SALT LAKE CITY – A bill introduced into Utah law this week would ban the sale of cats and dogs in pet stores across the state.
HB420, sponsored by Brian King, the minority chairman of the House of Representatives in D-Salt Lake City, would turn the statewide ban into a ban already enacted by several cities in Utah, including Salt Lake. The bill is backed by the Utah Humane Society, and its advocacy director Rachel Heatley told KSL.com the bill was necessary to end abusive and negligent breeding practices in the state.
“Dogs and cats in pet stores generally don’t come from any sort of ‘reputable breeders’ breeders of healthy dogs and cats,” Heatley said. “Generally these animals come from commercial puppy and kitten mills.” Such “mills” can be large or small, Heatley said, but all have similar identifying markers.
For example, many of them keep their animals in small, stacked wire cages that allow litter to get through the floor. And they do not provide adequate access to veterinary care, which can lead to unexpected health complications for the people who buy them.
“They can have epilepsy, they can have heart defects,” Heatley said. “You may have hip dysplasia or a luxating patella, which is a problem with the kneecap. Lots of things that people find difficult to deal with.”
And due to the lack of supervision and minimal regulation, it is difficult to know what vaccinations, if any, the animals have received. King said consumer protection through increased transparency is a key aspect of the bill.
Neglected dogs and cats can also have painful issues like overgrown toenails, matted fur, and dental disease, Heatley said.
“Basically, these commercial breeders put profit on animal welfare,” she said. “You breed them as fast as you can, as many as you can.”
Such rampant breeding, according to Heatley, adds insufficient demand to supply. About 1.5 million shelter animals are laid down in the United States each year, she said. Many of these animals are imported from other states such as Missouri and Ohio, where mills are more common.
“Market forces are incompatible with the humane treatment of these puppies or kittens,” said King. According to him, pet stores could still display dogs and cats for adoption by a shelter or rescue organization.
In a statement sent via email, PetSmart, one of the largest national pet supply brands, stated that it does not endorse bans on the sale of dogs and cats, despite the fact that it has always used shelter animals in its own stores.
“We have never sold dogs or cats at PetSmart,” the company said. “As part of our PetSmart charity adoption program, we’ve worked with local animal welfare organizations since 1994 to help more than 9.5 million pets find lifelong homes. While this legislation would not directly affect PetSmart as we are not dogs or Cats sell, but we believe that improved regulations for breeders to ensure that all animals are raised in humane environments are more effective than bans that limit pet parenting choices. “
King acknowledged that it will be difficult to get the bill through in the final days of the general legislature. it ends on Friday March 5th.
“We’ll do our best to see what we can achieve,” he said. “Discussing it is always a good thing. Having a dialogue and raising awareness is one of the most important things we are looking at here.”
Starting Thursday, HB420 is waiting for a committee assignment for an initial hearing.