Animal lovers are applauding a recent ruling in Arizona, where a judge in Phoenix upheld a 2013 ordinance stating that all dogs and cats sold from local pet stores must be rescue animals. It is hoped that the decision will help to put an end to puppy mills and the ASPCA agrees, stating that most dogs available in pet stores are from those puppy mills.
Not so happy? This particular ordinance was challenged in court by the owners of Puppies ‘N Love pet stores. Frank and Vicki Mineo say that they don’t advocate puppy mills and insisted that they obtain the dogs they sell in their stores from reliable breeders. They believe that upholding this law will force them to close their business. It’s expected that they will appeal the ruling.
Animal advocates contend that dogs in puppy mills are bred simply for profit with little regard for the health of the animal. Many live out their lives in cages, never stepping outside or roaming on grass, being cuddled or given any individual attention. The ordinance is a hopeful step toward more humane treatment of animals.
The Humane Society of the United States also believes this is an important step in shutting off the market for animals being produced and living in wretched conditions. Even though some of these places are licensed by the federal government, the rules are lax and often not enforced. Frequently the dogs are kept in cramped, wire-floored cages for their entire life, and are forced to keep churning out litter after litter of puppies for sale in commercial trade.
According to the court ruling in this case, the US Department of Agriculture Inspector General’s report found that dogs kept by USDA licensed breeders were “walking on injured legs, suffering from tick-infestations, eating contaminated food, and living in unsanitary conditions.”
There is strong public interest in this issue. The taxpayer-funded Maricopa County Animal Care and Control housed over 32,000 dogs in the fiscal year that ended on June 30. More than 7400 dogs were euthanized. So the Phoenix ordinance allows these animals an additional opportunity – to not only be adopted from the shelter but to be sold at pet stores. This can help homeless animals as well as the taxpayers.
It requires a new way of doing business, and some pet stores are already on board. PetSmart and Petco work with shelters and rescue groups to make homeless dogs and cats available through their stores.
Other cities have enacted bans on the sale of commercially-bred puppies, and federal courts in Florida, Illinois, and Rhode Island have upheld ordinances similar to Phoenix’s.
The fewer outlets for puppies bred in mills, the better. Every municipality should mirror the Phoenix model, realizing that our humanity is enhanced when we treat animals with kindness and care.