West Jordan animal activists are encouraging their City Council to adopt an ordinance that would prohibit pet stores from selling puppies, kittens and rabbits not sourced directly from a shelter or rescue.
Their petition, signed by more than 150 people as of Tuesday afternoon, encourages the city to follow municipalities like Sandy, Midvale, Murray and Salt Lake City in stopping inhumane “puppy mills” from setting up shop in the area.
“The biggest reason why I would like to see the change in the policy where we would require these pet stores to source their puppies from rescues and shelters and provide proof is because if they don’t have that requirement, they are sourcing their puppies from irresponsible places,” said Arieanna White, a West Jordan resident and veterinary technician who started the petition.
It’s true that pet stores often do not obtain their animals from reputable breeders because those breeders generally do not sell to pet stores, according to Deann Shepherd, director of marketing and communications at The Humane Society of Utah. Many breeder clubs have adopted codes of ethics that specifically state they should not sell their puppies to pet stores, she noted.
And there’s no “lemon law” in Utah — meaning that if a dog ends up having behavioral or health problems, the seller can’t be held responsible after the purchase.
“The practice of selling a living creature for profit means that you put the production at risk as not being humane,” Shepherd said, “because these animals are kept in cages their entire lives just to breed over and over and over so you can keep making more money. And then shelters are put into the burden of taking those animals in, caring for them, providing veterinary medical care and potentially euthanizing them.”
Salt Lake County Councilman Arlyn Bradshaw, executive director of Best Friends Animal Society, has also stated that puppy mills are generally tied to pet stores. When Sandy passed its ordinance, he noted that “pet stores allow puppy mills to conceal the conditions in which they breed their animals.”
White’s petition comes as at least two puppy stores have located within West Jordan’s borders in the past year. A store called Puppy Matchmakers, which originally tried to come to Sandy, opened last year. And a business called The Puppy Store just opened in the city’s Jordan Landing shopping district last month.
The Puppy Store says it obtains its animals from responsible and licensed breeders who “follow the highest standards in the industry” and that those who want to ban all pet stores are painting with “too broad a brush.”
The company, which would be affected by an ordinance like the one activists are fighting for, offers a 15-day buyer guarantee, a two-year genetic health guarantee and a 12-year licensure guarantee on all its puppies, according to David Salinas, a manager at the store.
And the company’s growth to West Jordan and beyond is a sign, he said, that people find its services valuable.
“We believe all puppies should have homes, but we also believe that the consumer should have the right to choose whether they want to adopt a pitbull-Chihuahua-type mix from the shelter or if they want to go get a purebred baby Yorkie from a legitimate business like ours,” he said.
Councilman Zach Jacob, whose district encompasses the new store, said the puppy ordinance issue is one he’s aware of and is looking into but that he’d need to do more research to wade through the “strong feelings and emotions” involved before making a decision on what regulation might look like.
“Generally speaking, I’m a free-market guy,” he said in a recent interview. “If you don’t like it, don’t shop there, and if enough people agree with you, the business will either move or go out of business and that’s how the market works. But there is a place, I think, for some regulation.”
Pet-store chains like Petco and PetSmart endorse selling only shelter pets and have not been affected by any ordinance similar to those passed in other cities. The regulations generally also do not affect responsible breeders selling from their homes.
Shepherd said The Humane Society met with the West Jordan City Council last year to encourage it to consider adopting an ordinance and is concerned to see more pet stores cropping up across the state.
“We would hope to see the reverse,” she said. “We would hope to see that more stores are being converted to this humane model as opposed to more stores opening up and bringing animals in from not only backyard breeders but out of the state and out of the country.”