FALMOUTH — In 2015, Maine Friends of Animals and the advocacy group Maine Citizens Against Puppy Mills jointly sponsored legislation to ban the sale of dogs and cats in Maine pet shops, addressing in particular “puppy mill” suppliers. The bill passed in the Maine House and Senate and was bound to be first-in-the-nation state legislation, only to be vetoed by then-Gov. Paul LePage. With a new administration, we have submitted a similar measure this session – L.D. 1311 – and we hope to see it become law.

Since the 2015 legislation, large-scale breeding facilities have become a national issue. States and municipalities across the country have implemented or are considering similar legislation to address inhumane commercial puppy breeding.

Pet shops that continue to sell these animals are utilizing an outdated and socially unacceptable business model, becoming outliers in their own industry. They wish to obtain product at the lowest possible price to maximize profit. To keep overhead down, puppy mill operators skimp on housing, food and veterinary care. The lack of basic care at these breeding facilities is egregious and often results in poor physical and psychological health of the puppies sold to pet shops. The animals are viewed strictly as a commodity.

Dogs are social animals, and without normal human interaction, they live in loneliness, fear and stress. Those kept in commercial breeding facilities may pace back and forth in their wire cages, bark nonstop, cower or appear entirely shut down; many with psychological issues, some already half dead in spirit.

Stressful puppy mill conditions begin with the repetitive breeding of the female, the “brood bitch” in her prime, without any rest or recuperation time between litters. This is detrimental to the health of the mother and can potentially harm her puppies as well. The continuous breeding, nursing and loss of her babies – in a caged environment – is a cruel life cycle.

The first months of puppies’ lives are a critical socialization period. Spending that time with their mother and litter mates, along with slow weaning, helps prevent problems like extreme shyness, aggression, fear and anxiety. Puppies born in puppy mills are usually removed abruptly from their litter mates and mothers at very early ages, leaving long-lasting emotional and behavioral problems.

Transportation of the animals can expose them to illness and disease. At the pet store, the puppy or kitten is again put into new, unfamiliar surroundings and handled by many different people.

There are many humane and safe options in Maine offering purebred dogs and cats to loving families: local animal shelters, reputable local breeders and breed-specific rescue groups. More than 25 percent of the dogs received by animal shelters are purebred, according to a 2014 Humane Society of the United States estimate.

Sponsored by state Sen. Ben Chipman of Portland, “An Act Regarding the Sale of Dogs and Cats at Pet Shops” is important unfinished business from 2015. Please contact your state representative and state senator today and ask them to support L.D. 1311.

Maine cannot oversee the large-scale breeding industries in other states, but what Maine can do is enact legislation to stop those animals from being sold in this state and send the message that we take animal cruelty seriously.

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