Cambridge, Massachusetts Could Ban Selling Pets in Pet Stores

Posted by Samantha Bubar
pets in pet stores

The proposal to approve a plan to ban sales of animals in Cambridge, Massachusetts has animal lovers at odds. 

If the Massachusetts City Council approves the proposed bill, animals will no longer be sold in pet stores in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with exception to those animals that came from rescues or shelters. The bill aims to improve the quality of life for animals bred to be sold in stores where conditions are often deemed inhumane.

Just Cambridge?

This isn't the first bill of this kind. It follows the lead of other laws put in place around the country, the goal being to decrease the revenue of puppy mill operations.

Boston made the sale of dogs, cats, and rabbits in stores illegal last spring.

pets illegal in pet stores

Cambridge pet stores, along with countless other national chain pet stores, have actually never sold dogs or cats, according to a representative. They instead partner with local rescues to host adoption events.

Some against the bill suggest that pets not readily available in shelters or rescues, like lizards and birds, would essentially be banned from being sold in pet stores. These pets would be difficult to obtain, and in turn may be put in worse conditions to get to the consumer.

People opposed to the bill are afraid of the creation of a type of pet "black market" in response to the ban.

In Attendance

Breeders and representatives of pet store chains clashed against officials from animal welfare organizations and rescue volunteers during a public hearing on Thursday at Cambridge City Hall.

pets not sold in pet stores

A puppy-mill survivor, a grey dog so traumatized from her past that she couldn't walk on her own, was also present in the crowd. The dog's owner argued that pets bought spur-of-the-moment often end up back at the store or at a rescue.

"Responsible breeders do not sell to pet stores," said Stephanie Harris, Massachusetts state director of the Humane Society of the United States, an advocate of the bill.

Unintended Consequences

The ordinance would also halt the practice of selling animals at roadside stands and advertisements if a family cat has kittens. City Councilor Craig Kelley asked for clearer outlines of who exactly would be affected by the ordinance.

He told Boston Globe, "This is your neighbor who has kittens. This is your kindergarten class selling turtles at the end of the year."


This convoluted language mirrors a controversial bill in the state Senate targeting irresponsible dog breeders. The bill requires breeders to have a license, but also affects those trying to find a home for a pet's litter of puppies. Under this bill, giving someone a puppy without the proper permit would be punishable by a $500 fine or 90 days in jail.

The Opposed

Bird and reptile breeders appeared Thursday, disgruntled by the proposal. Denise Cabral, president of the Massachusetts Caged Bird Association, said this bill is "exactly the sort of thing my father fought in World War II to prevent."

Bird and reptile owners rely on pet stores for information and supplies for their pets.


The Supporters

Vice Mayor Marc McGovern is largely supportive of the bill proposal. He argues that it will definitely not put large pet store chains out of business. It will only force them to obtain animals through rescues and shelters, which he feels is a very beneficial outcome.

No action was taken on Thursday after the meeting.

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Cambridge, Massachusetts Could Ban Selling Pets in Pet Stores