Technically, NY’s Public Health Law §1352-e prohibits Bodega cats

New York’s Bodega cats are world famous. They are community cats who live in and around the 10,000 small neighbourhood grocery and general stores in New York city (see more below). They add colour and emotional warmth to the stores and the city while doing a service: keeping down rodent population numbers.

Bodega cat and store owner
Bodega cat and store owner. Photo: Is this the petitioner, Mr Murray?
Until September 7th I will give 10 cents to an animal charity for every comment. It is a way to help animal welfare without much effort at no cost. Comments help this website too, which is about animal welfare.

I know cat haters say cats are no good at catching rats. There is some truth in this but they do prevent the presence of rats or reduce their presence. And Bodega cats will catch and eat mice.

So they do a job on a number of levels but technically they are illegal! That sounds extraordinary but it appears to be true.

The NY Rules

Here is the law (from NYC Rules – DOHMH – Department of Health and Mental Hygiene — Title 24: Department of Health and Mental Hygiene):

[The law is racist! It allows dogs but not cats]

“PHL §1352-e was enacted in 2015. It overrides New York City Health Code §81.25 and New York State Sanitary Code §14-1.183, which prohibit live animals, other than service animals or food fish in an establishment’s tank, from being in a food service establishment. PHL §1352-e gives owners of food service establishments the discretion to decide whether to allow companion dogs into their establishments, provided that the ‘owner ensures compliance with local ordinances related to sidewalks, public nuisance and sanitation; and … such other control measures approved by the enforcement agency are complied with.’ This new Chapter 32 constitutes the “control measures approved by the enforcement agency.”

Out of step

I say ‘technically’ because there seems to be a gentle approach to enforcement of this rule. The reason must be because it is somewhat out of step with the reality of what is happening on the ground. These cats are generally popular and useful. They do no harm. Has anyone ever suffered harm at the hands (paws) of a Bodega cat? I doubt it.

Petition to legalize

Bodega cats are a longstanding tradition. It does not matter that they are not as efficient in removing rodents as some people profess. Their popularity is indicated in the petition to legalise them. It has almost 6,000 signatures. The petition is directed at the Major and was started by Nicholas Murray. One of his arguments is that dogs can be allowed but not cats.

“Mr de Blasio, As a long time New Yorker I grew up seeing cats inside of bodegas. I would like to see it made legal to have cats in a bodega in New York city. Cats keep rodents out of food products and keep other pests at bay.”


When and if this rule is enforced and successfully prosecuted there is a fine of $200 to $350. Repeated convictions can lead to a fine of $2k.

P.S. Bodega is Latin American Spanish for “small neighborhood store”.

What are Bodega Cats?

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