NEW YORK (Legal Newsline) -- New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced Wednesday the formation of a new Animal Protection Initiative meant to enforce consumer protection laws, stop animal fighting and put an end to animal cruelty.

The initiative will ensure compliance with New York state's Pet Lemon Law, stop the abuses of puppy mills to protect the welfare of animals being sold to consumers, and charge people who abuse or neglect animals.

The initiative will use criminal and civil remedies to stop the unscrupulous sales of pets and other animals and all other allegations of animal cruelty.

"Fighting animal cruelty is both a consumer protection issue and a public safety issue," Schneiderman said in a statement. "There is a direct correlation between the dog fighting rings and other criminal enterprises, including gangs, gambling and illegal drugs, that put our communities at risk.

"At the same time, New Yorkers spend millions of dollars each year on the companionship a pet can provide. I am committed to enforcing our state's consumer protection laws and protecting the right of every New Yorker to live in a safe community."

Schneiderman's office conducted several successful efforts related to curbing animal abuse in recent months, including a settlement Wednesday with the owner of a Yonkers pet store.

Louis Gaudio, the owner of Exotic Pet Warehouse Inc., allegedly kept animals in unsafe and inhumane conditions, engaged in various deceptive and illegal business practices and sold sick puppies.

Under the terms of the agreement, Gaudio must properly vaccinate animals, closely monitor animal health, maintain clean and safe animal housing, comply with laws to protect animals, pay restitution to consumers who bought sick animals, and pay $20,000 in penalties and costs.

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