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Animal advocates push bill to cut off puppy-mill pipeline

HARTFORD — Animal welfare advocates gathered at the state Capitol Tuesday to push a bill that, they say, would cut off the supply of inhumanely bred animals from out of state puppy-mills.

Most everyone agrees the bill was written with the best of intentions, but some also say it could lead to unintended consequences of an even more prevalent underground animal trade.

Holding pictures of dogs they claim were victims of the cruel breeding practices, animal advocates gathered at the state Capitol to push House Bill 5386.

They came armed with what they say is evidence that a majority of Connecticut pet shops are sourcing dogs from so called puppy mills.

“Most of them are dealing with the worst of the worst breeders in the United States,” said Annie Hornish, the Connecticut Senior State Director for the U.S. Humane Society.

The bill would ban retail pet shops from taking in dogs, cats or rabbits from any place other than shelters, adoption agencies or rescues.

“So many that are being euthanized on a regular basis that it’s just not necessary to support puppy mills,” said Linda Pleva of The animal welfare group Desmond’s Army.

Opponents say the bill misdirects anger at pet stores.

But Rep. David Michel, (D) Stamford said, “We are not going after pet shops, we are going after cruelty.”

In 2018 California became the first state to limit where animals are sourced.

The American Kennel Club warns the bill could lead to, “an underground economy referred to as puppy laundering.”

The Connecticut ASPCA said the bill would allow pet shops to, “hide behind the facade of rescue while still engaging in the inhumane commercial pet trade.”

Opponents also worry the bill would hurt small businesses.

“We can work together with the pet shops and help them change their business model,” said Rep. Michel. They also worry it would decrease the variety of breeds available for purchase.

“People would prefer to adopt animals or they can go to very good respectable breeders if they want to have a specific breed of animal,” responded JoAnne Basile, the Executive Director of Connecticut Votes for Animals.

Some say the focus should be strengthening a lack of federal oversight.

“Federal law has failed in the past. We do have USDA enforcement but that is poorly enforced,” said Hornish.

The bill passed through committee and now with just 17 session days left, awaits a vote on the floor of the house. If it becomes law the state Department of Agriculture would review the California law and report back to the Environment Committee by the 1st of next year.

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