Jessica Trufant; The Patriot Ledger; February 07, 2017
WEYMOUTH – A bill proposed by state Sen. Patrick O’Connor would ban pet stores in the state from selling dogs and cats from commercial breeders in an effort to curb the sale of animals bred in poor conditions.
O’Connor, a Weymouth Republican, submitted the bill, “An act banning the sale of cats and dogs in commercial pet shops,” for this legislative session after constituents reached out to him about a loophole in the state law regulating the breeding and sale of pets.
“There are eight or nine pet stores in the state that still sell cats and dogs that come from facilities that do not operate in the best interest of animals or the families that purchase them,” O’Connor said. “This bill will deal a blow to the puppy-mill industry.”
O’Connor and supporters of the bill say many puppies sold at pet stores come from so-called puppy mills, or commercial breeding facilities that mass-produce dogs for resale. Puppies at such facilities may be raised in unsanitary, cramped conditions and separated at a very young age from their mothers.
Since puppies often end up in pet stores through third party dealers, the state has no record of where the puppies were bred. O’Connor said many of these puppies come from states like Kentucky and Tennessee, where the regulations are lax.
“These puppies are 8 weeks old traveling in poor conditions when we have reputable breeders and the best nonprofit animal groups that have puppies, dogs, kittens and cats in shelters,” O’Connor said.
While some puppies sold at pet stores go on to live long, healthy lives, O’Connor said he’s heard “way too many nightmare stories” of families ending up with sick pets.
“It’s time we move forward and away from mass producing and mass breeding,” he said.
Linda Murphy of Scituate, director of the Massachusetts Coalition To End Puppy Mills, said her group met with O’Connor after sending more than 6,000 postcards to lawmakers urging them to take action. The group pointed O’Connor to a bill that Maine Gov. Paul LePage ultimately vetoed after that state’s legislature passed it in 2015.
“(O’Connor) said ‘let’s file it.’ It was his idea,” Murphy said. “I truly believe the time is right for this.”
Pet Express at the South Shore Plaza in Braintree and Fin Fur and Feather Pet Shop in Hanover are two of the remaining pet stores in the state that sell puppies or kittens.
Kathy Blackadar, longtime owner of Fin Fur and Feather, said she only purchases puppies from commercial facilities in other states that are licensed and inspected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. On the contrary, she said breeders in Massachusetts are not licensed or inspected.
“If you eliminate pet stores, it drives the industry underground and into someone’s basement,” she said. “It will force people to go to someone who could be a puppy mill.”
But animal advocates are hopeful that the state will soon have more oversight for breeders as well.
Kara Holmquist, MSPCA-Angell’s director of advocacy, said in an email that the group has been working with state Sen. Karen Spilka, D-Ashland, and state Rep. Jen Benson, D-Lunenberg, on a bill that would restrict pet shops on where they can get their puppies and kittens. It would also ban the sale of puppies under 8 weeks of age, create regulations for higher-volume breeders and provide better recourse when animals sold from breeders or pet shops are sick.
Holmquist said a version of the bill passed the state Senate last session, and advocates are optimistic it will pass both branches this legislative session.
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