The Salt Lake City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to create a new city ordinance that will prohibit pet stores from selling animals not obtained from an animal shelter, control agency, humane society or nonprofit rescue organization.
The restrictions aim to prevent “puppy mills” from taking hold in the city, reduce pet overpopulation and ensure animals sold in commercial animal establishments are treated humanely.
“We don’t always have the opportunity to vote on these types of things in Salt Lake and to protect animals, and I know this is something that’s really important to me personally and to the constituents that I represent,” Councilman Chris Wharton said before the vote. “We do see our animals as family and we want to protect them as much as we can.”
Councilman Charlie Luke had shared a personal story at the council’s work session last month about his experience buying a dog from an irresponsible owner. The dog later went into a coma with giardia, an upper respiratory infection and pneumonia. Luke echoed Wharton’s comments Tuesday night.
“We often deal with very heavy issues, whether it’s the inland port, whether it’s public safety, infrastructure, budget, you know, reconstruction of the airport — a lot of very, very serious things,” he said at the meeting. “There are few times where we’re able to vote on something that really is nice, just all around nice, and this is one of those times.”
A number of pet rescue organizations have advocated for the ordinance to the Mayor’s Office and City Council. Deann Shepherd, the director of marketing and communications at the Humane Society of Utah, became emotional after the vote and said she was “beyond thrilled” by the unanimous support from the council.
“We want to protect the animals from any inhumane breeding,” she said. “We want to make sure people know where they’re getting their pets from and know that they are as healthy and happy as can be.”
There’s no “lemon law” in Utah, Shepherd added, meaning that if a dog ends up having behavioral or health problems, the seller can’t be held responsible after the purchase.
“So this is also something I think will protect people and make them realize that adopting a pet from the shelter is the best thing to do because that shelter will offer a warranty so to speak to make sure the pets are vaccinated, spayed and neutered and microchipped,” she said. “And when you’re purchasing a puppy from the store you don’t get any of that.”
The new ordinance mirrors regulations passed in unincorporated Salt Lake County and in Sandy, which in May became the first Utah city to prohibit the sale of dogs, cats and rabbits in pet stores within city limits.
Pet store operators will have 90 days to comply with the new rules, and any violations of the ordinance would result in a misdemeanor citation. However, the city has said all licensed pet stores in Salt Lake City already meet the established criteria.