Attorney General's Opinion
Attorney General, Richard Blumenthal
May 13, 2009
F. Philip Prelli, Commissioner
Department of Agriculture
165 Capital Avenue
Hartford, CT 06106
Dear Commissioner Prelli:
Your department requested my opinion on whether an individual or business that sells animals at an exposition event or other temporary location, for a period of one or more days, is a “pet shop” as defined in Conn. Gen. Stat. § 22-327(9). I conclude that businesses or individuals selling animals to the public at an event for even a short duration are pet shops within the meaning of Conn. Gen. Stat. § 22-327(9) and are subject to compliance with pet shop laws found at Conn. Gen. Stat. §§ 22-344(b), 22-244a, 22-344b and 22-344d.
A pet shop is defined as “any place at which animals not born or raised on the premises are kept for the purpose of sale to the public.” Conn. Gen. Stat. § 22-327(9). By statute a pet shop can be “any place” and there is no requirement that a pet shop be located at a store or other permanent location. Additionally, the term “kept” is not dependent on duration of time. Animals being sold to the public at a booth at an event are being “kept” at that location for the purpose of sale to the public. Thus, the sale of animals at short duration events meets the statutory definition of a pet shop.
Only one comment in the law’s legislative history sheds further light on this question. In discussing an amendment in 1972 to expand the pet shop statute from covering only dogs to include other animals, one senator stated that the legislation extended the jurisdiction of the Commissioner of Agriculture and Natural Resources “to supervise and inspect pet shops which by definition includes any place where various named animals are held for sale.” 15 S. Proc. Pt. 3, 1972 Sess., p. 970 (remarks of Sen. Strada) (emphasis added). This comment further supports application of the term “pet shops” to temporary locations where animals are sold.
Pursuant to Conn. Gen. Stat. § 22-344(b), no person may maintain a pet shop until he has obtained a license from the Commissioner of Agriculture. The Commissioner is to approve an application for a pet shop if he finds that the pet shop has complied with applicable state regulations (related to sanitation, disease, humane treatment of animals and public safety), and in the case of an initial application, that the business complies with local zoning regulations as determined by a municipal zoning enforcement official. A pet shop license may only be transferred to another premise upon the approval of the Commissioner, who must determine the appropriateness of all pet shop locations. Id.
Connecticut’s pet shop laws protect the public and animals by permitting inspection of the premises where animals are sold, requiring compliance with regulations related to sanitation, disease, humane treatment of animals, and public safety. Conn. Gen. Stat. § 22-344(e) and R.C.S.A. §§ 22-344-16a-20a and 22-344-25c. Our laws also require veterinary examinations prior to sale of a cat or dog, a refund of the purchase price of a sick cat or dog under certain circumstances, and the posting of certain information about a dog for sale on the cage of such dog. Conn. Gen. Stat. §§ 22-344b and 22-344d. We agree with your department’s concern that if temporary locations for selling animals are not deemed to be pet shops, consumers will not be afforded these rights and protections.
The definition of the term pet shop is not limited by how long or where an animal is kept for sale to the public. Individuals or businesses selling animals at any temporary location must obtain a pet shop license.
Please let me know whether you have any further questions on this issue.