CT’s “Puppy Mill Bill”

If Connecticut Substitute House Bill 5027 becomes law, Connecticut will be the first U.S. state to prohibit retail pet shops from selling dogs or cats from puppy or cat mills. At least that is what proponents claim.

More than 90% of puppies or dogs sold in pet stores were born in puppy mills. The Connecticut bill calls puppy or cat mills “substandard domestic animal mills” defined as a place where (1) dogs or cats are housed in a cage without being allowed daily exercise, (2) dogs or cats are not maintained in a dry and reasonably clean condition, (3) there is not adequate protection for such dogs or cats from the elements, (4) there is not clean and potable water for such dogs and cats at all times, (5) there is not proper and nutritious food for such dogs or cats, (6) dogs or cats are kept in an enclosure with floors that are not constructed in a manner that protects the dogs’ or cats’ paws and legs from injury, (7) dogs or cats are kept in an enclosure that does not allow them to turn around freely or to sit, stand or lie down comfortably, or (8) dogs or cats are kept in an enclosure that is not at least six inches higher than the head height of the tallest dog or cat.

The bill, however, does not, for example, define “exercise”, “adequate protection from the elements”, “reasonably clean”, “turn around freely” or “lie down comfortably”. Dogs and cats could still be kept in cages virtually 24/7, cages with wire flooring. There are no requirements for veterinary care. There are no limits on breeding. There are no care or socialization requirements for puppies and kittens. There are no protocols for euthanasia, cleanliness, disease and parasite prevention, ventilation or grooming. There are no regulations regarding transportation. The Animal Welfare Act which regulates breeders that sell through brokers or to pet stores actually has higher, more specific standards! And the AWA has long been criticized for requiring minimal standards that fail to prevent puppy mills and that actually enable substandard breeders. The Connecticut bill would apply to those mills regulated by the AWA and enforced by the USDA through its agency, APHIS; the Connecticut bill would also apply to breeders that sell directly to the public through the internet or newspaper ads.

In essence, the bill will lull the public into thinking these standards, lower than the AWA regulations, mean puppy and cat mills have been eliminated. In fact, the bill will only enable breeders to continue holding dogs in cages virtually 24/7, breeding them over and over, with no required veterinary care, no socialization and no standards for care of their puppies or kittens. And pet stores could continue selling dogs and cats from these breeders.

Take a look at inspections by APHIS and also here. There are horrific violations that APHIS lacks the resources to correct. Even with its low standards. It is not clear how the state of Connecticut could do better with even lower standards or at least standards that are less defined and vague. With this bill Connecticut could actually lower the standards below the low bar set by AWA for many commercial breeders selling dogs and cats to pet stores and the public.

An amendment proposed by Rep. Brenda Kupchick (R-Fairfield), would save the bill. Amendment #6461 would prohibit Connecticut’s pet shops from selling commercially bred dogs and cats and instead require that they only sell or adopt out dogs or cats from animal control facilities and non-profit rescue organizations.