Pet store owners and animal advocates are fighting over potential legislation in Connecticut that would ban the retail sale of dogs and cats from mills throughout the state.
Legislation that would have banned the sale of dogs and cats unless they came from an animal control facility, shelter or rescue organization was previously put on the table, but was amended to create a bipartisan task force that will study the origins of dogs and cats who are brought into the state by pet stores and make recommendations for the next legislative session.
At a hearing held last week, pet store owners argued that they source dogs from good breeders who are regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and that this type of legislation would put them out of business. At least a few store owners believe that people are entitled to buy a dog right then and there, whether or not it’s on a whim, and that this is really a conspiracy to get people to stop owning dogs.
Animal advocates don’t quite see it that way and are pushing for pet stores throughout the state to stop supporting mills by adopting humane business models as a number of other small and large stores in the U.S. have already done, including Petco and PetSmart.
The CT Alliance for Humane Pet Shops has linked pet stores in the state to the breeders they’re sourcing from and shows graphic images on its website of their facilities that were taken by USDA inspectors. The images alone demonstrate exactly why this is such a huge problem and why the state should take action to stop perpetuating the mass production of animals.
In 2009, the state started requiring pet stores to provide breeder and broker information to the Department of Agriculture, which makes it possible to trace dogs back to puppy mills. Of the 16 pet stores that sell dogs in the state, 13 of them are undoubtedly getting dogs from puppy mills, according to the Alliance. The rest are obtaining dogs from in-state breeders, but that still doesn’t mean they came from a better place since no reputable breeder would give dogs to a pet store.
Some stores falsely reassure customers that their dogs come from USDA licensed breeders, but even the USDA’s standards of care under the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) are minimal at best and don’t adequately ensure humane treatment. Dogs are often left without basic care in heartbreaking conditions, while mothers are forced to churn out litter after litter of puppies until their bodies are spent. The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, which is responsible for enforcing the AWA, has also proven to be woefully inadequate when it comes to dealing with problem breeders and repeat offenders.
Meanwhile, consumers continue to take home sick and poorly socialized dogs from pet stores and are often left with either thousands in vet bills or a dead pet, while thousands of other adoptable animals continue to be needlessly euthanized.
In the end, no one is trying to stop people from getting a dog or a cat. They will still be available at pet stores through partnerships with rescues and shelters. People who choose not to go the adoption route for whatever reason will still be able to work directly with breeders.
“Our goal is not to shutter small business” said Amy Harrell, president of Connecticut Votes for Animals. “We are simply asking pet stores to transition to a business model that is based on adoption and rescue, and does not perpetuate the exploitive industry of puppy mills.”
Stores that have already made this type of change have proven that it works, while the other pet stores in the state that don’t sell animals have proven they can operate successfully without peddling puppies and kittens to the public. There’s no reason for the remaining few who sell companion animals to continue supporting large-scale breeders with poor track records when it comes to animal welfare.
Please sign and share the petition asking Connecticut’s lawmakers to support legislation that will ban the retail sale of dogs and cats from mills.
If you’re a Connecticut resident and want to speak up on behalf of companion animals, the next legislative hearing will be on Wednesday, November 13, in room 1D of the Legislative Office Building in Hartford.
Photo credit: Thinkstock
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