If animal rights activists have their way, Branford could be the first town in Connecticut to ban the retail sale of dogs, cats and rabbits.
“They’re not treated the way you and I would treat our pets,” said Annie Hornish from the Humane Society. “They’re kept in cages, many of them for their entire lives.”
Hornish is the director for Connecticut’s branch of the Humane Society. With help from the Dan Cosgrove Animal Shelter Commission, they are fighting to implement the ban as a direct assault to puppy mills.
“The idea of proposing an ordinance that would ban the retail sale of dogs that are sourced from these kinds of operations is to help curb these business practices,” Hornish said.
And they’ve got legislative support.
“The local grassroots level is trying to do something to protect their own citizens and also make a statement about the treatment of these animals,” said Rep. Brenda Kupchick (R-Fairfield).
Kupchick, a dog lover who owns two beagle-mixes, helped bush a similar ban at the state level. Though the bill had wide support, Kupchick says companies like the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC) fought back and only pieces of the bill were passed – not the actual ban..
In a statement from PIJAC, President and CEO Mike Canning said, “The proposal is being put forth by well-meaning but uninformed activists that are attempting to take the choice of where to buy a pet away from Connecticut residents. We encourage consumers to conduct due diligence…” He continued, “Consumers must understand that pet stores and the kennels that supply puppies to them are highly regulated at the federal and state levels of government. If pet store sales are banned, other, more unregulated channels for pets would abound.”
Pet owners like Timothy Sheehan from Bridgeport would disagree.
In a testimony before a house committee, Sheehan described his experience with All Pets Club, a pet store in Branford and three other locations in Connecticut. Sheehan bought a bloodhound puppy that turned ill the very next day, despite being assured by a store employee that the puppy was healthy. That puppy also infected his other dog.
Since then he says he has spent more than $5,000 in veterinarian bills and the store, which should reimburse him under the state’s Pet Lemon Law, has been no help.
It’s this conduct that has motivated legislators and activists to push for reform.
The Dan Cosgrove Animal Shelter Commission previously accused All Pets Club of buying from puppy mills, including one in Kansas.
The Commission’s Chair, Lori Nicholson, told NBC Connecticut, "The Dan Cosgrove Animal Shelter Commission wholeheartedly embraces this measure, in an effort to promote adoption, decrease euthanasia rates, and reward humane business models."
NBC Connecticut reached out to the owner, Jerry Pleban, for comment at multiple store locations, but employees would only say he was unavailable.
“We can’t control the mills out of the state of Connecticut. We can’t control how they treat their animals,” said Rep. Kupchick. “That’s a federal issue. But we can control them being sold here.”
The state bill sponsored by Kupchik (No. 5027) was not passed with its original language. Instead legislators agreed to create a task force to look into the issue.
Despite that, activists are hopeful Branford’s Representative Town Meeting will adopt the local measure.
Rep. Kupchick says she is inspired by Branford residents’ movement on the issue and plans to continue her fight for the rights of these animals at the state level.