By Samuel Shepherd
Special to the Islander
BAR HARBOR — Sales of cats and dogs from some sources soon may be restricted here. Urged on by an animal welfare group, the Town Council is asking its attorney to draft an ordinance that would restrict the sale of dogs and cats sourced from commercial mills that have been criticized by advocates as unsafe or inhumane.
The proposal is part of a national push from the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). Last year, the HSUS helped make Portland the first city in Maine to enact a similar measure.
Zack Klyver of Bar Harbor, the chief naturalist at Bar Harbor Whale Watch and a member of the state council for HSUS, said at the meeting that the ordinance “will serve the best interest of Bar Harbor residents and their pets.”
“It will place important restrictions on a channel of distribution for substandard breeding operations by ensuring potential Bar Harbor pet stores do not sell puppies and kittens from commercial breeders,” he said.
Councilor Matthew Hochman said his dog came from a puppy mill and “has all sorts of issues,” but warned that the draft ordinance could “curtail the activity of legitimate breeders” or prevent other transfer of animals.
“If people have an animal they need to get rid of, for whatever reason, I would prefer they bring it to the SPCA. But we do have people who would rather go on Facebook and find someone local,” he said. “I want to make sure they don’t get caught up in the ordinance.”
Bar Harbor has no pet stores now, but Diana de los Santos of the Hancock County SPCA said so-called puppy mills are active in the region.
“We see a lot of it creeping in,” she said. “They’re coming up from the south; there’s a lot more than you know. We try to use a network through the state to get these animals in the right place.”
If a pet shop opened in Bar Harbor today, it would face no restrictions on the dogs and cats sold, Hochman said.
The council also asked the town attorney to draft an ordinance that would prohibit the display of “wild or exotic” animals in traveling animal acts for public entertainment, such as elephants in circuses. That ordinance would likely exclude livestock to avoid conflict with educational programs.