Cities Continue to Ban Puppy Mills and Pet Store Sales

By Nathan Devers | September 1, 2016
Topics: Local

Retail pet store sales bans are adopted in cities across America, especially in California, Florida, and New Jersey.

Puppy and kitten and guinea pig

In recent years, a large number of localities have considered and adopted ordinances banning so-called “puppy mills” and sales of animals from them at retail stores. Puppy mills are usually defined as breeding operations which sell animals at wholesale to retail establishments or pet stores. While the ordinances usually focus on the sale of dogs, some include banning the sales of cats and rabbits too. Jurisdictions that have passed pet store bans this year include Los Angeles, Philadelphia, East Rutherford (NJ), Key West, and Boston.

Turning to Los Angeles first, the City Council voted unanimously to permanently ban pet stores from selling commercially bred cats, dogs, and rabbits in April 2016 after voting for a temporary ban in 2013. The legislation allows individuals to purchase animals from non-commercial certified breeders but bans backyard breeders and puppy mills. Pet stores have adjusted to the new law by focusing on selling pet supplies and hosting animal adoption events from shelter and rescue groups. The ordinance makes it “unlawful for any person to sell any live dog, cat or rabbit in any pet store, retail business or other commercial establishment located in the City of Los Angeles, unless the dog, cat or rabbit was obtained from an animal shelter or a humane society located in the City of Los Angeles, or a non-profit rescue organization registered with the Department of Animal Services.” Los Angeles is the largest city to have passed this ban.

In Philadelphia, the nation’s fifth largest city, the City Council voted unanimously in April 2016 to restrict the retail sale of puppies and kittens to only those that are sourced from animal shelters and rescue organizations. The ordinance states that the ban will reduce pet overpopulation and ease the financial costs on City taxpayers.

In March 2016, the Boston City Council unanimously approved its version of the ban. The ordinance was passed as a preemptive measure as there were no pet stores in the city that sold animals from commercial breeders at the time. However, one pet store was looking to expand its business in the city. The ban prevents pet shops from selling dogs, cats, and rabbits from commercial breeders and encourages them to work with local animal shelters and rescue groups. The ban does still allow people to purchase animals directly from breeders. Councilor Matt O’ Malley stated, “This is a very important piece of legislation that goes after the inhumane factories known as puppy mills.” He continued: “It will also prohibit the sale of dogs on the street corner or in parking lots.”

While cities across the county continue to study and enact measures similar to the ordinances discussed here, many activists want seek bans at the state and federal level. In many other areas, issues that began as purely local in nature have transitioned over time to statewide or even federal issues. Thus, we expect to see not only further action at the local level, but also state legislative proposals in 2017.

MultiState Associates' team of policy analysts are responsible for identifying and analyzing all federal, state and local policy proposals discussed in this article. For further information about this issue or regarding how MultiState can advance your government affairs function, please contact the author.

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