A new legislative task force on puppy mills has decided it will research and hold public hearings around the state on whether to ban the sale of commercially bred puppies in Connecticut pet shops.
During an organizational hearing at the state Capitol last week, the task force announced it would send a report by January in time for a legislative hearing on a bill in the upcoming session.
If the bill passes, Connecticut would be the first state to ban the sale of these dogs and cats in pet stores, although some cities, including Los Angeles, have passed similar bans.
The task force chairwoman, Rep. Brenda Kupchick, R-Fairfield, proposed similar legislation in the last session, an amendment that would have required pet shops to sell only dogs and cats obtained from public shelters by January 2016; out-of-state rescue animals would also have been permitted. She accused the industry of “trafficking sick puppies to unsuspecting people.” The bill was never raised on the floor of the House and eventually was amended to create the task force instead. Members of the Environment Committee raised concerns that Kupchick’s proposal could violate federal law on interstate commerce.
Kupchick said she had done extensive research on the commercial breeders ever since she had a bad experience with a pet shop beagle with a genetic disorder that required $16,000 in veterinary bills.
She says out-of-state commercial breeders keep 900 to 1,000 puppies penned in 2-by-4-foot cages without taking them out for exercise.
“They are treating domestic animals worse than livestock,” she asserted. She said the Animal Welfare Act requires the U.S. Department of Agriculture to inspect these breeders every year, but it doesn’t always happen.
Kupchick said she would prefer that people buy their puppies from family breeders or rescue or shelter organizations instead of the 18 pet shops in Connecticut that sell dogs and cats.
Steve Primus, who owns Statewide Pets in Orange, said after the meeting that pet shop owners are the only ones who are licensed, regulated and inspected. He said that adoption agencies, despite their name, actually end up selling dogs for as much as $400, and should follow the same rules.
“It’s just un-American,” he said. “Why should a small section of the legislature decide what everybody should be able to buy or own.”
Task force member Charlie Sewell, a lobbyist for the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council, said if the purpose of the task force is to deal with substandard breeders, he fully supports the goal. But he said he was wary of any attempt to interfere with legitimate breeders.
This story originally appeared at CTMirror.org, the website of The Connecticut Mirror, an independent, nonprofit news organization covering government, politics and public policy in the state.