Some state lawmakers are considering a ban that would prevent Connecticut pet stores from selling dogs, cats and rabbits that come from breeders who have raised them in sub-par conditions.
Activists argue that pets from "puppy mills" aren't well cared for, and a bipartisan task force met for the first time Wednesday morning to discuss the issue.
The task force will examine the "inhumane treatment of dogs and cats in breeding facilities that sell to Connecticut pet shops," according to State Rep. Brenda Kupchick, co-chair of the task force.
Members plan to hold at least two public hearings.
Proponents of a ban on "puppy mills" claim they sell sick animals to pet shops around the state, leaving pet owners with hefty veterinary bills.
"What we would like to see is these stores adopt a humane business model where they get their animals from shelters, municipal pounds, rescue organizations and not puppy mills," said Amy Harrell, who is with the organization Connecticut Votes For Animals and is a member of the task force.
The task force includes a representative from the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council, but there are no pet store owners on the panel.
The state has 130 pet stores, 18 of which sell puppies and kittens, and the pet industry is against the bill, saying it hurts small business and doesn't really protect animals.
Jennifer DeAngelis, who works at the All Pets Club pet store in Wallingford, attended the hearing.
She says her store has strict standards and does not by animals from breeders who have been cited by the U.S.D.A. for violations. She says they also follow up with customers to make sure there are no problems.
"Taking puppies out of a pet store and taking the rights away from a consumer to make the choice where they want to get a dog is not the solution," said DeAngelis. "If you want to take care of the bad breeders, which there are bad breeders that we do not use, that's where you need to clean it up."
According to the Humane Society, federal legislation outlaws the import of puppies from foreign puppy mills, and Virginia, Louisiana, Oregon and Washington limit the number of dogs that can be kept in commercial breeding facilities.
“With the creation of this task force I’m hopeful all pets Connecticut residents include in their families come from humane sources,” Kupchick said in a statement.
In June, the town of Branford was considering an ordinance to ban the sale of dogs from puppy mills and the Humane Society was working with the animal shelter commission to implement the ban.
Lawmakers hope to craft a bill by early next year.