Vermont House proposal would ban pet store dog and cat sales

Vermont could ban pet stores from selling dogs, cats and wolf hybrids under a bill in the House agriculture committee. 

The legislation, H.567, is sponsored by Rep. Emilie Krasnow, D-South Burlington, who introduced it to committee members Jan. 31. The bill, Krasnow said, aims to prevent Vermont from becoming a place for puppy farms or mills — commercial dog breeding operations that raise animals in poor conditions. 

“There are seven other states that have this bill now, and the Maine bill has been working since 2019,” she said in an interview. The Vermont bill is modeled after that state’s. 

Multiple states in the Northeast are considering similar legislation: Massachusetts, New Hampshire and New Jersey.

Photo by Sophie Acker. 
A dog and puppy have fun on frozen Lake Elmore on Jan. 27.
Photo by Sophie Acker. A dog and puppy have fun on frozen Lake Elmore on Jan. 27.

“And why that’s so important is because we don’t want to be open for business for these puppy mills and pet stores to come to Vermont that would be pushed out of other states,” Krasnow said.

Similar concerns bubbled up in Connecticut after New York’s ban on pet sales. The New England state was seeing a rise in pet store openings last fall, according to the Hartford Courant.

References came up in committee to a lone pet store in Vermont that sells these animals, which through a grandfather clause in the bill would be able to stay in business.

“We are lucky that the puppy-selling pet store industry is small in Vermont, with only one known store selling puppies,” Krasnow told committee members Jan. 31. “That store will be able to continue to do so while we avoid an influx of bad actors who are looking for safe havens and who have track records of importing puppies from midwest puppy mills and bringing so many issues to the communities they sell puppies in.” 

Krasnow assured committee members the bill would not impact stores that already do not sell puppies, “responsible breeders” or “the $136 billion pet retail industry that is focused on pet products and services.” 

The bill has drawn criticism from groups that represent the pet industry and breeders, which say it will only make the black market boom.

Patti Strand, president of the National Animal Interest Alliance, wrote to committee members on Jan. 30, summarizing the organization’s “strong opposition to H.567 in its current form.” 

The bill will fail to protect pets due to “the unintended consequences of shutting down one of the public’s remaining sources of pets,” Strand wrote. 

Taylor Livelli, government affairs manager for the trade group Pet Advocacy Network, agrees with Strand’s sentiment. Until 2022, the group was called the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council.

“While well-intentioned, retail pet sale bans will not stop bad breeders who are unregulated, unlicensed and are not held accountable to any animal care standards,” she wrote in a Jan. 31 letter to committee members. 

Livelli said H.567 “will only boost the unregulated black market for pets.” 

In her letter, Livelli discussed California’s experience with passing a similar bill, claiming the state saw an “over 350%” increase in reported puppy scams and a surge in sick dogs “acquired through unregulated sources.” Livelli cited what appeared to be an article title — but without a link or source name — and the website of the Better Business Bureau, which tracks reports of business scams.

Krasnow remains optimistic about H.567’s positive impact on the pet community. 

“I’m not personally concerned that (the bill) would create an underground illicit dog and cat market here,” she said to committee members Jan. 31. 

Krasnow said she has not received backlash in person and that the bill has gained support from local organizations, the Humane Society and state representatives. 

“I personally did not hear any opposition from anyone on the committee. Everyone seemed really grateful and liked it,” she told Community News Service. “There’s a lot of support from animal advocacy folks in our state and in the surrounding areas for bills like this. So, I personally have received a good attitude towards this bill.” 

If the bill doesn’t pass, she said she plans to reintroduce it next session.

(The Community News Service is a program in which University of Vermont students work with professional editors to provide content for local news outlets at no cost.)