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Cambridge Animal Mill Ordinance
On Monday, August 7, 2017, the Cambridge City Council passed a landmark ordinance that prohibits pet shops in Cambridge from selling mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and arachnids in pet shops or on city property (e.g. sidewalks, parking lots, roadsides), unless the animals come from a shelter or rescue organization. Individuals can also purchase animals directly from responsible breeders. The law, introduced by Vice Mayor Marc McGovern, benefits Cambridge consumers, animals, and taxpayers alike by helping to limit impulse buying and irresponsible breeding practices.
In 2016, almost 28% of small mammals, reptiles, and birds taken in by the MSPCA were originally purchased from pet shops.
WHAT DOES THIS ORDINANCE DO?
Protects consumers. Families purchasing animals from pet shops often unknowingly support large-scale commercial breeders and importers/distributors. Families may purchase a pet with health and/or behavioral issues, for which state law offers minimal, if any, recourse. Consumers purchasing animals with similar issues on the roadside or at markets, parks, etc., have no recourse.
State records show numerous complaints from customers purchasing sick or genetically compromised puppies. There are 17 pet shops in the Commonwealth that sell puppies. Using state records, several pet shops in Massachusetts were found to source most of their puppies from large-scale commercial breeders (“puppy mills”).
Protects animals. Pet shops make it easy to buy an animal on a whim, and animals are often left to suffer after their novelty wears off. Many owners aren’t invested in providing for the complex needs of pets, especially exotic species like birds and reptiles, many of whom are long-lived.
The Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (MSPCA) and other Massachusetts organizations take in hundreds of animals each year that were originally purchased from pet shops.
WHAT DOESN’T THIS ORDINANCE DO?
This ordinance does not put anyone out of business. Any pet shop that goes out of business because of this ordinance does so by choice. This ordinance is designed to require pet shops to obtain animals from humane sources, not to put them out of business. PetSmart and Petco, the two businesses selling animals in Cambridge, each have robust sales of pet supplies and pet services. These businesses are perfectly positioned to transition to a humane business model.
This ordinance does not cut down on consumer choice or prevent individuals from buying animals from responsible breeders. To the contrary, it encourages responsible pet purchasing. Consumers can adopt from a shelter, rescue, or even a breed- or species-specific rescue. Consumers can purchase pets from responsible breeders that allow prospective owners to see the conditions the animal was born into, meet the animal’s parents, and ask questions.
WHERE DO PET SHOPS GET THEIR ANIMALS?
Large-scale commercial breeders.
In the case of puppies, pet shops rely on “puppy mills”. Most breeding dogs spend their entire lives in cramped, stacked wire cages. They do not have access to exercise, socialization, or adequate vet care. When dogs are no longer able to reproduce, they may be abandoned or inhumanely euthanized.
Birds, other cold-blooded animals, and small mammals bred for the pet trade are kept in the poorest conditions. Suppliers are not regulated under the Animal Welfare Act. As a result, high mortality rates are often more cost-effective than improving conditions for animals. A recent investigation of a small mammal provider found evidence of animals frozen alive, living in filthy cages, and deprived of basic care.