Mark Bailey is an advisory board member of Connecticut Votes for Animals and is the former chairman of the Humane Commission for the City of New Haven. This op-ed originally appeared on CTViewpoints.org. State Reps. Lucy Dathan (D-142) and Chris Perone (D-137) are among the 29 sponsors of H.B. 5386.
Connecticut has an important opportunity to pass a bill that benefits consumers, is humane for animals, and puts Connecticut’s 14 pet shops in sync with the best practices of our state’s more than 100 pet stores.
A bipartisan amendment to House Bill 5386 is an immediately necessary measure that would restrict the pipeline of out-of-state puppies being imported from commercial breeders/puppy mills and sold in pet stores. It could also help the many homeless companion animals of all shapes, sizes, and breeds that are languishing in our shelters.
My own dog’s story (I’ll call her Molly) is but one example of why there simply is no justification for bringing more companion animal offspring into our state to sell, especially when the places they come from can be so recklessly inhumane.
Molly was originally purchased at a prominent Connecticut pet store. Her paperwork indicated she was a direct descendant of champion prize-winning dogs and that she came from a small family-owned and operated breeder in the Midwest.
Naïve at the time to what was the truth, I asked the pet store about connecting me with the breeder to see if I could adopt Molly’s mom or dad. The pet store was uncooperative. I then researched the situation – jumping many hurdles — to find out that Molly’s documents had been completely falsified. She actually was bred by a large puppy mill in Kansas with so many subsequent violations against it that it was eventually shut down (after countless dogs had been made to suffer in its filthy, cramped, and abusive conditions). This, of course, is why the pet store would not put me in touch with them.
Molly is not alone. Reports show that puppy mill dogs are continually brought into Connecticut. This sort of commercial breeding rampantly worsens the condition of companion animal overpopulation and places profit above the humane treatment of these animals. Dogs who live and are bred in puppy mills endure horrid surroundings, sick and spreading disease, while enslaved to creating one litter after another. We should have no part in this. In fact 96 percent of National Breed Clubs include in their ethics statements that they should not sell to pet stores. So they want no part in this either.
More than 100 pet-related stores in our state follow a humane model and do not sell puppies. Of the 14 stores that do not, this proposed legislation would grant two years to make the transition away from selling dogs from these cruel and inhumane commercial facilities. Also, they could partner with area shelters and rescues to showcase animals in need of loving homes.
Opponents of the bill may emphasize that not all commercial breeding involves puppy mills, but in reality these facilities, however labeled, share the same conditions that make innocent animals vulnerable to sustained abuse and a life no one should want them subjected to.
Consider a facility where 50 to 1,500 breeding dogs are trapped for years in cages no more than 6 inches bigger than their bodies – where they live entirely on coated, wire grates, and are not required to have socialization and medical care other than a passing annual visit from the vet.
The USDA, whose regulations emphasize minimal care below humane standards, are too short-staffed to monitor the thousands of puppy mills that exist. This is further exacerbated by a recent USDA initiative to use self-reporting.
Making matters even worse, since 2017 the USDA has blocked the names of breeders and their inspection reports from public view, leaving no reasonable way to check on their conditions. All in all, in most any commercial breeding scenario, dogs are still being caged and bred for at least the first seven years of their lives, which is not an existence we in Connecticut should want any companion animal to suffer.
The USDA makes the following point: “Many State and local governments have passed their own animal welfare legislation. USDA encourages the public to work with state and local officials and local humane organizations as well as federal officials to help reduce inhumane treatment of animals.”*
And that is exactly what the bipartisan amendment to H.B. 5386 proposes to do, for Molly, for her mom and dad and so many like them who endure a compassionless life, and for the homeless animals in our state waiting to show us how they can thrive in a loving home.