Originally Published in: New Braunfels Herald-Zeitung
Published on: October 25, 2022
Written By: Steve Knight
New Braunfels became the 14th Texas city to adopt a pet sales measure after City Council members on Monday approved the final reading of an ordinance banning retail pet stores from selling dogs and cats from commercial breeders.
New Braunfels now joins Austin, Bryan, College Station, Dallas, El Paso, Euless, Fort Worth, Houston, Pasadena, San Antonio, Sherman, The Colony and Waco as cities that have passed similar ordinances.
The vote was 4-3, with Mayor Rusty Brockman, Mayor Pro Tem Harry Bowers and Council members Jason Hurta casting votes opposing the ordinance.
The final vote came after more than an hour of sometimes emotional public comment and council member deliberations.
The ordinance does allow a retail pet shop to sell, lease, offer for sale, trade, give away for consideration or transfer a cat or dog if obtained from an animal shelter or animal welfare organization.
In addition, the ordinance requires 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 thinking behind the measure is the safety of animals and limiting the activity of commercial breeders, called puppy mills by animal advocates, 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 of the United States estimates that 10,000 puppy mills are active in the country, and 500,000 dogs are kept solely for breeding purposes in puppy mills.
The ordinance does not mention a specific business. Still, the focus of discussions over the last year between the city’s Animal Services Advisory Board members, council members, residents, animal welfare advocates and store owners had centered around the only store in New Braunfels that sells puppies, Puppyland, which began its operation in August 2021.
As in previous meetings, owner Kayla Kerr continued to deny that the store sourced animals from unsafe and unethical breeders, stating that the store only sells animals from responsible USDA-licensed breeders, checks breeder inspection reports, and offers health warranties.
In past meetings, Kerr explained that before the puppies come in-house, they all go to JAKS Puppies for microchipping and health checkups. Animal welfare advocates consider the Iowa-based facility a puppy mill or broker.
“As written, your ordinance does nothing productive for pets or people anywhere,” Kerr said. “A ban will lead your residents to go to unregulated backyard breeders and parking lot sales. No rules, no regulations, no protection.”
She added that the city “allowed us to spend a large amount of money to open our store. You guys gave us a kennel license, and then you decided you weren’t sure about us. If you want to better the pet industry, if you want to protect your citizens… let’s regulate it.”
Kerr said the store had sold around 800 puppies since its opening with a less than 1% claim rate.
But residents and animal advocates, some sporting red T-shirts with the message “Go Humane,” again came out in force to call on council members to pass the item, stating that current federal and state regulations do not adequately address the health and safety of dogs that come from commercial breeding facilities.
Tanya Palmer, a business owner and member of the Advisory Board, told council members her comments during a previous meeting about the American Kennel Club in an earlier Herald-Zeitung story were misrepresented and wanted to make it clear that the organization does not ban breeders from selling to pet stores.
“If one visits the website of the American Kennel Club, one of the oldest and most respected breed club registries in the world, one can access the breeder code of ethics on the website listed in their national parent club directory for AKC recognized breeds,” she said, “meaning that if you go to the website and access each individual code of ethics there — I never said AKC banned or prohibited sales to retail pet stores.”
Palmer continued to advocate for the ordinance, stating that she “had objections” to not being able to see the mother and father on the premises, see the demeanor or interact with the parents, as well as not having any information about the breeder’s longevity.
Stacy Sutton Kerby, director of government relations with the Austin-based Texas Humane Legislation Network, thanked council members for passing the first reading of the ordinance and added that the council’s action was part of a growing trend.
“This effort here tonight is part of a bigger trend — since the last (state) legislative session, three Texas cities have passed pet store ordinances,” Kerby said. “And this is building momentum for possibly bringing statewide legislation again in 2023. Although we’ve seen this type of ordinance pass in a lot of different cities, no two cities are the same. They all had to examine their own unique set of circumstances. Like you, they sought input from their constituents, their animal advisory committees that were appointed by council, their city attorney’s offices and pet-centric business owners, and yet they all came to the same conclusion — that dogs and cats sold in pet stores should be humanely sourced.”
The reaction from Puppyland owner Justin Kerr after the council’s action was one of what he described as an extreme disappointment, but he added that “we believe given time to review the facts, the truth will prevail.”
“We understand the underlying concern about keeping animals safe. However, nothing in the proposed ordinance will accomplish this goal,” Justin Kerr said. “As reiterated by our veterinarian, Bryan Ruiz [Neighborhood Services Manager) and testimonials from our customers, none of our beloved puppies are in an NB shelter. Our offer stands to be part of the solution, and we urge the city council to revisit this issue to find a way to work together with regulations that raise the standards on the entire industry rather than pass an ordinance that shuts a single business down that is doing its work humanely.”
Twenty-five employees work at the New Braunfels Puppyland location.
The ordinance does not affect private residences not generally open to the public, animal shelters or facilities operated by animal welfare organizations.
The ordinance 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 measure also 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.
The ordinance includes a one-year grace period.
Image sourced from New Braunfels Herald-Zeitung