A group of Maine activists are trying to ban the sale of cats and dogs in Maine pet stores that come from large out-of-state breeders. They are concerned that the animals are coming from puppy mills and being shipped to Maine.
If the bill passes, it would make Maine the first state in the country to ban pet stores from selling cats and dogs that were not born and raised by the store itself. The group Maine Friends of Animals is leading the initiative, and they used many heart wrenching stories of dogs that had been rescued from puppy mills in their testimony.
The bill, known as L.D. 355, was discussed in a legislative committee meeting room on March 5, 2015, and passionate testimony was heard from both sides. As you can imagine, pet shop owners are not thrilled with the idea behind the bill. They argued that if lawmakers want to shut down puppy mills and substandard breeders they should target them directly, and not destroy small businesses in the process.
Less than 500 dogs and cats are sold through licensed pet stores in Maine each year. The majority of adorable puppies purchased in the state come from rescue organizations, animal shelters, or breeders. Representative Kimberly Monaghan (D), the bill’s sponsor, stated that 95% of the dogs and cats purchased by Maine pet stores came from large-scale breeding facilities outside the state.
Due to overcrowding, inbreeding, and lack of care most puppies that are born and raised in puppy mills suffer from serious health conditions. Typically, reputable breeders don’t sell to pet stores because they don’t know where their puppies will end up. They prefer selling their pups themselves so they can have information on the person that adopts them.
Pet shop owners described the allegations as inaccurate generalizations and stuck by their pet purchasing policies and their customer service. Many shop owners that attended the meeting in March, said they only buy from breeders who are licensed through the United States Department of Agriculture.
Supporters of the bill downplayed the significance of the USDA’s inspections, siting poor staffing and rare follow-ups with legal action. They say that they were not surprised by the state’s pet industry’s response. They describe the bill as a common-sense measure that will promote the humane breeding of puppies.
Perhaps Maine will be the first state to ban the purchase and sale of dogs from large breeding facilities across state lines. If so, what does this mean for the rest of the country? Will more states ban the purchasing practice, and will the USDA toughen its regulations on these large scale facilities?