The Pittsfield, Massachusetts city council has voted to ban the sale of animals from breeding mills.
Attorney Rinaldo Del Gallo brought forward the petition in 2019, and presented the key revision to city code during the open mic portion of the city council meeting Tuesday.
“No pet store shall deliver offer for sale, barter, auction, give away, or otherwise transfer or dispose of cats, dogs, or rabbits," he read. "Nothing in this section shall prohibit pet stores from collaborating with animal care facilities or animal rescue organizations to offer free space for any such entities to showcase adoptable dogs, cats, or rabbits, provided the pet store does shall not have any ownership interest in the animals offered for adoption.”
Under the terms of the ban, only shelter animals will be available for purchase in Pittsfield stores.
“Municipalities play a unique role in helping to address the suffering of animals that are raised in breeding mills," said Laura Hagan. "They fill a critical gap where federal and state law have failed to adequately protect not only the animals but unsuspecting consumers who buy them from pet stores.”
Hagan, the Massachusetts state director for the Humane Society of the United States, came to the meeting from her home in Salem.
“Animal Welfare Act standards permit commercial breeders to keep dogs in cramped, stacked wire cages with no more of six inches of room for them to move on either side for the entirety of their lives," she told the council. "The USDA does not require dogs to be regularly be let outside of their cages for exercise, to receive any socialization, and dogs can be kept in extreme temperatures for prolonged periods, either hot or old. Female dogs are treated as puppy producing machines. They are allowed to be bred as early and as often as possible, and personnel without veterinary training often participate in surgical births for these dogs.”
She described the United States Department of Agriculture’s enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act as “abysmal,” citing the Office of the Inspector General’s 2010 report on its regulatory efforts.
“The OIG found specifically that dogs were so badly starved at one facility that they resorted to cannibalism, yet the USDA allowed the facility to continue to operate and sell puppies to pet stores," said Hagan. "At another facilities, dogs were seen with untreated gaping wounds, and flea and tick infestations so severe you could barely see the dogs’ faces.”
Hagan also cited an August 2019 Washington Post article that shows enforcement has declined under the Trump administration, with a 65% decrease in animal welfare citations between 2016 and 2018 and a 92% dropoff in enforcement cases during the same time.
The ban was adopted unanimously.
Three Pittsfield pet stores contacted by WAMC declined to comment.
In New York, State Senator Michael Gianaris and Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, both New York City Democrats, are pushing for a similar ban on selling animals from breeding mills in pet stores.