Dallas to consider banning sales of puppies and kittens by pet stores

Originally Featured in CultureMap Dallas

WRITTEN BY: Teresa Gubbins

The city of Dallas has started a conversation about banning the sale of puppies and kittens in pet stores, in an effort to discourage cruel breeding practices.

On December 6, a proposal was presented to the Dallas City Council Committee on Quality of Life, Arts, & Culture. Called the Dallas Humane Pet Store Ordinance, it's drafted by the Texas Humane Legislation Network (THLN), an advocacy group that has been working to pass laws with more humane policies for animals.

Joined by the Humane Society of the United States, THLN made a presentation to the committee to raise awareness and garner support for passage of the ordinance.

"The Humane Pet Store Ordinance will prohibit the sale of puppies and kittens in pet stores and stop hundreds of sick puppies from being brought into Texas from puppy mills across state lines," says Shelby Bobosky, THLN's executive director, in a statement. "It will protect consumers from ending up with unhealthy puppies and illusory practices that lock unknowing Texans into years-long, deceptive financial commitments and high interest rates on top of exorbitant vet bills."

Those "deceptive financial commitments" are the vet bills people get stuck with when they buy a puppy from a puppy mill that comes afflicted with serious and expensive health issues such as parvovirus, distemper, kennel cough, pneumonia, and other respiratory infections.

"Over the years, our THLN hotline has regularly received complaints of Dallas retail stores selling sick or unhealthy puppies," Bobosky says. "We now have an opportunity to end a cruel practice that hurts puppies and unsuspecting Texans simply trying to get a new pet."

The ordinance would also support the dozens of Dallas-based humane pet stores who do not sell puppies but instead partner with local shelters and rescue groups on adoption events. These are the organizations that help find homes for animals that might otherwise be euthanized, since Dallas and Texas continue to have a surplus of animals.

Reputable pet stores — including PetSmart, Pet Supplies Plus, Petco, Odyssey, The Upper Paw, Pet Supermarket, and Uptown Pup — do not sell puppies or kittens.

The chain that's notorious for selling animals is Petland, which has been the target of protests for more than a decade over their practice of selling animals from puppy mills and the subject of repeated investigations including one in August 2019 by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), who charged the Petland store in Frisco with mistreating its animals.

An HSUS investigator took photos and video while working in the store's back room, and found that pets were mistreated, sick, and overcrowded. The investigator kept a diary documenting puppies that had bloody diarrhea, vomiting, sneezing, coughing, or were visibly underweight.

The investigation was sufficiently damning that the Frisco City Council begrudgingly approved new rules regulating the sale of dogs and cats at pet stores. Passed in January 2020, the ordinance is an embarrassing bandaid by the Frisco City Council which addresses areas such as sanitation, veterinary treatment, care, feeding, housing, and record-keeping, but still does not ban sales.

Petland stores in the DFW area have also repeatedly experienced "robberies" of expensive puppies in which surveillance videos show that the suspects seem to know the layout of the store.

In November 2020, San Antonio voted to prohibit the sale of puppy mill animals. Stores can now sell cats and dogs only from shelters, animal rescue groups, or animal control agencies.

More than 370 localities and three states have already legislated similar bans, including five other municipalities in Texas: Austin, Fort Worth, The Colony, El Paso, and Waco.

The Texas House approved a similar bill in April but it did not make it through the Senate, thereby blowing the opportunity to take this humane policy state-wide.

Lauren Loney, Texas State Director for the Humane Society of the United States says in a statement that her organization applauds Council member Adam Bazaldua and Mayor Pro Tem Chad West for their support of the ordinance and looks forward to working with the full city council to ensure its passage.

"The values of Dallas cannot be reflected by continuing to allow the sale of puppies from cruel puppy mills to unsuspecting local consumers," Loney says.

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