Portland City Council prepares to ban ‘puppy mill’ pet sales

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PORTLAND — The City Council wants to be sure retail sales of puppies and kittens raised by large-scale breeders – also known as puppy mills – will never occur in Portland.

Councilors on Monday approved the first reading of an ordinance amendment that would require any puppies or kittens sold in stores to come from rescue shelters or “an animal care facility.”

“We are proposing to do in Portland what the Legislature passed to do statewide,” Councilor Ed Suslovic said in June, after the Health & Human Services Committee he leads unanimously recommended passage.

A public hearing and final council vote are scheduled Sept. 7.

The amendment also requires that puppies and kittens sold must be at least 8 weeks old. Pet store owners would have to keep records of the animals, where they were obtained, and to mark the cages to show which rescue group provided them.

The amendment’s progress from committee to the full council was delayed after Suslovic asked city Corporation Counsel Danielle West-Chuhta for a review. He said July 28 the amendment had no major changes from what he first introduced.

With councilors holding both of their scheduled August meetings on Monday night, Suslovic said it was important not to have both readings, a public hearing and council vote on the same night. The amendment is designed for retail in-store sales only, he added.

“This is really aimed at the retail segment,” Suslovic said. “It is not intended to block private sales with breeders.”

The amendment prohibits sales in public places, but exempts events where shelters may be offering animals for adoption or where cats and dogs are on exhibit during fairs or agricultural events.

Lynne Fracassi, a founder of Maine Citizens Against Puppy Mills, said July 28 there are at least five stores in southern and central Maine selling animals bred in large-scale operations.

The last store in the Portland area that sold puppies was Little Paws on Payne Road in Scarborough. The store was twice quarantined by the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry because puppies sold there were later diagnosed with parvovirus, a potentially fatal intestinal virus.

Members of Maine Citizens Against Puppy Mills demonstrated outside the store for more than a year and urged Scarborough town councilors to ban the sale of animals from large-scale breeders.

No ordinance was ever introduced or passed, and the store closed in 2013.

“Pet ownership seems to be increasing,” Suslovic said. “If a pet store were to open in Portland, it is much better to have this kind of thing in place.”

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

Portland City Councilor Ed Suslovic: “This is really aimed at the retail segment. It is not intended to block private sales with breeders.”

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Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.
  • Craig Shapiro

    This is such a great decision. Puppy mills are mass-breeding factories where animals’ welfare if given no concern. They are often crammed into small cages caked with feces and are denied socialization, exercise and veterinary care. And all breeders exacerbate the overpopulation crisis. More than 6 million animals arrive in shelters every year, and because there aren’t enough good homes for all of them, about half must be euthanized. Every puppy bred denies a home to one languishing in a shelter. Always adopt; don’t buy from pet stores or breeders.