On Monday, October 19, at 7:00pm, residents in Marshfield, Massachusetts, will be asked at a special town meeting to vote on three proposed dog ordinances, Articles 1, 2 and 3. These articles are extremely problematic because combined, they hamstring local breeding programs in favor of importing strays to meet consumers’ high demand for dogs. New England has a severe shortage of well-bred, healthy puppies and the demand for dogs is consistently being filled by importing shelter and rescue dogs with unknown backgrounds, health histories, and temperaments. Some are brought into the United States from foreign countries with little, if any, veterinary treatment and carrying dangerous infectious diseases with them.
Article 3 would require certain criteria and paying an undefined fee to be eligible for a town “breeder license” giving you permission to breed dogs or cats. According to the explanation on page 6 of the warrant, “the Animal Control division deals with many people in town who purposely, or allow their animals to breed causing an overpopulation issue in town”.
- Intact dogs would need to be examined by a veterinarian at minimum every six months and cleared by the veterinarian as healthy to breed;
- Violators will be fined $50 for a first offense, $100 for a second, $300 for a third, and $500 for a fourth, with each day a dog or cat is kept in violation considered a separate violation;
- Enforcement would be allowed by “any means available in law or equity,” such as requesting a court order for injunction or taking custody of one’s animals; and
- The town’s animal control officer, the police department, or their “designees” would be responsible to enforce its provisions.
The American Kennel Club opposes Article 3. Animal rights activists who oppose breeding animals have consistently filed state legislation that would authorize Massachusetts towns to regulate dog breeding practices under their authority to issue kennel licenses. This session, S. 504 failed for lack of support. Thus, the town of Marshfield does not have authority to require dog owners to schedule veterinary visits every six months, conduct certain health tests, or obtain a special license before breeding a dog. Responsible dog breeders make these decisions with their veterinarians based on their individual dog, breed, and available science. The town, its animal control officers, and police officers, without a search warrant, do not have the authority to request copies of a dog owner’s private records or to award this authority to an undefined “designee”. As written, owners of intact dogs or cats are treated as a separate class from other Marshfield animal owners, who ought to obtain a town breeder license to avoid controversy and penalty over whether you intended to breed your dog or cat. Those who breed purebred dogs have personally experienced or are keenly aware of harassment and intimidation imposed by animal rights activists who object to the ownership and breeding of animals. Creating a list of breeder licenses issued in town would constitute an invasion of privacy capable of subjecting these responsible dog owners to unacceptable conduct. For this reason alone, the proposed policy will not accomplish the compliance it seeks.
Article 2 mirrors state law regarding the issuance of kennel licenses but omits the key definition of “personal kennel”. Without including this term, the proposal implies that a person holding a kennel license does so only for the purpose of selling dogs. In fact, there may be a pack of more than four dogs personally owned for the purpose of improving, exhibiting, or showing the breed or for use in legal sporting activity or for other personal reasons. AKC does not believe mirroring text in a local ordinance from only one section of state law on kennel licenses – without also providing applicable legal definitions – is satisfactory.
Article 1 would ban the sale of purpose-bred pets from state-inspected and -licensed facilities, like pet shops, in favor of sales of animals obtained from shelters and rescues. Approval of Article 1 would tip the scales in favor of obtaining a dog, cat, or rabbit:
- Off the internet, without the opportunity to first meet the pet;
- Of unknown history and randomly sourced; or
- Imported by a retailer, some of which market their pets as “rescues” and deliver them on a roadside, public right-of-way, commercial parking lot, flea market, or other outdoor market.
Unscrupulous online pet sellers and irresponsible pet importers frequently dupe pet buyers. Last year, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey filed lawsuits against two such bad actors. One resulted in the re-payment of $480,000 to pet buyers deceptively sold sick puppies online that were claimed to be registered with AKC and microchipped but were not. The other led to charges against an animal rescue operator unable to account for over $360,000 in charitable donations.
In addition, Article 1 defines “animal rescue entity” in a way that discriminates against dog breeders by prohibiting them from continuing their animal rescue activities. It is inconsistent with state law. The AKC Rescue Network, the largest network of dog rescue groups in the U.S., with more than 450 groups providing fostering and rehabilitation services, would be negatively impacted by Article 1. For this reason, and because many responsible purebred dog breeders also participate in breed rescue work, AKC opposes Article 1.
The town meeting and vote is scheduled for Monday, October 19, 2020, at 7:00pm at the Marshfield High School Gymnasium, 167 Forest St, Marshfield, Massachusetts 02050.
WHAT YOU CAN DO:
- Marshfield residents are encouraged to attend the town meeting and vote “NO” on Articles 1,2, and 3.
- Massachusetts breeders with family and friends who reside in Marshfield are encouraged to contact them in advance of town meeting and share these concerns prior to voting.
AKC Government Relations (AKC GR) will provide additional information as developments warrant. For more information, contact AKC GR at firstname.lastname@example.org.