Elected officials in a western Massachusetts city say they’ve struck a blow against the inhumane breeding of dogs. A local pet store is threatening a lawsuit.
The city of Springfield has put on the books a ban on the retail sale of dogs, cats, and rabbits sourced from commercial breeders.
The so-called “puppy mill” ordinance was unanimously approved by the City Council and signed by Mayor Domenic Sarno, according to the mayor’s spokesman.
Councilor Melvin Edwards, the lead sponsor, said it came about out of concern for animals coming to pet stores from high-volume commercial dog breeders.
" With the vote to pass this, we get the clock starting on creating a more safer environment for both the consumer and the animals that exist in the city of Springfield," Edwards said.
The city’s director of animal control Pam Peebles endorsed the ordinance.
"This really would just help Springfield to really become progressive and take a step more to being a more humane community," Peebles said.
She said it would stop “a pipeline” from “puppy mills” to retail pet stores.
" Bottom line this is about profit for the retail pet industry," Peebles said.
There is only one store in Springfield that sells animals. It is The Puppy Place, located in a strip mall on Boston Road.
"There is no language ( in the ordinance) that allows for the grandfathering of an extension of the enforcement of this ordinance," Edwards said. "In 90 days the retail sale by a commercial entity would be cause for a fine of $300 per violation."
Edwards said the ordinance does allow shops to display for adoption animals that come from either a public animal control shelter or an animal rescue group.
"This does not stop people who want to breed thier own animals or stop private breeders from operating in the city," Edwards said. "This only addresses the retail sale."
In an interview, Katie Kelleher, the office manager for The Puppy Place, said the store has been targeted by animal rights activists and maligned in sensationalized media accounts of people who said they bought puppies there that turned out to have health problems.
"We're a responsible pet shop," Kelleher said. "We care about our animals. We do our very best to buy from responsible breeders."
She said the store plans to petition the City Council within the next 20 days to repeal the ordinance.
"If that doesn't work and they refuse to allow us to stay, we're going to sue the city," Kelleher said.
Before the Council’s unanimous vote, city lawyer Tom Moore said he believes the ordinance will hold up to a legal challenge.
"When you are operating a business, you are subject to changes within the law and operating your business in accordance with those changes," Moore said. " That is the way the Council is approaching this and it is a reasonable approach."
According to the Animal Legal Defense Fund, hundreds of municipalities and several states have enacted retail pet sale bans.