The goal is to discourage puppy mills, and now Salt Lake County on Tuesday (October 6) became the first Utah municipality to pass an ordinance outlawing pet stores from selling dogs, cats or rabbits unless they come from animal shelters. However, adoptions from legit shelters and rescues at pet stores aren’t only allowed, they’re encouraged.
Salt Lake City is added to the list of over 80 cities (such as Albuquerque, NM; Chicago, IL; Phoenix, AZ; LosAngeles, CA; Austin, TX) and a few counties doing the same. The truth is that dogs and cats (and rabbits) sold at pet stores are assuradly from puppy mills or commercial facilities. As Victoria Stilwell, spokesperson for the National Puppy Mill Project says, “If they tell you otherwise, they’re lying.”
The law will not affect any existing pet stores because it only applies to the unincorporated area of the county, but County Councilman Arlyn Bradshaw said he hopes the law will set a precedent for other Utah cities.
“No one’s business is at stake by us passing this, but it does send a message that as a community we value our dogs, cats and rabbits, and that we want to ensure that they’re not viewed solely as a product for profit,” said Bradshaw, who is also executive director of the non-profit Best Friends Animal Society of Utah.
Gene Baierschmidt, executive director of the Humane Society of Utah, released a statement Tuesday in support of the council’s decision. Resale of animals through pet stores has been a “contributing factor” in pet overpopulation, he said, because the animals are not spayed or neutered when they’re sold.
While there was no serous push back from the pet store industry in Utah – they’ve begun to go to court to fight these animal protection laws.
A shop called Puppies ‘N Love in Phoenix sued to challenge a similar ordinance passed in 2013, but a judge upheld it in July. U.S. District Judge David Campbell acknowledged that it will burden the business but said it was not the court’s place to judge the fairness of the city ban. Similarly in Cook County, IL, the law to prevent pet store sales of dogs, cats and rabbits was upheld in court.
So far, all court challenges have overwhelmingly ruled in favor, suggesting these laws/ordinances to protect animals are indeed legal on the city and county level. Meanwhile, the wave of similar laws to what Utah has passed are sweeping the nation.