'Puppy Mill' Bill Targets Pet Stores
Advocates trying to crack down on 'puppy mills' support the legislation.
Pet stores would have to do more do to reveal the origins of the puppies they sell and would have to reimburse customers for vet costs if the puppy they buy becomes unexpectedly ill, according to legislation being considered in the Maryland House of Delegates this month.
The legislation comes following a controversy in Columbia regarding a new pet store, Charm City Puppies, which opened in January and sells luxury pet goods, as well as puppies. Animal shelters advocates and other groups raised concerns about the store, saying plenty of shelter animals need homes, and pet store animals often come from puppy mills.
Charm City Puppies owners have not commented, but national pet industry groups said they are working to crack down on substandard breeders, and say quality pet stores and breeders are the norm.
“Extreme groups like to say, 'Well any pet store puppy is a puppy mill puppy,'’’ said Michael Maddox, vice president of governmental affairs and the general counsel for the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council, which represents the pet industry.
“The fact of the matter is, quality pet stores and quality breeders are the norm, and not the exception, and they abhor the substandard breeders as much as anyone else,” he added. “It gives them a bad name. We want these bad folks out of business.”
Republican Del. Nicholaus Kipke, of Anne Arundel County, is the lead sponsor of House Bill 131, which would require retail pet stores that sell dogs to post documents on each dog’s cage naming the breeder or the facility where the dog was born, the USDA license number of the breeder, along with other identifying information.
Kipke was in a committee meeting Wednesday and was unable to answer questions on the bill.
Retail pet stores would also be required to maintain written records for at least one year after the dog is sold.
The bills supporters include the Humane Society of the United States.
Tami Santelli, the Maryland director of the Humane Society, said the bill aims to help consumers, because “almost all puppies sold in pet stores come from puppy mills.”
“Responsible breeders don’t sell to puppy stores,” she said. “Oftentimes, puppies are taken from mothers when they are young and susceptible to diseases. [They are] transported to puppy stores, people buy them, and then a few days later they get sick. Months later, they get a congential issue--sometimes they die.”
The bill would also offer protections for consumers who buy puppies from retail stores and face veterinary costs after the puppies get unexpectedly ill.
Pet stores would be be required to provide a written agreement to the customer who purchases the dog identifying any illness or diseases the dog has and disclosing if the dog hadn’t received any veterinary treatment.
Also, the stores could be required to reimburse veterinary fees after a certain time period that could not exceed three times the purchase price of the dog, according to the bill.
Maddox, with the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council, said his organization supports the concept of the bill, and said good pet stores already post information and keep detailed records on the animals they buy and sell.
Members are concerned about the proposed warranty that would require pet stores to pay up to three times the cost of the animal in veterinary fees.
“It would put a lot of pet dealers out of business,” he said.
He said they do support the concept behind some veterinary cost reimbursements.
“We support the idea of giving pet owners an alternative,” he said. “They can either bring the dog back, or they can bring the dog back and exchange it, or they can keep the dog and get reimbursed for vet fees. It’s their choice, and we support that concept.”