SALT LAKE CITY – Pet stores in Utah may be banned from selling dogs and cats in order to stop what are called “puppy mills” who may not properly care for the animals.
“Basically, when you are talking about selling to high volume buyers like (through) large (animal) stores and high volume producers, those things lend themselves to terrible conditions,” said HB420 sponsor Rep. Brian King, Salt Lake City, D-Salt Lake City. Who is the house minority leader.
The bill would limit a pet store to only accept dogs and cats from nonprofit animal rescues or public animal shelters for adoption. These pet retail stores would not be able to purchase their own domesticated cats or dogs and sell them directly to a consumer.
“These young pets should not be able to market, create, and raise (that) on a volume basis that creates abusive conditions for these animals,” King said.
He stressed that the purpose of the law is not to just adopt Utahns from a rescue organization or animal shelter. His bill would not limit private breeders and sellers.
“There is no problem with freedom of choice. Getting a pet is not a problem. It’s really just about weeding out the worst from the worst, which is the high volume commercial puppy mills that supply most pet stores that sell commercially bred pets, ”said Elizabeth Oreck, national manager of Best Friends Animal Society’s puppy mill initiatives.
Joseph Fertitta introduces his new puppy, Tiny Tot, to his dog Kermit outside of the Best Friends Animal Society in Salt Lake City on Friday, February 26, 2021. Kristin Murphy, Deseret News
If the bill went through, first-time violations would receive a warning. If a business fails to correct its practices, the pet dealer faces a $ 1,000 fine, with the fine increasing for each violation.
“We know that at least … half a dozen pet stores in Utah are currently served by puppy mills outside of the state. That’s the real problem: is the puppy mill pipeline to Utah? “Said Oreck.
While chain stores like Petco and PetSmart have fish, rodents, birds, and reptiles for sale, they don’t sell dogs or cats for sale, but they often host rescue group adoption events.
Petco’s website states that the “Think Adoption First” policy is backed by a promise that any pet purchased from a Petco that cannot be cared for by its owner will be returned and cared for until it is is resumed.
PetSmart founded PetSmart Charities to fund a variety of animal adoption grants, owners, veterinary research and emergency relief.
But some businesses in Utah would have to change their business model.
The Saratoga Springs Puppy Store advertises on its website that the puppies it sells are from top breeders who adhere to regulations, licenses and industry standards.
Tiny Tot and Little Bitty are waiting for their adopters and will pick them up on Friday, February 26, 2021 at the Best Friends Animal Society in Salt Lake City. Kristin Murphy, Deseret News
Jessica Mitterling, Sales Director for The Puppy Store, said, “Our owner goes to see breeders across the US to make sure they are all up to date with their records and are in good living conditions before making offers. So if they only have one crime, he won’t go through it. “
“The puppies come first before everyone else. We attach great importance to it, ”said Mitterling.
Even with these promised assurances and health guarantees from retail pet stores, Oreck said responsible breeders wouldn’t sell to pet stores because they’d love to meet future owners of their dogs or cats, which corporate deals couldn’t.
Oreck said the purpose of this legislation is to help these pet stores move to a more humane business model.
“We’d prefer these pet stores to stay open and allow adoptable animals to find homes. Because for us, every pet shop that closes its doors is a missed opportunity for homeless animals to find new families. We want them to stay open and support the community by being a place where positive things happen, positive outcomes for consumers and pets, ”she said.
The bill is expected to be discussed in the House Business and Labor Committee on Tuesday.
Luke Metzger adopts Little Bitty, whom he is renaming Milo, outside of the Best Friends Animal Society in Salt Lake City on Friday, February 26, 2021. Kristin Murphy, Deseret News
Correction: In a previous version, Elizabeth Oreck’s last name was misspelled as Oleck in some references