State house legislation takes aim at puppy mills through pet stores

State house legislation takes aim at puppy mills through pet stores

BOSTON — Cracking down on puppy mills by cutting off the supply chain. That's the plan as Massachusetts lawmakers look to ban the sale of puppies, kittens, and rabbits in retail stores.

"The Commonwealth of Massachusetts has banned outright puppy mills, but we’ve seen there’s still a commercial supply chain to the handful of pet shops that still exist in the Commonwealth," State Senator Patrick O'Connor (R-Plymouth) explained.

Sen. O'Connor's legislation was up for discussion Monday at the statehouse.

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It says, “a pet shop may not sell, deliver, offer for sale, barter, auction or otherwise dispose of a cat, dog, or rabbit." It also states pet shops could only adopt out pets from shelters or rescues listed as "charitable nonprofit animal shelter or animal rescue organization.”

"Families would be horrified to learn the practice in which the dog made their way into their home and into their families," Sen. O'Connor said.

Cynthia Sweet of 'Sweet Paws Rescue' says she doesn't want to take aim at small businesses but believes retail shops should stick to selling pet supplies and not live animals.

"We just need to get away from the model of selling kittens and puppies and rabbits in stores," Sweet said. "Where they’re coming from, the conditions these guys were bred in are abhorrent.”

Some pet store owners say they are being painted with a broad brush.

"The pet store business model -- my family is very hands-on," Ryan Bergantino, of the Perfect Puppy, said. "We go drive to the breeders in our own vehicles that are outfitted -- no broker, no middle man. We get them seen by a vet that we do business without there."

But the Animal Rescue League of Boston says it's not only an animal welfare issue but a consumer protection issue.

"It’s a lifetime of medical expenses both for medical issues and behavioral issues," ARL's Edward Schettino said.

This is the second year Sen. O'Connor has filed this legislation.

"We want to make sure that we move forward in a way that’s humane and that humane way is being able to offer cats, dogs up for adoption inside of pet stores," O'Connor said.