Gov. Malloy signs new law at Greenwich Animal Shelter

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Gov. Dannel Malloy came to Greenwich last week to sign Public Act 14-77, which prevents the creation of puppy mills and improves the standards for breeders and pet shops in the state, but he was nearly upstaged by the animals the state is looking to protect.–John Ferris Robben

In what was a big day for all of Connecticut’s four-legged friends and the dog lovers who adore them, Gov. Dannel Malloy visited the Greenwich Animal Shelter to commemorate the signing of an animal rights bill into law June 18.

Public Act 14-77 is designed to prevent the creation of puppy mills and to improve the standards of breeders and pet shops in the state. Mr. Malloy came to the shelter on North Street to sign the bill surrounded by supporters, including Selectman Drew Marzullo, as well as animal shelter employees and even some of the dogs up for adoption there. State Reps. Livvy Floren (R-149th) and Fred Camillo (R-151st), both supporters of the legislation, were also on hand.

Effective Oct. 1, the new law will prevent retail pet licensees from buying dogs or cats from breeders who have violated U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) animal welfare regulations within the past two years, and raise related fines for those who do not comply.

“There is evidence that puppy mills around the country have employed practices that any reasonable person would consider inhumane,” Mr. Malloy said. “By signing this bill into law, we are setting standards in Connecticut to ensure that animals are living in humane conditions. I would like to thank the chairs of the Taskforce on the Sale of Cats and Dogs from Inhumane Origins at Connecticut Pet Shops and all of those who provided constructive input to make this bill a reality.”

Connecticut is currently one of 21 states in which pet shops are required to reimburse customers for veterinarian expenses if a dog or cat falls ill shortly after being sold from the shop. Under the new law, shops can now be held responsible for both the expenses and the purchase price of the animal (up to $500) if the pet suffers from an illness present at the time of purchase. Shops that do not comply with the new laws will be subject to a $500 fine as well.

Pet shops will also be required to post the USDA inspection reports for the breeders of any dog for sale. As a part of the bill, the state commissioner of agriculture will draft a standard of care for in-state breeders by Dec. 31, outlining the necessary practices for breeders.

The new regulations come at the recommendation of a special state taskforce investigating the sale of cats and dogs from inhumane breeders. Though the issue has been on the assembly floor for some time, the 11-member taskforce was established in June 2013, and voted on their recommendations earlier this year. Members included local breeders, state officials, veterinary professionals and animal rights advocates.

A known animal rights advocate in the legislature, Mr. Camillo (R-151) co-sponsored the bill and is co-chair of Legislators for Animal Advocacy, a formal caucus dedicated to animal rights. Founded in 2009, Mr. Camillo’s first year in office, the group has successfully backed a series of animal rights legislation including Buddy’s Law, which allows only licensed veterinarians to euthanize animals, and amendments to pet purchase protection law. Mr. Camillo attributed much of the bill’s success to State Rep. Brenda Kupchick’s (R-132) enthusiastic support.

“Working on this issue since 2011, I’m grateful to see a bill that goes a long way toward minimizing ‘puppy mill’ puppies being sold in Connecticut,” Ms. Kupchick, a co-chair of the taskforce, said in a statement.  “What many people don’t see are the conditions the breeding parents live in who supply puppies to pet stores or over the Internet. This law also protects the public from the costs associated with sick puppies or kittens and provides for more accountability from pet stores.”

As the task force prepared its recommendations, there was some concerns that the bill would put too much restraint on already heavily regulated pet shops in the state. The Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC) believes that Connecticut already had some of the strictest regulations on pet shops, and that the new law could possibly threaten independent business owners. In its own set of recommendations submitted to the taskforce, PIJAC suggested an increase funding for the Department of Agriculture’s animal control division, so that current regulations could be more readily enforced.

Lobbyist group CT Votes for Animals recommended measures beyond what the bill proposed, suggesting that pet shops in the state cease the sale of commercially bred animals altogether. Instead, shops would be forced to look to humane shelters and rescue groups to supply pets for sale. Some stores, such as H3 Pet Supply of Stratford, have already employed an adoption-based model, using the sale of pet-related products to leverage business while only offering rescued pets for adoption.

The new law largely expands existing regulations to ensure that shops are taking an active role in preventing animal cruelty. Prospective pet owners are also granted further insurance by the raised reimbursement cap, and will be able to further investigate a pet’s background before purchase with posted USDA reports. Still, responsibility will lie with breeders and shop owners to ensure that their animals are raised in healthy and humane conditions.

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