Melanie Noah’s family was overjoyed when they bought a Golden Retriever from Pet Express in Braintree over three years ago.
“She was a cute little happy puppy,” Noah said.
That joy did not last long after they realized the three-month-old pup was suffering from a number of illnesses.
“She had hip dysplasia, double elbow dysplasia, an ear infection,” said Noah.
Those were just a few of the ailments noted in the dog’s medical report from a visit to the veterinarian.
Noah said Pet Express reimbursed them for the pup’s medical bills and took Lyla back for evaluation. But she said the store never returned the pup to the family.
State Senator Patrick O’Connor believes Noah’s story is becoming all too common.
“Right now you’re seeing far too many animals that are coming out of these pet shops that are sick, that have behavioral issues,” he said.
O’Connor and some animal rights groups blame out-of-state commercial breeding facilities known by some as puppy mills, which they accuse of selling sick animals to pet stores.
So, they took their message to the Massachusetts State House this week to support a bill introduced by O’Connor to ban pet store sales of cats and dogs, which was the subject of a committee hearing on consumer protection.
“The consumer is typically unaware of what the animal’s history is and they have no idea that they’re supporting this pretty cruel industry,” said Elizabeth Maglio of the Massachusetts Coalition to End Puppy Mills.
The Better Business Bureau Website shows complaints about at least seven Massachusetts pet stores accused of selling sick pets to customers in recent years.
But during a 2016 Boston City Council meeting on a similar ban for Boston, which was passed, Pet Express co-owner Lucia Mallace defended her business.
“Diversity of choice is the heart of a free society. Limiting the choice of where your community can be provided with pets is limiting their freedoms,” Mallace said.
Noah’s family has two other dogs now. One was adopted, and another was donated by a breeder. She has advice for prospective dog owners.
“Adopt,” Noah said. “Definitely go to a shelter first.”
Pet Express has not returned NBC 10 Boston/NECN’s requests for comment.
If the Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure Committee votes the bill favorably out of committee, the State Senate will have the opportunity to bring it to the floor for a vote.