NORTH ADAMS — The City Council will consider banning pet shops from selling animals from so-called puppy mills, as the movement to stop sales from those facilities gains momentum across the state.
An ordinance introduced by Councilor Marie Harpin on Tuesday night would prohibit pet stores from selling dogs, cats and rabbits, but would allow them to display animals up for adoption from a shelter, rescue organization or public animal control agency.
Proponents of the measure, which was sent to the General Government Committee, described the diseases, genetic defects and emotional issues that plague dogs raised in puppy mills.
“I think it’s a basic step forward for animal rights,” Harpin said. The council will return to the issue in its first meeting in December.
While there are no pet stores in the city that currently sell animals from puppy mills, advocates say the ordinance would prevent such stores from opening, and help build the case for a statewide ban.
Several councilors took issue with the current wording of the ordinance, including the broad legal definition of a “pet shop,” and suggested that the city should wait to see whether state legislators act on several similar bills in the upcoming legislative session.
“There’s no guarantee this is going to be passed by the state,” Harpin said. “And in the meantime, we could do something about this issue.”
Stacey Ober, a legislative analyst for New England at the American Kennel Club, also spoke in opposition to the current language of the ordinance, which she said is “inconsistent with state regulatory definition for animal rescue.” The American Kennel Club has expressed similar concerns when legislation around puppy mills and pet shops came up for consideration in other Massachusetts cities, including Pittsfield and Marshfield.
Leslie Luppino, co-founder of the group Berkshire Voters For Animals, which successfully pushed for the Pittsfield ban, stressed that the ordinance is intended to target large, commercial operations.
“This isn’t in any way trying to inhibit ‘responsible breeders,’” she said.
If North Adams passes the ordinance, it would join more than 360 cities and several states that have enacted similar legislation since 2010, according to records from the Humane Society.
Six Massachusetts cities and towns have banned puppy mill sales: Boston, Cambridge and Stoneham enacted legislation in 2016 and 2017, while Pittsfield, Holliston and Marshfield all passed ordinances this year. Luppino said she hopes recent public enthusiasm for these bans will motivate state lawmakers to pass their own legislation.
The Humane Society defines puppy mills as commercial dog-breeding operations that put profit above the health and welfare of the animals, with minimal or no oversight from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Most puppy mill dogs that are transported to Massachusetts come from the Midwest, according to Laura Hagen, the state director for the Humane Society.
“And by the time they get here, they’re often sick,” Hagen said. “Consumers end up footing the bill for that, spending thousands of dollars at the vet.”