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Proposed Bill Would Ban N.H. Pet Stores from Selling Puppies, Kittens, Rabbits

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A bipartisan group of lawmakers wants to ban the retail sale of dogs, cats and rabbits at New Hampshire pet shops. The move, they say, would help stamp out less reputable breeders known as ‘puppy mills’ where animals are potentially subjected to inhumane conditions.

Pet shop owners, however, say the bill is unnecessary, and that the animals they sell are from regulated breeders.

Under the proposed legislation, which will come up for debate sometime after the New Year, brick and mortar pet stores would be prohibited from selling dogs, cats or rabbits, or face a $500 fine for each violation.

[You can read NHPR's previous coverage of animal cruelty here.]

Pet stores would still be able to partner with non-profit animal rescue organizations to display adoptable pets, as long as the pet retailer doesn’t receive a fee.

“It’s a much more humane way to do it: much better for the dog, and the person purchasing the dog,” says Rep. Kathleen Rogers of Concord, a Democrat and lead sponsor of the measure, who has the term “pug lover” in her Twitter biography.

Rogers says retail shops that acquire their animals from disreputable breeders are supporting an industry where dogs and cats are subjected to overbreeding, resulting in offspring with potential health and socialization issues. 

There are only a handful of retail pet stores in New Hampshire, including Bill’s Pet & Aquarium in Manchester. 

The store’s owner, Bill Sturgeon, says the legislation would effectively shutter his 30-year old business. He points out that his shop is regulated by the state’s Department of Agriculture, which can and does inspect his facilities. 

“We’re here, we are brick and mortar. You can see us, you can inspect us, you can come in and talk to us,” says Sturgeon. 

Sturgeon says he obtains his puppies through commercial breeders that are required to hold a license from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Nationwide, approximately 4% of all dogs are purchased through retail pet stores, according to the Humane Society of the United States. 

In New Hampshire, regulations surrounding the breeding and sale of dogs have been fiercely debated in recent years, stemming in part from the seizure of more than 75 Great Danes from a mansion in Wolfeboro. That case garnered international headlines, and resulted in a flurry of legislation.

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