New Bill Takes Aim At ‘Puppy Mills,’ Pet Stores, And Dog And Cat Breeding In Colorado

January 21, 2020
A puppy on display at a pet store in Columbia, Md., Aug. 26, 2019.A puppy on display at a pet store in Columbia, Md., Aug. 26, 2019.Jose Luis Magana/AP
A puppy on display at a pet store in Columbia, Md., Aug. 26, 2019.

A new bill introduced at the Colorado legislature would likely cause pet breeders to change how they do business. It’s a measure that both the American Kennel Club and Colorado Federation of Dog Clubs and Owners oppose.

The “Humane Pet Act,” officially known as HB20-1084, establishes care standards for cat and dog breeders, prohibits the sale of dogs or cats in public places and bans the sale of dogs and cats in pet stores. 

“The bill has a nice title, a good thought, but it hits the wrong people in the equation in trying to do something better for the dogs,” said Linda Hart, the legislative director of the Colorado Federation of Dog Clubs and Owners. 

Colorado has the Pet Animal Care Facilities Act which put in place a licensing and inspection program to keep potential pets safe. Breeders with that license must adhere to state regulations already. According to Hart, making things more difficult for breeders will only force people to continue to do it underground with less appropriate care. 

“They’re getting replaced by rescue dogs that are coming into this state — and there’s around 40,000 imported into this state every year by rescues and shelters — that are carrying disease into this state, they have behavior problems, and it’s a serious problem in the state that is trying to be addressed in other ways,” Hart said, “And these dogs are not being properly vetted coming into the state and that’s where the focus needs to be.” 

Hart cites the National Animal Interest Alliance Trust which states that 34,634 dogs were imported into Colorado in 2018 alone. As an organization, NAIA Trust focuses on “influencing legislation and defending the victims of animal and environmental extremism.”

The bill’s main sponsor, Rep. Monica Duran, said it’s not about putting anyone out of business, even as she acknowledges that the “pet store market is changing.”

“There are pet stores that have changed their model and they’re selling products, they’re selling food, they’re providing grooming, and then they provide adoption services where they’ll host an adoption,” Duran said.

The proposed bill also limits the number of adult breeding dogs and cats breeders can have, limits how many times a dog or a cat can be bred to once a year, and six times within a lifetime, requires veterinary screening of animals before breeding and would require that breeders attempt to rehome breeding dogs and cats.  

“What is existing is this: they’re in cages that can be just 6 inches bigger than they are, they spend their entire life there, and they are bred until they can’t be bred anymore and then they’re just discarded,” Duran said. “So this bill not only addresses the puppy mill situation but also addresses the way they are cared for while they’re in a commercial breeding facility.”