When it comes to animal welfare and protection laws in this country, it always seems to be two steps forward followed by a heartbreakingly painful step back. Last week, while Pennsylvania lawmakers were taking measures to protect pets from harsh winter weather, Las Vegas city council members voted to repeal a ban on retail pet store puppy sales, 99% of which come from puppy mills.
The Las Vegas City Council originally passed a ban on the retail sale of non-rescued dogs, cats, and pot-bellied pigs in January of 2016. Under the ban, retail stores could only source pets for sale from approved rescue organizations and shelters and place them for adoption in the retail environment. Consumers wishing to buy a non-rescued pet could still purchase directly from breeders.
The ban, which was scheduled to go into effect on January 6, 2018, would only have affected two stores within the city – Puppy Boutique at Rancho Drive and a Petland store at Rampart Boulevard.
But, less than two months before the ban took effect, city council members voted again, this time to repeal the ban and continue to allow stores within the city to procure and sell animals from large-scale commercial breeders, better known as puppy and kitten mills.
After more than two hours of public comment – largely in favor of keeping the ban in place – city council members voted 4 to 3 in favor of repealing the ban.
Pet store owners argued that the ban violated consumer rights, forcing them to adopt rescued animals whose background and health history may be largely unknown, ignoring the fact that 99% of puppies sold in retail store environments are sourced from large-scale commercial breeding operations (whose background and health history is also largely unknown).
The Humane Society explains that responsible breeders do not sell their puppies to pet stores because they want to meet their puppy buyers in person—and a majority of national dog breed clubs’ Codes of Ethics prohibit or discourage their members from selling their animals to pet stores. The suppliers of pet store puppies are largely “puppy mills,” commercial facilities that mass-produce puppies for sale. In these breeding facilities, “mother dogs remain locked in cages their whole lives and have half the life expectancy of the average dog. Twenty percent of their puppies don’t even make it to stores. They die in terrible conditions. And the ones who do get sold often have undisclosed health issues.”
Pet stores argue that their puppies and kittens come from “USDA licensed” breeders, painting an unrealistic portrait for potential buyers. In reality, the USDA has repeatedly asserted that their regulations and standards are minimum requirements for the animals’ survival, NOT humane care standards.
So, while retail stores can continue to procure and sell puppies, kittens, and pot-bellied pigs from commercial breeders, those stores cannot thrive if consumers armed with the facts don’t buy them. Instead, those looking to add to their family should visit local shelters and rescue organization OR buy directly from a reputable breeder, not from a pet store.