Cities banning retail sale of dogs, cats

Albuquerque ban took effect in 2007, other cities passed bans more recently
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A small but growing number of cities are banning the sale of dogs and cats at retail pet stores.

Albuquerque banned the retail sale of dogs and cats several years ago. Several towns in California have passed similar bans in the past couple of years. Austin, Texas, is one of the latest and largest cities to pass a ban. In the same state, El Paso recently banned the sale of dogs and cats under 1 year old for profit.

A potential adopter bonds with a dog at one of two storefront adoption centers that Animal Humane New Mexico operates in Albuquerque, a city that prohibits pet stores from selling dogs or cats. The Albuquerque Animal Welfare Department operates an adoption center in a mall.

Proponents of the bans say the aim is to increase the adoption of animals from shelters, thereby reducing the number of shelter animals that are euthanized, and diminish the market for animals from substandard breeding facilities that supply some pet stores. Opponents say pet stores should be able to sell dogs and cats.

Albuquerque's ban

Albuquerque's city council passed a ban on all retail and roadside sales of dogs and cats in 2006, effective in early 2007, along with other revisions to the city's animal ordinance.

The impetus for the ban was the high euthanasia rate at Albuquerque's public shelters, said Peggy Weigle, executive director of Animal Humane New Mexico, the largest private shelter in the state. Weigle said, "Albuquerque's euthanasia and intake rates were much higher per capita than most other cities of our size."

The ban on retail dog and cat sales and other provisions of the Humane and Ethical Animal Rules and Treatment Ordinance have factored into improvements in adoption and euthanasia rates in Albuquerque, Weigle said.

The two stores in the city that had sold dogs and cats now work with rescue groups to offer pets for adoption, Weigle said. Total euthanizations for the Albuquerque Animal Welfare Department and Animal Humane decreased 32 percent between 2006 and 2009, as adoptions increased 23 percent and intakes decreased 6 percent.

Weigle added, "I think that the more unspoken logic behind the HEART Ordinance was to begin to put a cramp in the style of the puppy mills."

Aside from the ban on retail dog and cat sales, other measures factor into the decrease in euthanasia rates in Albuquerque, Weigle said.

The city's Animal Welfare Department and Animal Humane subsidize neutering of dogs and cats via taxes and donations, respectively, in an effort to reduce intakes of unintentional litters of puppies and kittens. The HEART Ordinance also requires Albuquerque residents to pay $150 annually for each sexually intact dog over 6 months old and each sexually intact cat over 5 months old, and $150 per litter.

Among various efforts to increase adoptions, the city has opened an adoption center in a mall, and Animal Humane has opened two storefront adoption centers.

Beyond Albuquerque

The Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council, which represents pet stores and other segments of the pet industry, is fighting against bans on the retail sale of dogs and cats.

"Responsible pet owners should be able to choose where they acquire their pets, based on their individual needs and circumstances," said Michael P. Maddox, PIJAC vice president of governmental affairs and general counsel. "Shelter animals are not necessarily appropriate for everybody."

Maddox said an apartment dweller who wants a small dog might find that a shelter has only large dogs available for adoption, for example.

Cities that are seeking to eliminate substandard breeding facilities should go after irresponsible breeders directly rather than banning the retail sale of dogs and cats, Maddox added.

"You're banning pets that come from sound, responsible breeders in order to get at those few that might come from less responsible breeders," he said.

Best Friends Animal Society is among the national humane organizations that have supported bans on the retail sale of dogs and cats as a tactic for targeting the substandard breeding facilities that supply some pet stores.

Elizabeth Oreck, national campaign manager for puppy mill initiatives, said Best Friends focuses more of its attention on individual pet stores and breeding facilities. The organization pushes for pet stores that sell dogs and cats to switch to offering shelter animals for adoption.

"People are rethinking how they obtain their pets, really wanting to understand where their pets come from," Oreck said.