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Midvale Journal

Puppy mill ordinance passed by city council

Aug 17, 2018 02:23PM ● By Jana Klopsch

The puppy ordinance will not affect sales by private breeders. (Ruth Hendricks/City Journals)

By Ruth Hendricks | Ruth.H@mycityjournals.com

At the Midvale City Council meeting on July 17, a somewhat controversial ordinance was passed which regulates commercial pet sales.

Lisa Garner, Midvale city attorney, addressed the council. “At the June 19 city council meeting, the council determined that it would be in the best interest of the city to prohibit the sale of any dog, cat, or rabbit in any pet shop or other commercial business, unless that animal came from an animal shelter, a humane society, or a non-profit rescue organization.”

“The council also discussed the desire to protect the interests of citizens who purchased an animal within the city of Midvale,” said Garner. The council wanted to have certain protections and remedies in place if a pet later becomes ill or has some congenital health problems that were not disclosed prior to buying the pet.

Sandy City Council passed a similar ordinance in May, becoming the first city in Utah to prohibit the sale of dogs, cats and rabbits in pet stores within city limits.

The council meeting included a public hearing to receive comments about the ordinance.

Mary Hewlett, who owns a store called Puppy Matchmakers, spoke in support of pet businesses.

Hewlett said that if the only option for people wanting a pet is to go to the animal shelter, that sets people up to buy a pet off the internet, and then they are bringing a dog into their home sight unseen. “Stores provide them with another option to meet and play with the puppy and have the opportunity to meet multiple breeds,” said Hewlett. “Rather than a breeder who wants to sell that specific breed, we try to do a lot of education.”

Hewlett also likes to work with kids having anxiety, ADHD or depression and have them sit with the puppies for a while. People in apartments that don’t allow pets, or elderly people who can’t maintain a pet also come in and play with the puppies. “If you take out the puppy sales, then that takes away the ability to fund the free services that we offer, that allow people to come in and interact with the dogs and have a healing experience.”

Hewlett was looking to open a store in Sandy when she learned about their pet ordinance, so her store is in West Jordan now.

Councilmember Paul Glover said, “I do not like telling a business that they can’t do something. You put people out of business.” Glover questioned whether there was a middle ground option to draft an ordinance that would protect the public and the pet stores as well.

“You can still have a pet store, there are just restrictions on where you can get the pets from,” Councilmember Dustin Gettel said. “You don’t want a business that sells defective or dangerous items, so I don’t see this as an undue burden on a business, just a normal sort of regulation.”

Deeann Shepherd with the Humane Society of Utah said they receive over 12,000 animals annually. “We fully support Midvale city’s proposed ordinance that requires pet stores to provide a certificate of source, for companion animals acquired from a shelter, humane society or rescue group, and provide customer service for post-sale.”

Shepherd said that ordinances like this are not designed to put pet stores out of business. “PetSmart and Petco, the largest and most successful pet store chains in the country, do not sell puppies, and instead allow shelters and homeless rescue groups to adopt out homeless pets from inside their stores.” The stores have the food, dishes, dog beds and toys, and they profit off the sale of those items.

“What we’ve seen happen with the pet stores is you encourage the irresponsible breeding,” she said. If people have a pair of dogs that are not spayed or neutered, they may have “oops” puppies, and they may try to get rid of those puppies online.

“Pet stores often contact these people and offer them money to take that litter off their hands. Now they can flip those animals, increase the profit and sell to their customers. And this is where we see the behavior and the medical problems, because they are not doing responsible breeding,” said Shepherd.

Shepherd said that an ordinance that encourages consumers to adopt will lessen the burden on shelters that take in pet store dogs. “Data show that shelter intakes and euthanasia decline in cities that prohibit the sale of puppy mill dogs. It is important to point out that this ordinance, if it passes, will not affect responsible breeders selling from their homes. Pet stores do not obtain dogs from responsible breeders because those breeders do not sell their puppies to pet stores. They can sell directly to the consumer and make the profit themselves, so why would they source to a store?”

Shelters are already burdened by the overpopulation of homeless pets. We do not need to produce any more, while thousands are euthanized every year, concluded Shepherd.

After more discussion, the city council voted and the ordinance passed with 3-2 vote.