Puppy-mill breeders, beware — Tempe is the latest Arizona city to consider a ban on the commercial sale of dogs and cats in pet stores.
The move is part of a national campaign to crack down on puppy mills — breeding facilities where animals are kept in crowded, inhumane conditions and repeatedly overbred for profit — and similar bans have passed in 80 cities around the country, including Phoenix.
The bans usually stipulate that pet stores can only source dogs and cats only from animal shelters and rescue agencies, and the goal is to both crack down on inhumane breeding practices and to lower euthanasia rates in shelters.
Even though no one thinks puppy mills are good, this kind of law is not without critics. Those arguing against the bans, like many commercial pet stores and the big companies of the pet industry, say the laws have unintentional consequences and end up hurting mom-and-pop pet stores. They believe the way to stop puppy mills is to enact stricter breeding standards, which they say wouldn't punish breeders of purebreds and other humane operations.
In 2014, a commercial pet sale ban was challenged for the first time when the local pet store chain Puppies 'N Love sued the city of Phoenix in U.S. District Court. Because it was going to be a precedent-setting case, elected officials and animal-rights advocates around the country watched with bated breath.
Tempe City Councilwoman Lauren Kuby was one of these people. She had been approached by constituents who wanted a similar ban, but she wanted to wait and see what would happen with the Phoenix case.
“I'm a longtime dog lover,” Kuby says, “but I didn't know about the underbelly of the dog-breeding world.” She says she was shocked to learn about puppy mills and immediately jumped onboard to ban the commercial sale of dogs and cats in Tempe.
When the court upheld Phoenix's ordinance in mid-July, Kuby says, she saw it as the green light to move forward.
Recently, she brought up the issue to her fellow City Council members. She asked for their permission to form a working group to “explore animal health and welfare concerns associated with commercial pet sales, as well as any consumer protection implications.”
They agreed, and Kuby says she intends to meet with citizens, local pet stores, and members of the veterinary and pet-rescue community in the next few weeks before drafting an ordinance.
"We do have an intention of drafting an ordinance,” she adds.
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That being said, Kuby wants to make it clear that she's not against buying and selling puppies.
"There will always be a place for small-scale and purebred dog breeders,” she says. “And those places don't sell their dogs to pet stores anyway.”
When asked about the alternative solution put forth by critics of these bans, Kuby says would also “love to see stricter national breeding laws,” but believes “it's not going to happen anytime soon because there's a lot of interest groups with money involved.”
At the end of the day, she says, “this is about cutting off the puppy-mill pipeline.”