MFOA bill “An Act Regarding the Sale of Dogs and Cats at Pet Shops”  

Sponsor: Sen. Ben Chipman, Portland,  District 37

    Maine bill would ban puppy and kitten sales at pet stores   Sen. Ben Chipman, D-Portland, says the measure aims to eliminate puppy mills and encourage people to obtain pets from shelters and rescue programs. 

BY STEVE COLLINS    SUN JOURNAL

AUGUSTA — Nobody will ever again ask “how much is that doggie in the window?” if a Maine lawmaker is successful in pushing through a bill that would bar the sale of dogs and cats in pet stores.

“It’s an effort to reduce overpopulation of pets and to curb puppy mills,” Sen. Ben Chipman, D-Portland, the bill’s sponsor, said Monday.

The bill comes as old-style pet stores have already almost vanished, replaced by a shelters and rescue groups ready to provide pets to Mainers.

Bryant Tracy, the owner of Pawz & Clawz Petz in Windham, with a pug puppy he has for sale. A proposed law would bar him from selling dogs and cats. Steve Collins/Sun Journal

“The traditional pet store is starting to fade away,” Maine’s animal welfare director, Liam Hughes, said Monday.

As recently as a couple of decades ago, pet stores that sold pets were commonplace. But a growing desire to adopt rescues and shelter animals – and buying direct from breeders – has largely shifted the business away from retailers.

A 2017 survey by the American Pet Products Association found that only 4 percent of dog owners in the United States bought their dog at a pet store. Shelters and rescue groups were the source of 44 percent of dogs while breeders delivered another 25 percent. Another 25 percent came from friends or familyHughes said that Maine has 82 pet shops, but few are selling dogs and cats.

Bryant Tracy, the owner of Pawz & Clawz Petz, said his little shop near the Windham Mall is the only pet store left in Maine that still offers puppies and kittens for sale. But Hughes said a couple of others are still in business.

Tracy said he sells about 250 puppies annually and perhaps 20 kittens. Without those sales, he said, he would have to close.

Banning pet store sales of dogs and cats is a priority for many animal rights groups that see it as a way to combat so-called puppy mills and to encourage people to find pets at shelters.

Tracy, whose shop is 14 years old, said his store only gets animals from breeders whose operations are inspected by the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture and adhere to high standards. He says it’s a matter of preserving options for those looking for a pet. “It’s all freedom of choice,” he said.

But opponents are skeptical.

“Pet shops treat puppies, kittens, birds, hamsters, mice, rabbits, and other animals as if they were fashion accessories, and they sell them to anyone with a credit card,” People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals says on its website.

Other states, including Massachusetts and New York, are currently debating the idea, which is already law in scores of municipalities across the country.

Chipman’s bill would allow pet shops to “provide space to an animal rescue entity to offer to the public” for adoption as long as the shop owners have no ownership interest in the animals or receive a fee for providing space to the group.

Violators would be subject to a $500 fine and the possible suspension or revocation of its pet shop license.

                                            

                                                      BILL OVERVIEW

 

In 2015, MFOA and the activist group “Maine Citizens Against Puppy Mills” joined together to sponsor legislation to ban the sale of dogs and cats in Maine pet shops, addressing in particular “puppy mill” suppliers. The proposed bill bans the sale of dogs and cats by licensed Maine pet shops. The bill passed in the State House and Senate and was bound to be first-in-the-nation legislation, only to have it vetoed by Governor LePage. 

Consumer protection and the humane treatment of animals are the key reasons to support this initiative. By allowing Maine pet stores to sell puppies and kittens sourced from large-scale commercial breeding facilities, we support puppy and kitten mills, thereby putting Maine consumers at risk and promoting inhumane treatment of companion animals. 

The remaining Maine pet shops that still sell puppies and kittens are few, but they receive the vast majority of their animals from large-scale commercial breeding facilities that mass produce puppies/kittens for the sole purpose of selling to pet shops and online buyers. 

These facilities operate to maximize profits at the expense of the health of the breeding animals and resulting litters. The animals are simply a commodity. Pet shops wish to obtain products at the lowest possible price to maximize profit and to accomplish this, mill operators skimp on housing, food and veterinary care to keep overhead down. This creates horrible living conditions with little regard to the physical and psychological well-being of the animals. 

Research shows that over the past few years, a number of pet shops in Maine selling dogs and cats have closed due to lack of sales/profitability. Others have changed to more viable business models by expanding product lines and supporting local shelters and rescue groups through on-site adoption events instead of selling puppies and kittens raised in inhumane conditions.

Inhumane puppy mills are now a national issue. Since the MFOA / MCAPM bill in 2015, California, Maryland, Ohio and more than 250 municipalities across the US have passed similar legislation without negative repercussions. New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania are currently considering similar legislation. In California, pet stores are required to sell only dogs and cats from shelters and rescues. 

Maine provides humane and safe options offering purebred dogs and cats to loving families: local animal shelters, local reputable breeders, and breed-specific rescue groups. More than 25% of dogs received by animal shelters are purebred. 

This bill will continue to allow pet shops to provide space to an animal rescue entity as defined in 7 MRS § 4151(7), to offer to the public dogs or cats for adoption for a nominal adoption fee, provided that the pet shop shall not have any ownership interest in the animals offered and shall not receive any fee for providing space or for the adoption of any of the animals. The penalty for violating these provisions is $500 and the pet shop’s license may be revoked.

“An Act Regarding the Sale of Dogs and Cats at Pet Shops” is important unfinished business that was passed but vetoed four years ago. Maine cannot oversee the large-scale breeding industries in other states. But what Maine can do is enact legislation to stop those animals from being sold in this state and send the message that we are a state that takes animal cruelty seriously. 

 

              “An Act Regarding the Sale of Dogs and Cats at Pet Shops”

                                                         FACT SHEET 

  • Consumer protection and the humane treatment of animals are the key reasons to support this initiative. By allowing Maine pet stores to sell puppies and kittens sourced from large-scale breeding facilities, we support puppy and kitten mills, thereby putting Maine consumers at risk and promoting the inhumane treatment of companion animals.
  • Large-scale commercial breeding facilities mass produce puppies/kittens for the sole purpose of selling to pet shops and online buyers. These facilities operate to maximize profits at the expense of the health of the breeding animals and resultant litters. The animals are a commodity. Pet shops wish to obtain product at the lowest possible price to maximize profit. To accomplish this, the mill operators skimp on housing, food and veterinary care to keep overhead down.
  • The lack of basic care at these breeding facilities is inhumane and results in poor physical and psychological health of the puppies sold to pet shops. Additionally, over-breeding practices contribute to genetic defects and health issues, the expense of which are passed onto unknowing consumers.
  • Due to the minimal standards of care at these large-scale commercial breeding facilities, animals suffering from diseases and/or parasites transmittable to humans and other pets are often sold. A pet shop in Scarborough closed after two occasions of a state quarantine and the death of three puppies. 
  • Facilities are inspected as little as once a year. If a violation is found, the USDA often grants the offenders multiple opportunities to correct the situation. Legal action is rare. When it does occur, it can take years to prosecute, and the puppy/kitten mill operator rarely loses his/her license.
  • Although the Animal Legal Defense Fund ranks Maine #3 in the nation for strong animal protection laws, Maine cannot oversee the large-scale breeding industry in other states.  What Maine can do is to enact legislation to stop those animals from being sold in this state.
  • California, Maryland, Ohio and more than 250 municipalities across the U.S have passed similar initiatives without negative repercussion. New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania are currently considering similar legislation. California’s law requires pet stores to sell only dogs and cats from shelters and rescue groups.
  • There are many humane and safe options in Maine offering purebred dogs and cats to loving families: local animal shelters, local reputable breeders, and breed specific rescue groups. More than 25% of the dogs received by animal shelters are purebred. 
  • Responsible breeders do not sell their puppies and kittens in pet shops as they have an extensive process to evaluate prospective homes prior to sale.  This initiative would have a positive impact on responsible Maine breeders, creating a larger demand for their puppies and kittens.  It is hard for respectable breeders who breed for health and temperament  instead of profit to compete with the pricing of animals from large-scale commercial breeding facilities.
  • By definition of a ‘Pet Shop’ under Maine animal welfare laws, this legislation would not affect local breeders. Maine breeding kennels and hobby breeders fall under different licensing definitions from pet shops.
  • Research shows that over the past few years, a number of pet shops in Maine selling dogs and cats have closed due to lack of sales/profitability. Others have changed to more viable business models by expanding product lines and supporting local shelters and rescue groups through on-site adoption events instead of selling puppies and kittens raised in inhumane conditions for profit.
  • Of the three 76 licensed pet shops in the state which actively sell puppies and kittens, one sourced from out-of-state commercial breeding facilities.

  

LD 1311 “An Act Regarding the Sale of Dogs and Cats in Pet Shops 

                                                           Opposition Arguments 

 

This bill will put pet shops out of business.

Research shows that over the past few years, a number of pet shops in Maine  selling dogs and cats have closed due to lack of sales / profitability. Maine has 78 registered pet shops and only 3 still sell cats and dogs. The sale of animals is only one source of income which can be replaced.  A short transition period may be needed, but no business is going to close and this bill only involves three shops.  There is no negative economic impact. Moreover, all business models must change and adapt or fall behind. 

Pet shops in cities across the country have found other profitable uses for the cage space and are now focusing sales efforts on expanded products / brands and services, like grooming, a vet clinic and obedience training. Others are showcasing adoptable shelter animals, which provides the pet shop positive public relations in the community. 

Such a ban would make it difficult to find purebred pets in Maine. 

There are many humane and safe options in Maine offering purebred dogs and cats to loving families: local animal shelters, local reputable breeders, and breed specific rescue groups. More than 25% of the dogs received by animal shelters are purebred. 

We have laws in place to protect these animals.

Maine has stringent breeding kennel regulations and strong welfare laws, but pet

shops fall under different licensing definitions. Wholesale dog/cat breeding and shipment of live animals is regulated federally by the USDA under the 1970 Animal Welfare Act. However, the law is poorly enforced due to lack of funding and staffing. Still inspectors find many USDA facilities are in violation of even their minimal standards, yet offenders are often granted multiple opportunities to correct the situation, and legal action is rare.  

This is part of an national animal activists agenda using hyperbole and emotionalism 

Eliminating irresponsible mass breeders is a national issue with bans in major cities like Chicago, Phoenix and Los Angeles, countless communities around the country, and there are eight states that have passed legislation or it is currently under consideration. This is the overused radical animal rights mantra of subjugating the argument to if you cannot kill the message, kill the messenger.  

The commercial breeders’ dogs and cats are well cared for; just a few bad actors. 

The vastly underfunded USDA inspectors are in an impossible situation to properly regulate an industry that is focused on making a profit on the sale of the animals. An issue that becomes national does not arise out of a few bad actors.  

The Help Fix Me (HFM) spay-neuterfunds ($20,000) will be lost.

Spay ME directors are looking into increasing license plate sales for HFM to help offset the loss; and HFM will be getting additional funds from the pet food surcharge resultant from legislation passed in 2017. Spay ME supported the legislation in 2015 and supports the current bill. 

 

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