ATTLEBORO, Mass. (WPRI) — Pet supply retailers in Attleboro will no longer be able to sell certain animals as pets, city councilors decided Tuesday evening.
The Attleboro City Council voted unanimously in favor of an ordinance amendment that bans pet shops from selling cats, dogs, rabbits and guinea pigs.
The ordinance, introduced by Mayor Paul Heroux, aims to “create for a more humane treatment of animals by not subjecting them to the often less than optimal conditions at pet stores.”
Melissa McIsaac, district leader for the Massachusetts Humane Society, spoke in favor of the ordinance at a city council meeting last month.
McIsaac specifically expressed her concerns with the overcrowding of guinea pigs in animal shelters statewide.
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“Although guinea pigs are amazing animals, a lot of people go in blindly when they adopt them and they don’t realize what they’re all about,” she explained. “It’s causing people to surrender them in droves.”
McIsaac believes there are two main reasons why prospective guinea pig owners have been adopting and almost immediately surrendering them.
Guinea pigs, according to McIsaac, are high maintenance, costly and time consuming pets that require a lot of work, which isn’t always relayed by store employees.
On top of that, McIsaac said the pandemic prompted a surge in pet adoptions since the vast majority of people were cooped up at home.
McIsaac admitted that she adopted two of her four guinea pigs from a pet shop a couple of years ago with little to no knowledge of how to care for them.
In her case, however, McIsaac stuck with it and accepted the responsibility.
“I was up to the task, but not everybody is,” McIsaac said.
Allison Blanck of the American Rescue League of Boston echoed McIsaac’s concerns, stating that guinea pigs are surrendered far more often that dogs and cats are.
Blanck testified in favor of the ban, stating that the financial impact to pet stores in the city would be minimal because most pet shops have already moved away from selling animals.
“That’s not where they make their money,” she explained. “It’s a one-time purchase … [Pet stores] really make their money on supplies.”
The ordinance would allow pet retailers to partner with local shelters to showcase animals up for adoption, so long as the store doesn’t make a profit. Blanck said similar partnerships have proven successful in other communities.
Any pet retailer found in violation of the ordinance would be subject to a $300 fine per sale.
Heroux is expected to swiftly sign the ordinance, which MSPCA Director of Advocacy Kara Holmquist said would make Attleboro the 11th Massachusetts community to restrict the sale of certain animals.
“By including guinea pigs in this ordinance, Attleboro is helping with a major problem we’re seeing in animal welfare, which is an overwhelming number of small pet surrenders,” Holmquist said in a statement. “Ordinances like the one passed in Attleboro help reduce the number of homeless animals and end the animal mill to pet store pipeline.”
There are two pet shops located in Attleboro, including Rumford Pet Express and Petco. While Rumford Pet Express does not advertise live animals for sale, Petco does.
12 News reached out to Petco regarding the ordinance, to which a spokesperson explained that the retailer has never sold cats or dogs and stopped selling rabbits more than 10 years ago.
“As part of our mission to improve lives, we always encourage pet parents to consider adopting a homeless pet rather purchasing one,” the spokesperson said. “We proactively work with thousands of local animal welfare organizations across the country to offer dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs and other companion animals for adoption at Petco.”
The spokesperson didn’t specify when the Attleboro store would stop selling guinea pigs, nor whether the ordinance will effect their bottom line.