Pet shop fire raises safety ques­tions

State lacks law on num­ber of an­i­mals al­lowed in cer­tain amount of space

The News-Times - - FRONT PAGE - By Ka­t­rina Ko­ert­ing

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 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.

H John Voorhees III / Hearst Con­necti­cut Me­dia

Pup­pies from Puppy Love in Dan­bury ad­justed to their tem­po­rary lo­ca­tion last week after a fire be­hind the store forced their move to a new lo­ca­tion.

H John Voorhees III / Hearst Con­necti­cut Me­dia

Last week, 86 pup­pies from Puppy Love in Dan­bury were re­moved from the store and trans­ferred to an empty store­front next door after a late night fire be­hind the store.

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