A task force studying possible restrictions on the sale of puppies and kittens seemed deadlocked Tuesday, divided between animal rights activists and the pet shop industry.
During its next-to-last meeting, it seemed less likely that a consensus will emerge to recommend particular legislation to the General Assembly's Environment Committee, although the co-chairmen Rep. Brenda Kupchick and Sen. Bob Duff are still holding out hope.
"The greater public wants change in Connecticut," said Kupchick, R-Fairfield, during the two-hour meeting.
"Ultimately, at the end of the day, there's a philosophical difference," said Duff, D-Norwalk. "I think it is (best) for us to try to work on issues that we can at least agree on."
Annie Hornish, a former House member who is the state director of the Humane Society of the United States, said that pet stores "abide by very weak standards" to ensure puppies and dogs get proper exercise and veterinary care. "They don't see that as part of their purview."
"Bad breeders are largely unlicensed," said Charles Sewell, executive vice president for external affairs of the Pet Shops of America. "The people in the best position to judge are the vets. They are the professionals who provide us the reasonable assurance for the health of the animals."
The Sale of Cats and Dogs Task Force has held two public hearings, in which the state pet shop owners have said they only purchase puppies from reputable breeders. But animal rights activists cite incidents of abusive conditions among some Midwestern breeders, so-called puppy mills, as the reason to ban them from Connecticut.
But last year similar legislation failed, because of federal laws protecting interstate commerce.
Sewell warned that if pet shops are prohibited from selling puppies, their sale will go underground, onto Internet sites, including Craigslist.
"No one feels stronger than me that animals have to be protected," said Rep. Auden Grogins, D-Bridgeport, another task force member. "But how are we going to regulate these out-of-state breeders? That's the big issue here."
The panel's final meeting is scheduled for Jan. 23.
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