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Puppy Mill Task Force Considers Recommendations

by Hugh McQuaid | Jan 24, 2014 6:59am
(4) Comments | Commenting has expired
Posted to: Environment

Hugh McQuaid Photo

Rep. Brenda Kupchick and Sen. Bob Duff

The legislature’s “puppy mill” task force may look to ban the sale of cats and dogs from commercial breeder,s but exempt Connecticut pet stores already selling them.

The panel plans to make policy recommendations to combat puppy mills — a term for commercial breeders where dogs are produced in high numbers and in inhumane conditions. Advocates contend that many of the animals sold in Connecticut pet shops were born at these commercial breeders.

One of several possible recommendations proposed during the group’s meeting Thursday would grandfather pre-existing pet shops but would prohibit new stores from selling commercially-bred cats and dogs. 

Hugh McQuaid Photo Animal advocates on the panel who would like to pass an outright ban see the exemption as a compromise that gives their recommendation a better shot at passing the legislature. Amy Harrell, president of the Connecticut Alliance for Humane Pet Shops, said the legislature favors the status quo.

“Pet shops should stop selling commercially bred dogs and cats and instead humanely source puppies and kittens from rescue groups and municipal shelters,” she said. “Alternatively, we recognize that members of the General Assembly may favor legislation that allows current pet shop owners to maintain status quo.”

Sen. Bob Duff, a Norwalk Democrat who co-chairs the panel, included a similar proposal in his recommendations. Duff’s recommendation differed from Harrell’s in that his proposal would not see pet shops losing their exemptions if they chose to relocate.

But a representative of a pet store trade association who also serves on the task force did not see the exemption idea as an acceptable compromise. Charles Sewell, executive vice president of Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council, called the “grandfathering” recommendation a “de facto ban” that only delayed the impact.

“Frankly, that would just be a slow death for pet stores over time,” he said. “You would be eliminating the ability for pet stores to operate.”

Hugh McQuaid Photo Sewell has been in a defensive position since the group started its work in September. The task force was formed as an alternative to legislation proposed last year by Rep. Brenda Kupchick, a Fairfield Republican who serves as the group’s co-chairwoman. Kupchick’s original bill would have banned the sale of commercially-bred dogs and cats and she’s maintained that position throughout the process.

Several of the group’s members have not been shy about stating they believe the welfare of animals is more important than the continued success of the state’s pet stores.

“The fact is, many of our members and a good portion of the public have utter disdain for pet shops. I’m sorry to say that but it’s true. No one approves of their practices,” Harrell said during Thursday’s meeting.

But Sewell wasn’t alone in opposing drastic changes to how pets in Connecticut are sourced. Arnold Goldman, a veterinarian with the Connecticut Veterinary Medical Association, said that if everyone truly hated pet stores, they wouldn’t still be in business.

“To me it seems a little odd that we’re advocating for the destruction of an industry instead of its improvement. I would advocate that we work hard to help them improve — encourage them without destroying an entire industry,” Goldman said.

Kupchick disagreed with his characterization of the proposal to ban commercially-sourced animals.

“I don’t view treating animals in a humane way as a destruction of an industry,” she said. “. . . The concern is how animals are treated. As one vet said to us during our task force meeting, ‘Puppies shouldn’t be as easy to get as Clark Bars.’”

The task force is scheduled to hold its last meeting next Friday when members are expected to vote on recommendations that will be considered by the legislature’s Environment Committee.

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(4) Comments

posted by: Noteworthy | January 24, 2014  11:01am

These legislative task forces are a joke, and nothing more than a fig leaf that offers a patina of legitimate thought process to the thoughtless people who sit on it and ultimately, will vote in a new law.

Once again, in a state that is reeling from aggressive and regressive taxation, an economic slump and a generation of ZERO job growth, these people are considering legislation that will shutter businesses, put people out of work and create investment losses for the owners of these stores.

If the public hates these stores so much, they wouldn’t be in business.

Moreover, any politician who says they are for jobs and job creation like they all do every election cycle - should not vote for this legislation or any derivation of it - unless they are embracing the Scarlett Letter “H” for Ho.

posted by: robn | January 24, 2014  2:06pm

The long and short of it is that over-the-counter sales of dogs and cats is cruel.

It can be either directly cruel (sourced from cruel commercial breeders),  indirectly cruel (selling to casual buyers who aren’t ready for the commitment), or inadvertently cruel (denying rescued animals a home (rescued animals of almost all breeds which are usually a mouse-click away).

Purchasing a pet shouldn’t be an impulse buy and our society should compel fellow citizens to stop and think about it for a moment.

posted by: NoNonsense2014 | January 24, 2014  3:10pm

I just don’t buy the “ban will put shops out of business” argument. Petco, Petsmart, Agway and others sell pet supplies, but not dogs and cats, and they’re doing fine, aren’t they?

And I agree with robn, a puppy shouldn’t be an impulse buy. People walk into a pet store and pick a puppy because it’s cute. And the store will sell it to them. If they were to go directly to a reputable breeder, the breeder would ask them sufficient questions to determine whether that particular breed is suitable for their lifestyle, if they know anything about that breed’s temperament, etc., so that they know what they’re getting into.

“Grandfathering” existing stores will make the law basically pointless.

posted by: Matt from CT | January 24, 2014  6:50pm

>our society should compel

Those are always dangerous words.

A pet store is a terrible place to buy companion animals—they and the breeders that supply them are incapable of properly socializing animals while still supplying and distributing them in an industrial fashion needed to turn a profit.

But the solution isn’t a mindless ban, either.

Require they conform to high standards including breeding selections, conditions, and proper socialization at both the breeders and store.

Enforce this through a third party certification scheme.

Apply it to all “commercial” breeders…is that $5,000 a year? $10,000?  Something like that.  Yes, that may mean a few show breeders are forced to follow the same rules, too.  And “rescues” too (many of which over the last 15 years have moved from being altruistic organizations to being thinly veiled businesses).

We already do this with organic produce—government regulations, third party certification, self-certification for small operations (under $5K in sales).

If the breeders and stores can meet the standards, problem solved.  If they can’t, that is there problem.

But we’re not “compelling” them not to sell puppies; only to follow well accepted practices when dealing with large volumes of animals.