After a year of haggling among reform-minded lawmakers, animal-rights advocates and the pet shop industry, the Senate unanimously approved compromise legislation that would give consumers up to $500 for veterinary bills to treat dogs and cats purchased with pre-existing conditions.

The legislation, which heads to the House, would require Connecticut breeders to register with town or city officials and pay annual local and federal license fees.

Pet shops would have to display signs detailing consumer protections and chart twice-a-month visits from veterinarians to inspect their dogs and cats, and would be responsible for paying the up-to-$500 claims. Breeders with more than one serious violation cited by the U.S. Department of Agriculture would be prohibited from selling puppies in the state.

Sen. Ed Meyer, D-Guilford, co-chairman of the Environment Committee, said during the floor debate late Wednesday night that the compromise resulted from a task force created last year to investigate the commercial sale of puppies in Connecticut.

Rather than ban the sale of puppies from large-scale Midwestern breeders, the bill would establish a higher standard of care for kittens and puppies.

Meyer said the current version of the bill dropped a section that would have required a phase-out of the sale of puppies and kittens in pet shops.

Sen. Bob Duff, D-Norwalk, who along with Rep. Brenda Kupchick, R-Fairfield, co-chaired the legislative task force, said the bill shows a major effort in ensuring humane sources for pets.

"It was not a task force that came with easy answers," Duff said, adding that often the pet industry and animal-rights advocates were "miles apart" on issues.

"We're slowly but surely educating our consumers," Duff said.

Senate Minority Leader John McKinney, R-Fairfield, said he came to the issue when he first ran for the Senate in 1998. He met then-Sen. Fred H. Lovegrove Jr. one morning, who told McKinney he wasn't running for re-election.

"One of the things he said to me was to not give up on the puppy mills," he said. "Sen. Lovegrove was in the forefront of fighting against puppy mills." An early, failed attempt in McKinney's Senate career to ban the sale of puppies in pet shops introduced him to the pet shop lobby, which instructed him in the intricacies of the issue.

Meyer credited McKinney for a multi-year effort in pursuing legislation.

Sen. Clark J. Chapin, R-New Milford, ranking member of the Environment Committee, thanked McKinney for his "dogged determination" in finally getting reforms to a vote.; 860-549-4670;;; blog.ct