Lawmakers will hold a hearing Thursday on a bill that would ban the sales of puppies and kittens under the age of 8 weeks and hold sellers financially accountable for sick pets.

“We had a conversation with legislators, local shelters and animal control about this bill,” said Kara Holmquist, Director of Advocacy MSPCA. “Many animals bred by backyard breeders sold way too early for a quick profit.”

Experts said that taking puppies and kittens away from their mothers too early causes harmful behavioral and health issues.

“Behaviorists have found that these animals learn socialization skills between 13 to 14 weeks,” Holmquist said. “One example, they learn from their mothers and their littermates about bite inhibition, a mother will reprimand them if they bite to hard.”

Holmquist said that they also learn frustration tolerance when competing for mother’s milk, sleeping space and other interactions where restraint skills are developed. Without these, the animals are more prone to have a lack of impulse control. 

“These are difficult issues to resolve,” Holmquist said. “It usually requires behavior management. It’s a health and welfare issue for not just the animals, but the owners and other people who come in contact with them. Those weeks of learning are a crucial window, and once it closes, it’s gone.”

Other issues that arises out of leaving the litter too early are health and immunity oriented, 

“This is a petshop standard already, they cant ship a dog unless it’s 8 weeks old,” Director of Law Enforcement for the Animal Rescue League Alan Borgal said. “Generally, the ARL supports this bill because it provides a remedy to stop the sale of sick dogs and let’s law enforcement go after backyard breeders.”  

Borgal said that a puppy taken away from its mother too early and sold on the streets don’t usually have vaccines, which means the new owner could face $450 to $500 of bills at the vet. 

“We have a big problem with backyard breeders especially in the cities with bully breeds. People sell them out of cars,” Borgal said. “We have cases like someone with a shopping cart trying to sell puppies at a mall and we haven’t had the ability to stop them before.”

Puppies and kittens also develop immunities from their mother’s milk, and are often vaccinated at 8, 12, and 16 weeks old. 

“A prospective owner will want puppies who have been taken care of, and they want to make sure they aren’t let out unprotected,” Cambridge Veterinary Care Practice Manager Myrna Robinson-Weiner. “They are very susceptible to things like leptospirosis, a bacteria that is very dangerous for them.” 

The bill also calls for new regulation for a person who sells a sick puppy or kitten to help pay for the veterinarian bill. 

“Puppies aren’t T.V.’s,” Holmquist said. “Returning the puppies is not a desired option. They want to keep the puppy but have the pet shop pay the cost. The bill requires state to regulate larger-volume breeders better.”

The bill is being sponsored by Sen. Karen Spilka and Rep. Garret Bradley.