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S. 114, H. 1774: An Act protecting the health and safety of puppies and kittens in cities and towns

MSPCA Position: Support
Sponsors: Senator Chandler, Representative Campbell
Status: Hearing held June 4, 2019 before the Joint Committee on Municipalities and Regional Government. S. 114 released as an omnibus animal bill from the Committee on May 8, 2020. The bill also contains language from S. 1204/H. 1823 (An Act relating to the remedy for the sale of sick puppies and kittens) and H. 1822 (An Act enhancing the issuance of citations for cruel conditions for animals).

These bills solve problems affecting young cats and dogs, in addition to families throughout the Commonwealth. They are important to protect animals and consumers in our state.

What will these bill do?
They will protect puppies, kittens, their parents and consumers in 4 ways:
1.   Prohibits the sale of puppies and kittens under 8 weeks old;
2.  Requires the promulgation of rules and regulations for boarding facilities and breeders;
3.  Prohibits the roadside sale of animals; and
4. Updates several laws relating to the regulations of kennels.

Why are these bills important?
Puppies and kittens are sometimes sold before the age of eight weeks. Separating puppies and kittens from their mother and litter prior to completion of their primary socialization developmental stage—when they learn important species-specific behaviors such as bite inhibition, submissive postures, and the development of proper social relations with their littermates—can result in significant behavioral problems, including aggression.

Puppies learn social structure, dominance, and patience during the first eight weeks of life. When they are separated too early, the foundation for training can be more difficult to establish and may result in separation anxiety, destructive behavior, or lack of bite inhibition. Behavior problems caused by early separation can make dogs, in particular, more difficult to adopt and, in worst-case scenarios, can contribute to the likelihood of dog bites and can be a public safety threat. One study using a control group found that disease susceptibility and mortality was higher in puppies with a shorter maternal-contact period.

Approximately 25 states have a statutory or regulatory provision preventing the sale of puppies younger than eight weeks of age, and at least 13 have laws that apply to any person who sells an underage puppy. Strengthening the law to prohibit the sale of puppies and kittens under eight weeks of age and specifically prohibiting individuals from selling such young animals will go far toward protecting both animals and people in Massachusetts.

Massachusetts currently has no state oversight of breeders or doggie daycare/boarding facilities. The only requirement for anyone with more than four dogs is to obtain a kennel license from the city or town. This bill would require the Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR) to establish reasonable rules and regulations for the operation of breeding kennels and catteries producing pets for the public, as well as boarding kennels and daycare facilities for dogs and cats.

These bills would also update and clarify some old language in the kennel licensing laws, specifically: 137: Registration and licensing of dogs; 137A: Kennel licenses; 137B: Sale or other delivery of unlicensed dog by kennel licensee.
The goals are to:
• Simplify language;
• Ensure that all dogs have an individual license, even if they are in a kennel with a kennel license;
• Update language in 137B, which would help ensure a city or town licensing authority knows when a dog is purchased from a kennel and moves into the city or town and also help ensure a city or town knows where the dogs in a kennel go when transferred.

Lastly, they would prohibit a person from selling, exchanging, trading, bartering, leasing or displaying for commercial purposes any dog or cat on any roadside, public right-of-way, parkway, median, park or other recreation area, flea market or other outdoor market, or commercial or retail parking lot regardless of whether access for such purposes is authorized. This section shall not apply to the transfer of a dog or cat by, or to, a shelter, municipal animal control facility or animal rescue organization (regardless of payment or compensation); or to the display of a dog or cat as part of a state or county fair exhibition, a 4-H program or similar exhibition or educational program. This section was added to protect consumers and animals from this unsafe practice.

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