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(Adds New York City comment, paragraph 9)
By Jonathan Stempel
NEW YORK, March 2 (Reuters) - A federal appeals court on Thursday rejected a bid to overturn a New York City law imposing tough restrictions on the sale of dogs and cats.
The 2015 law said pet shops could only obtain dogs and cats from federally licensed breeders with clean recent animal welfare records, and could not sell dogs and cats at least eight weeks old and weighing two pounds unless they were sterilized.
The New York Pet Welfare Association, a group representing pet shops, dog breeders and veterinarians, sued to block the law, fearing it could force many members out of business.
It said the law unconstitutionally burdened commerce by favoring in-state animal rescuers and shelters over out-of-state breeders, and was pre-empted by state veterinary medicine laws.
But the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed, saying the interstate market "will have every incentive to meet demand" from pet shops needing to import puppies, while the spay-and-neuter requirement did not conflict with state law.
New York City had argued that the law would help insure that consumers bought pets that were healthy and raised humanely. Its dog and cat population was estimated at 1.1 million in 2012.
"The sourcing and spay/neuter laws address problems of significant importance to the city and its residents," Judge Edward Korman wrote. "It appears that the city has enforced them for more than a year, with no apparent ill effects."
Jeffrey Pollock, a lawyer at Fox Rothschild representing the pet welfare group, said: "We respectfully disagree with the decision, and are discussing whether to appeal with our client."
Nick Paolucci, a spokesman for the city's law department, said in an email: "We are pleased that the court upheld this common sense legislation, which helps ensure that cats and dogs are humanely sourced and that consumers can make informed choices when bringing pets into their homes."
The decision on Thursday upheld an October 2015 ruling by U.S. District Judge John Gleeson in Brooklyn, who has since left the bench. Korman normally sits on the Brooklyn court.
The case is New York Pet Welfare Association Inc v City of New York et al, 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 15-4013. (Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and Andrew Hay)