Animal advocates say legislation approved by the Senate Wednesday night will help reduce the sale of dogs and cats in Connecticut that were bred under the worst of conditions.
Senators discarded a plan that advocates had been pushing, which would have banned the sale of commercially bred puppies from all future pet stores in Connecticut. The proposal came from the recommendations of task force to curb the use of “puppy mills,” a term for commercial breeders where dogs are produced in high numbers and in inhumane conditions.
The idea was opposed by the state’s pet shops. Instead, lawmakers unanimously passed a compromise proposal which stops pet shops from selling animals purchased from breeders that have been cited for direct violations by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The bill contains other provisions which increase reimbursements consumers can get if they buy sick animals and enables state regulators to fine pet stores for violations.
Although they did not get everything they wanted, advocates said Thursday they are pleased lawmakers have taken the issue seriously this year. Amy Harrell, president of Connecticut Votes For Animals, said the bill will stop the sale of animals from the worst-offending puppy mills. But some will slip through the cracks, she said.
“A USDA registered breeder doesn’t necessarily mean a quality, humane breeder. That’s the truth of the matter. But I think this legislation goes a really long way toward catching the worst of them,” Harrell said.
If the House approves the legislation before the session ends next week, Debora Bresch, a lawyer with the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said it will be a win for animal advocates.
“It will be the first law of this nature, as far as I know, that a legislature has passed that makes this kind of inroads on this issue,” she said.
Environment Co-chairman Sen. Ed Meyer said lawmakers opted to craft legislation “establishing a higher standard of care for our puppies and kittens,” as opposed to pursuing a ban on their sale.
The issue has long been on the minds of Connecticut lawmakers. Senate Minority Leader John McKinney, R-Fairfield, who is leaving the legislature after this session to run for governor, said he inherited the issue from his predecessor. McKinney said his first attempt at addressing puppy mills was a bill to ban the sale of dogs at pet stores.
“I was a young legislator and ran into the pet shop lobby and didn’t realize that pet shops actually hired lobbyists. In turn of fact, they are very good people fighting for small businesses who are able to educate and play an important role in this process,” he said during Wednesday’s debate. “So, to the advocates on both sides, I say ‘thank you.’”
Rep. Brenda Kupchick, who is also a Fairfield Republican, said Thursday she has had a similar experience trying to pass a law curbing puppy mills.
The bill now awaiting approval in the House “is not exactly what the original bill was, what I’d hoped to pass when I was first elected. But you learn in this place, it’s about compromise,” she said.
Kupchick said she would still prefer that Connecticut residents only purchased puppies from local breeders or from rescue operations, but was happy with the steps the bill takes. She said she expected the bill would help to raise awareness about the issue over the next few years.