Puppy rescue at fire raises animal safety issues

January 11, 2019 GMT

DANBURY — The rescue of 86 puppies from a fire next to a pet shop has left some questioning the current regulations around these types of stores.

Connecticut now has no regulations on the numbers of animals that can be kept in a certain square footage, which animal advocates say needs to change — although it isn’t on the top of their legislative lists.

The 86 puppies kept in the 5,000-square-foot facility at Puppy Love, where a nearby fire raged last week, is permitted under the law and the numbers didn’t upset local animal welfare advocates because the store is such a large space.


Firefighters and others rushed to evacuate all the puppies safely as an adjacent shed burned to the ground. The number of dogs surprised some — but not all.

“It wasn’t terribly odd that there were 86,” said Stephanie Barksdale, the operations manager at the Danbury Animal Welfare Society.

She said she is against pet stores in general, though, because she feels people should adopt, not shop and pet shops don’t give the puppies room or time to play like a shelter would.

Puppy mills

Most of the focus in Connecticut pet shop laws tend to be cracking down on puppy mills, which are breeding facilities that maximize profit over the animals well being.

“A lot of times, these puppy animals are genetically deficient and sick,” said Gordon Willard, executive director for the Connecticut Humane Society.

Some states, following a California law, have already made the shift to ban pet shops from selling animals from these large-scale commercial breeders and are instead selling animals from shelters or rescue organizations.

New York City and Cook County (Chicago) now have similar ordinances on the books.

Connecticut State Rep. Allie-Brennan, D-Bethel, introduced legislation to this week to prohibit the sale of puppies and kittens raised under inhumane conditions.

The current standards of care at kennels, shelters and pet shops are overseen by the state Department of Agriculture. But the standards tend to deal more with humane treatment of the animals — requiring the dogs be let out of their cages for a certain amount of time each day, proper lighting and air flow at the facility and ensuring the spaces are clean.

The standards also aren’t well defined, one of the reasons Connecticut is only ranked 27th in the country and last in New England in the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s 2018 Rankings for Animal Protection Laws.


Better standards

A task force was held in 2013 to examine standards and led to stores being required to tell their clients where the dogs came from and if that place had any violations. It also improved the state’s lemon law for pets purchased at pet shops.

“The industry hasn’t changed much, but people’s perception has,” Willard said of the puppy mills.

He said a big task for the upcoming session will be creating and updating standards of care for nonprofit and municipal shelters so that they are identical.

He said these standards might then be applied to kennels and pet shops.

“It’s appropriate to have regulations and it’s appropriate to have expectations,” Willard said.

He said good standards would include a requirement for the number of animals per square foot.

State Sen. Bob Duff, of Norwalk, who leads the animal welfare coalition of sorts at the state legislature, said he would welcome a discussion on standards, but didn’t have specific plans to introduce bills on a limit to a number of dogs at a pet shop.

“The legislature is concerned more about abuse and neglect, whether from an owner or pet shop,” he said.