m not a fan of tail docking but I can see why gun dog owners started doing it to dogs who work in heavy cover. Some dogs have dew claws that are unmanageable… double rear dew claws, for instance… unclipped dew claws grow into the leg tissue so I can see why people do that. But ear cropping so a dog looks fierce or so a fighting dog can’t get a hold? Tattoos? Piercings?? Just. No.

  5. First…In 1981 I assisted my friend in carrying her two-day old cocker spaniel puppies (8 of them) to her veterinarian for tail docking. I can still hear those tiny, helpless babies SCREAMING as the vet cut off their tails with a pair of scissors and no anesthesia, of course.

    Second…regarding tattooing and piercing…ARE YOU KIDDING ME?
    Does Mistah Metro now keep the dog’s shoulder shaved so the tattoo is visible. Does he have to wear a little coat in winter to keep his little shaved shoulder warm, thus covering the tattoo anyway?

    and Last…what was wrong with the vet that said yes to the tattoo artist using his dog as a walking mini billboard?

    Please spay and neuter your pets.

  6. “What’s your opinion on animal tattoos and piercings?”

    One word: Horrifying

  7. Whenever I think “now I’ve heard everything”, I am rudely shocked by the fact that I have not. What kind of abysmal depths will homo sapiens go to feed their own narcissism, their own skewed image of themselves, their sick desire to make their pets look “different” completely disregarding the animal’s well-being (physical and emotional)?

    Ear cropping, tail docking is banned in Europe where it is considered mutilation and no veterinarian will perform them for cosmetic purposes. By the way, also in Europe cropped and docked dogs are disqualified from showing.

    I intensely dislike groomers who paint dog’s nails, dye their coats and do stupid styles (make a Chow look like a lion, a Poodle like a clown, etc).

    Homo sapiens? Give me a break!

  8. Thank you so much for writing this post. I live in NYC and I had no idea that this happened here. And special thanks to Linda Rosenthal who took on this challenge and brought about the change. NYC still has many things that could be changed to further protect animals, however, there is progress being made here and every positive step helps the animals.

  9. Any procedure that involves the mutilation of living tissue for cosmetic or aesthetic purposes should be banned. You and I can decide whether we want to pierce our bodies and ink them with the image of our mother but dogs have no say in the matter. To subject them to any of this nonsense undermines the trust they have placed in us to keep them safe and free of unnecessary pain and discomfort.

  10. Hi Larry. You are correct, I am opposed to tail docking and ear cropping for purely cosmetic purposes.

  11. Was wondering when you said, “I have zero tolerance for performing procedures on pets that serve no purpose other than “cosmetic enhancement.” The animal derives no benefit from the forced change in appearance, but is certainly subject to complications such as pain, infection, and scarring that can be associated with such procedures.”

    Would the above include dog tail docking and ear cropping?

  12. Tattoos on dogs’ shoulders and kittens with pierced ears does turn my stomach. And while I am thankful this isn’t a practice that has been allowed to become widespread, at least in NY state, I can’t help but think of how many years races horses, and a multitude of other animals have been tatooed for our benefit. Nearly every cow and pig in America has its ears pierced as well.

    What about the widespread practices that are also unnecessary such as declawing, docking tails and cropping ears? Why aren’t those painful and disfiguring practices “stirring up” congresswomen across the country?

    I feel like our priorities, when it comes to companion animals, are completely skewed.