Last month, the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources, and Agriculture held its public legislative hearing on H.384/S.230, “An Act banning the retail sale of cats and dogs in pet shops,” which would close the puppy mill-to-pet shop pipeline.
This legislation would prohibit the sale of puppies, kittens, and rabbits in pet shops unless the animals come from shelters or rescue organizations. Typically, pet shops obtain animals from substandard breeding facilities, which results in consumers unknowingly purchasing sick or genetically-compromised pets. Puppy mills, in particular, are large-scale commercial breeding facilities where profit is given priority over the well-being of animals. Massachusetts state records consistently document such complaints from across the Commonwealth. State and federal records have also demonstrated that puppies from the worst “puppy mills” in the country have been sold to Massachusetts consumers via pet shops. These bills aim to protect both animals and consumers and would have no impact on responsible breeders.
The pet store industry is evolving, and the majority already partners with shelters and rescue organizations to host adoptions through their stores. Of the top 25 retailers in the country, only one sells puppies. While pet stores may claim that they obtain animals from small-scale, humane breeders, the reality is that pet stores cannot obtain dogs from responsible breeders because responsible breeders simply do not sell puppies to pet stores.
This legislation would not prevent consumers from acquiring one of these animals from a responsible breeder or a shelter or rescue organization. Further, it does not prohibit a pet shop from partnering with a shelter or rescues to provide animals in their store. California, Maryland, Maine, Washington, and Illinois have similar state laws. There are more than 380 municipalities nationwide — including Boston, Cambridge, Holliston, Marshfield, North Adams, Pittsfield, Plymouth, Springfield, and Stoneham — that have passed laws prohibiting the sale of commercially-raised dogs and cats in pet stores.
I am proud to help lead the efforts to pass this legislation to protect puppies, kittens, and rabbits, as well as their human families, from the harmful practices of substandard out-of-state massive breeding facilities, like puppy mills. Beyond that, I am thankful to be teaming up with Rep. Jack Patrick Lewis (7th Middlesex - Framingham), to launch a new Protecting Animal Welfare (PAW) Caucus in the Massachusetts Legislature. We want to continue to strengthen the voice of animal welfare advocacy, and work to pass vital legislation like H.384/S.230 into law.
Thank you for taking the time to read this month’s column. While my office continues to work remotely, we are still accessible by phone (978-227-5278) or email (Natalie.Higgins@mahouse.gov). We’ve moved our office hours online — Monday nights and Friday mornings. Please email or call to sign up.