Braintree Pet Store is fighting efforts to ban the sale of animals

Braintree Pet Store is fighting efforts to ban the sale of animals

BRAINTREE — Commercial sales of dogs, cats and rabbits at pet stores would be banned under a proposed law that a local pet store is fighting.

The City Council’s Ordinances and Rules Committee recently held a hearing on the proposal, sponsored by District 3 City Councilwoman Elizabeth Maglio, and tabled the measure until a future meeting.

Committee Chairman David Ringius, a City Council member, said he wants to meet with City Attorney Crystal Huff and hear from the mayor’s office before making a recommendation to the full council.

“I think there is more work to be done,” Ringius said.

City Council President Meredith Boerecki said she wants to hear from state regulators about the proposal. No date has been set for the second meeting.

Ringius said the committee received numerous calls and emails in support of the proposal.

The purpose of the proposal is to “stop the puppy mill from the marketing pipeline,” Maglio said.

Many dogs sold in pet stores are supplied by a middleman in the Midwest, so buyers don’t know the animal’s true origin, she said.

Dog breeders will not be banned

The proposal would not apply to individual dog groomers in the city. Breeders do not engage in large-scale sales and “they sell their dogs to people they know. Breeders care about who gets their dogs,” Maglio said.

Pet stores will be permitted to display dogs, cats and rabbits available for adoption by a public animal control agency or animal rescue organization as long as they do not receive any fees for the showing or adoption. Violations will result in a $300 fine.

Only one store in town offers pets for sale: Pet Express in South Shore Plaza. Half of the store is dedicated to pet food and supplies, while on the other side puppies for sale are displayed behind large glass windows.

Another pet store in town, Pet Smart, offers adoption services.

Braintree store lawyer: Business ‘highly regulated’

It’s a family-owned chain of four stores, with the Braintree store and the store at Square One Mall in Saugus having puppies for sale, said Carl Johnson, the attorney representing Pet Express.

He said the company has been operating at the mall for a decade and is licensed and “highly regulated” by the state. She sells between 50 and 100 puppies a month, and has no record of violations.

By banning commercial sales, you are “depriving consumers of freedom of choice,” Johnson said.

If the council issues such an ordinance, Pet Express should be exempt under the grandfather clause, he said.

Braintree store owner: ‘We don’t buy from puppy mills’

Co-owner Lucia Melas-Castle said such a ban would put her stores out of business and her 60 employees out of work.

She said that the company only deals with breeders it knows, and works to eliminate substandard breeders.

“We don’t buy from puppy mills,” she said.

She said pet stores account for only 5% of all dog sales, and communities with commercial bans on sales have no pet stores.

“This ban will not stop at pet stores,” Melas-Castle said. “Educators are next.”

Six states and several communities across the state have similar bans, District 1 Councilor Julia Flaherty said.

“I think this is a good idea for Braintree,” said Flaherty, the committee member.

The Chamber of Commerce opposes the ban

Eric Diekemann of the South Shore Chamber of Commerce said the group opposes the ban.

“Not everyone wants to buy a pet from a breeder or adoption agency,” Dekemann said.

Contact Fred Hanson at fhanson@patriotledger.com.

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