S. 2994: An Act protecting the health and safety of puppies and kittens in cities and towns
(Note: This legislation is from the 2021-2022 session.)
MSPCA Position: Support
Sponsor: Senator Harriette Chandler and Representative Linda Dean Campbell
Status: Passed the Senate on July 11, 2022. Referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means.
This legislation solves problems affecting young cats and dogs, in addition to families, throughout the Commonwealth. It’s important to protect both animals and consumers in our state.
This bill will protect puppies, kittens, their parents, and consumers in 5 ways:
- Prohibit the sale of puppies and kittens under 8 weeks old;
- Require the promulgation of rules and regulations for boarding facilities and breeders;
- Prohibit the roadside sale of animals;
- Update several laws relating to the regulations of kennels; and
- Clarify that the law does not consider dogs and cats livestock.
Why is this legislation 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 also 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 old 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 legislation 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.
This legislation would also update and clarify some outdated 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 of addressing this language are to:
- Simplify language;
- Ensure that all dogs have an individual license, even if they are in a kennel with a kennel license;
- Help to ensure that 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 to ensure that a city or town knows where dogs in a kennel go when transferred.
This bill would also 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 was added to further protect consumers and animals from this unsafe practice, where consumers have no recourse for being sold a sick animal, cannot get in contact with the seller, and where puppies and kittens are often sold too young. 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.
Lastly, this bill would clarify that dogs and cats are not “livestock.” This section was prompted by a superior court decision in January of 2021 that ruled, that for the purposes of zoning, that dogs can be considered “livestock” under the statutory definition of “farming” and “agriculture.”