Originally Published in: New Braunfels Herald-Zeitung
Published on: October 7, 2022
Written By: Steve Knight
New Braunfels City Council members on Monday will consider the first reading of a proposed ordinance amendment that would prohibit retail pet shops from procuring and selling cats and dogs from commercial breeding facilities.
The proposed ordinance would only allow a retail pet shop to sell, lease, offer for sale, trade, give away for consideration or transfer a cat or dog obtained from an animal shelter or animal welfare organization.
In addition, the proposal would require pet shops to maintain a record of each cat and dog sourced from an animal shelter or animal welfare organization for at least one year from the date of sale or transfer and make those records available to the city upon request.
The proposed ordinance came to the attention of council members after the city’s Animal Service Advisory Board hosted several public hearings late last year and earlier this year and voted to recommend the item in May.
The main concern behind the proposed amendment is the safety of animals and limiting the activity of commercial breeders, also called puppy mills, defined by the Humane Society of the United States as “an inhumane, commercial dog breeding facility in which the health of the dogs is disregarded in order to maintain a low overhead and maximize profits.”
The Humane Society estimates that 10,000 puppy mills are active in the country, and 500,000 dogs are kept solely for breeding purposes in puppy mills.
City code includes standards a business must achieve before they obtain a permit to operate a commercial animal establishment. However, the current ordinance does not provide any requirements for where the animals for sale are sourced.
During past public hearings, the discussions between board members, residents, animal welfare advocates and store owners have focused on a local business, Puppyland, that began selling puppies from its New Braunfels MarketPlace storefront in August 2021.
Humane Society of the New Braunfels Area Executive Director Sarah Hammond, a member of the Advisory Board, said it’s become clear that the area does not need any more dogs right now with the society’s shelter at full capacity or higher.
“It’s become perfectly clear that the community is not able to care for the dogs that they have right now,” Hammond said. “The puppies are all coming from puppy mills — that has been irrefutably proven. Despite what the owners of Puppyland say, it is clear that those animals are coming from puppy mills, and those are inhumane breeding programs producing puppies as widgets. There’s no compassion. There’s no consideration. They’re just widgets getting shipped in a truck once a week.”
Hammond added that puppies purchased at Puppyland are not ending up at the shelter. She said she did not believe there is a direct correlation between the store’s opening and the shelter’s overcrowding, but “the point is that we don’t want that element in our town because of its inhuman treatment of animals. That’s the crux of it.”
Kayla Kerr, who owns stores in four states, has recently made several trips to New Braunfels from her Washington state home to defend her operation. She denies the accusations, stating that the store only sells animals from responsible USDA-licensed breeders, checks breeder inspection reports and offers health warranties.
“We’re very involved with our breeders,” Kerr said. “We visit them frequently, and we’re looking for things like exercise programs, socialization programs, veterinary programs, retirement programs. We’re attending and continuing education with them. We’re assisting hands-on with a mobile vet doing health testing on them, meaning my hands are on the parent dogs. We really want to show people that our breeders love their dogs and they really want to breed healthy puppies.”
Kerr said before the puppies come in-house, they all go to Iowa-based JAKS Puppies. Kerr describes JAKS as a holding facility, while store opponents and animal welfare advocates call it a puppy mill or puppy broker.
A USDA inspection conducted this year indicated that JAKS had 113 puppies and no adult dogs at its property.
“This is where they are going to get microchipped,” Kerr said. “They’re getting checked by a veterinarian, and then all of their paperwork is entered into a computer so that we have a digital copy of the paperwork when they arrive at the store.”
Kerr added that they use special types of vans that contain ventilation systems, heating and cooling with trained staff ensuring the puppies are safe during transport.
The amendment proposal would not affect private residences not generally open to the public, animal shelters or facilities operated by animal welfare organizations.
The proposed amendment defines animal welfare organizations as any non-profit organization with tax-exempt status under Internal Revenue Service regulations that takes unwanted, abandoned, abused or stray animals and places them into permanent or foster homes.
The proposal amends the definition of a retail pet shop as a for-profit retail establishment or place of business where cats or dogs are sold, leased, offered for sale, traded or given away for consideration.
“We breed our dogs to be our companions, to depend on us 100%,” Hammond said regarding the dogs in the shelter’s care. “They can’t live on their own. It’s our responsibility to take care of them until the end of their life. Too many people are treating them as disposable.”
If passed by the council members over two readings, the ordinance would go into effect after a one-year grace period.
Also during Monday’s meeting, council members will issue proclamations recognizing Chamber of Commerce Week, Chiropractic Health Month and Texas Native Plant Week.
Monday’s meeting will also include time for residents to address the council on issues and items of concern not on the agenda.
A full agenda is available at www.newbraunfels.gov.
The council session begins at 6 p.m. Monday in the council chambers at New Braunfels City Hall, 550 Landa St.
The meeting will be televised live on Spectrum government access channel 21, AT&T access channel 99, and live-streamed at the city website, www.newbraunfels.gov.