After Hours of Testimony, Lawmakers Vote Down Colorado’s ‘Puppy Mill’ Bill

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

A bill that aimed to change how pet breeders do business and prevent harmful breeding practices has failed. 

The “Humane Pet Act” caused a stir among breeders and pet stores. Its proposed changes prompted hours of testimony at its committee hearing on Monday. The bill failed in the House Rural Affairs and Agriculture committee by a vote of 5 to 6. 

“The goals of this bill are and always have been to ensure Colorado does not support cruel puppy mills and to protect Coloradans from the heartbreak and financial cost that often result from buying a puppy mill puppy,” said state Rep. Monica Duran, who sponsored the bill.

Duran removed the original bill’s strongest regulation, which would ban the sale of cats and dogs in pet stores. She said she was heartbroken over the decision, but said she didn't want that one aspect to jeopardize the entire bill. 

The bill would have limited breeders to only having 25 cats and dogs at any given time, and capped the number of times an animal could be bred to no more than six times during its lifetime. Breeders would also have to demonstrate that they attempted to rehome the cats and dogs they used to breed. 

Jackie Christakos, a veterinarian and the president-elect of the Colorado Veterinary Medical Association, objected to these limitations because there’s no scientific evidence to support the proposed caps, she said. Instead, Christakos recommended making that decision on an individual basis. 

“The quality of care is the factor that is essential to the health and welfare of the animals, not necessarily the number of animals housed at a particular facility, ” she said.

Pet store owner Renee Reese also expressed concern, saying it would put her out of business. She said that would harm her clients, most of whom she said are people with disabilities who need to know a dog’s lineage and temperament as well as if the animal is hypoallergenic.  The benefit of getting a dog from a breeder is that the consumer can have more information as to where the dog came from. 

“Passing this bill [will be] a disservice to the disabled people and people with allergies in Colorado’s communities,” Reese said.

Many opponents of the bill testified Monday that these new restrictions are unnecessary because Colorado has the Pet Animal Care Facilities Act. The act puts in place a licensing and inspection program that keeps animals safe, which breeders argue requires regulations they already have to abide by. 

Dr. Apryle Steele, a veterinarian and the CEO of the Denver Dumb Friends League, supported the bill. 

“Puppy mills are high-volume, commercial dog breeding facilities where profits are often prioritized over animal welfare,” she said during Monday’s hearing. 

Steele acknowledged that most breeders do their job responsibly. But she favored one provision that prohibited shelters and rescues from purchasing cats and dogs from mills under the guise of adoption.

A few of the lawmakers who voted no did so because they think it would hurt businesses.

"This will put small businesses out of business," state Rep. Rod Pelton said. "This is no longer a business-friendly state."

Many of the people who testified about their opposition to the bill were pet store owners.