Monday, March 21, 2016

Activists Announce Pet Shop Ban in Portland, Maine

After failing to achieve a state-wide ban in Maine in 2015 on the four pet shops that sell dogs and cats in the state, activists announced plans this week to re-introduce the ban in Portland, Maine “by the end of the month.”  There are no pet shops that sell dogs and cats in Portland. 

More than 120 communities across the United States have mandated in law that you may not buy a puppy from a professional breeder in a legitimate pet store, and that you may only buy a puppy in the store supplied by a shelter or rescue organization.  The problem is that these organizations no longer sell animals in need of homes from the local community.  These organizations now primarily sell animals imported from unknown sources in far-away states and foreign countries.  This is the phenomenon of retail rescue.

In 2015 the Maine Legislature passed the ban on the sale of professionally bred animals in pet stores with strong bipartisan support.  The governor vetoed the law, and it died.  Now, the same players who failed to get the state-wide ban in Maine are bringing it back at the local level.
One of the biggest supporters of the failed state-wide ban in Maine was Patricia Murphy, Executive Director of the largest shelter in Maine, the Animal Refuge League of Greater Portland.  According to their 2014 IRS 990 forms, this shelter has almost $11 million in assets.  Murphy is paid a salary in excess of $100,000.00.  In addition, this shelter is currently constructing a new facility with a budget of $6.5 million.

In public testimony in 2015 I told the legislature that Murphy’s shelter was importing animals.  Murphy testified after I did, and she took great exception to my statement.  She broke protocol for testifying to the legislature by straying from her script to address my statement.  She emphatically stated, “We do not import animals.”

The facts indicate otherwise.

According to a survey from Maine’s Department of Agriculture, Maine’s shelters imported 45% of their animals from out-of-state in 2014.  The survey shows that 3,436 dogs and 2,060 cats were brought into the state by Maine’s shelters that year.  The latest numbers from 2015 show a dramatic increase in these numbers with 61% of Maine’s shelter animals coming from out-of-state.  Last year Maine’s shelters imported 4,302 dogs and 3,342 cats.  More than half of the animals in Maine’s shelters now come from out-of-state.

But Murphy still believes her shelter doesn’t import animals.

Only days after Murphy claimed her shelter doesn’t import animals, one of her employees shared a post on social media lamenting how she was stuck in Boston’s rush hour traffic as she made her way to Logan International Airport in Boston to pick up a shipment of “sato” dogs.  “Sato” is Spanish for “stray dog”.

The pricelist for animals at Murphy’s shelter is complicated.  Imported animals are more expensive.  Most dogs sell for $300.00.  Imported dogs sell for $350.00.  Imported kittens sell for $200.00 each. 
According to their Facebook page this shelter sold 253 cats and kittens in December 2015.  If the cats were sold for $200.00 each, that’s over $50,000.00 in revenue in one month from cats alone.  That total doesn’t include additional revenue from 61 dogs and puppies and 15 small animals also sold in that month.

According to state statistics, over half of these animals came from out-of-state.

The proposed ban on the sale of animals in legitimate pet shops from professional breeders presumes that those breeders are unprofessional and sub-standard.  If that’s true, why would government mandate that your next puppy must come from a mysterious place that might be even worse?
The proposed ban mandates that the public may only purchase animals in a pet shop supplied by shelters and rescue organizations. For 25 years Maine’s Puppy Lemon Law has been one of the toughest consumer and animal protection laws in the country.  Animals sold by shelters and rescue organizations are exempt from all terms of Maine’s Puppy Lemon Law.  Why would government remove these protections for Maine’s consumers and Maine’s animals?

Government is working hard with the activists to make sure your next puppy comes from mysterious sources. 

Repeated calls to Murphy for comment were not returned.

Jay Kitchener is a leading advocate in the purebred dog industry and has been on the forefront in preserving the rights of dog breeders and animal owners nationwide. Jay serves as the New England Regional Director for The Cavalry Group.