SPRINGFIELD – City council this week approved a first step in an ordinance banning commercial stores from selling dogs, cats and rabbits over concerns about animal abuse.
The “puppy mill” order met with stiff opposition from the manager of Puppy Place at 1400 Boston Road, who defended the store’s taking over of her puppies and accused activists of a mission of several years to put it into bankruptcy.
Principal sponsor Melvin Edwards said there are many well-documented cases of residents buying pets from stores where the animals are sick or have behavioral issues. He called it a “national trend and a travesty” for animals.
âPeople spend very large sums of money in pet stores on animals that aren’t healthy,â Edwards said.
The order “attempts to disrupt the pipeline between puppy mills and pet stores and send a message that animal cruelty will not be accepted in the city of Springfield,” Edwards said.
Under the ordinance, the sale of dogs, cats and rabbits is prohibited in pet stores. Stores may provide space for the display of animals available for adoption “only if such animals are displayed and made available for adoption by: (A) a public animal control agency or shelter or (B) an animal rescue group ‘under several conditions including sterilization.
A fine of $ 300 is proposed for the enforcement of the order.
Katie Kelleher, office manager of The Puppy Place, said the store is the only one in Springfield that sells puppies commercially.
âIt’s honestly disheartening and offensive that the same group of people attack us year after year, month after month,” Kelleher said. âWe have to defend ourselves constantly even though we hate puppy mills. We don’t buy from puppy mills. We care about the welfare and welfare of animals.
She said the puppies are well cared for and the kennels are thoroughly cleaned daily.
Several advisers praised Edwards’ efforts and asked to be added as co-sponsors. Other communities across the country have passed similar ordinances, including Boston, Edwards said.
Councilors Victor Davila and Malo Brown referred to their own family dogs as family members, Davila calling himself the “proud father of two four-legged children.”
âAs you know, any society is measured by how it treats its most vulnerable and innocent society,â Davila said. âAn animal, especially dogs, cats and rabbits, definitely falls into this category. “
Councilor Jesse Lederman said that in addition to addressing animal rights, the ordinance also aims to protect consumers. There are serious concerns across the country that well-meaning families are paying high prices for animals that turn out to be sick, finding themselves struggling with high vet bills, Lederman said.
Pamela Peebles, the city’s animal control director, said it was “exhilarating” to see Springfield consider passing the ordinance.
âIt’s absolutely about creating a more human community,â said Peebles.
She also said it helps a next generation “to be gentle and more sensitive to animals.”
Peebles said he has received numerous calls and emails from residents about pet store purchases that went wrong. In one case in February, a resident said he bought a puppy for $ 2,500. Soon after arriving home, the animal was uncontrollable and vicious. The owner was told to abandon the dog at a shelter or rescue center, which he did, without getting his money back, Peebles said.
The council will discuss the matter at the general government subcommittee, before bringing it back to the full council to consider the final passage, Edwards said.
Edwards did not name The Puppy Place, but said he knew of only one puppy store in Springfield. Peebles said the order would prevent future pet stores from selling the pets commercially.
The Puppy Place property attempted to open a rescue dog kennel in 2019, but this was rejected by council after strong opposition from residents and animal advocates.
The council vote was 13-0 against the special permit, requested by Save All Dogs, a Manchester, Connecticut-based non-profit animal rescue organization. The Puppy Place property was then declared to be donating funds to the rescue group.
The Puppy Place was in West Springfield but moved to Springfield a few years ago after numerous complaints from customers, including suspected sick dogs. The company said the criticisms of the company were unfounded.