|Action||Promulgate regulation required by Chapter 1284 of the 2020 Acts of Assembly|
|Comment Period||Ends 12/23/2022|
My name is Sarah Sanders and I am a resident of Newport News.
The majority of pet shops that sell puppies are getting those dogs from puppy mills, large, inhumane commercial breeding facilities where puppies are “mass-produced” for sale. These poor animals are forced to live in squalid conditions with minimal veterinary care or human interaction. It is common for consumers to end up with sick and behaviorally challenged puppies bought from pet shops due to the conditions the puppies are born into, transported in, and subjected to at pet shops. Sick puppies are not only a financial drain for the consumer but are also a public health risk; recent outbreaks of both Canine Brucellosis and Campylobacter have been traced back to commercial dog breeding facilities and pet shop puppies.
Problematic pet shops in Virginia demonstrate a need for better standards. In 2019, a Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) undercover investigation and subsequent investigation by local law enforcement of a pet shop in Fairfax, VA revealed extensive mistreatment of animals. One of the two former pet shop managers was found guilty of animal cruelty for failing to provide veterinary care to one dog that died and 31 rabbits that were found dead in the shop’s freezer. The investigation revealed that as many as 21 puppies at a time were given medications or kept in isolation in the back room due to illness. Standards are needed to prevent this type of suffering and cruelty from happening again while pet shops continue to sell puppies and kittens in Virginia.
Our animal shelters, both public and private, are held to high standards in order to operate in the Commonwealth. Pet shops, which are similarly handling puppies and kittens, should be held to the same standards to protect both animals and consumers.
While I support many of the proposed changes, including requiring unannounced inspections of all pet shops, I believe more must be included in these regulations to ensure the welfare of puppies and kittens kept at pet shops.
First, there should be substantive consequences for failing to comply with the standards of care. A pet shop whose permit is revoked should not be permitted to immediately reapply, especially for repeated and egregious violations. VDACS should also be able to bring civil penalties for regulatory violations, just like it can when enforcing animal shelter standards. And most importantly, if a pet shop operator is found to have committed an act of cruelty, the regulations should explicitly prohibit them from obtaining another permit.
Second, pet shops should be required to engage a licensed veterinarian to develop protocols around veterinary care, medications, pre-sale exams, age-appropriate tests and vaccinations. Not only is this something our private and public animal shelters are required to do, but it will also prevent needless suffering due to a lack of veterinary care and protect public health from potential zoonotic diseases.
Finally, while I appreciate the requirement that puppies and kittens must always have water, the regulations should clarify that water must be provided in a manner suitable to the animal’s species. Both puppies and kittens drink by immersing their tongues in water. Unfortunately, most pet shops provide water via a drip tube, which is inappropriate for puppies and kittens. An animal shelter would never be allowed to provide water in this way, and neither should pet shops.