In May, the Dallas City Council unanimously passed the Humane Pet Store Ordinance, banning the sale of puppies and kittens in pet stores. The ordinance is intended to curb cruel breeding practices from out-of-state pet mills. It takes effect in November.
The new ordinance will support Dallas humane pet stores and shelters by encouraging those who want to provide a loving home for a dog or cat to “adopt, don’t shop.”
Stacy Sutton Kerby is the director of government relations for the Texas Humane Legislation Network, or THLN. She spoke to Texas Standard about what this ordinance means for Dallas, and perhaps beyond. Listen to the interview above or read the transcript below.
This transcript has been edited lightly for clarity:
Texas Standard: What kinds of things was your organization seeing before this ordinance came into place in Dallas and why was it needed?
Stacy Sutton Kerby: Well, we’ve operated a hotline since 2001, and one of the number one complaints that we get across that hotline is the purchase of a sick or defective puppy from a retailer. And on average, we get about 75 complaints a year, roughly 500 total. And that number pales in comparison to the number of complaints that go over to the Texas Veterinary Medical Association and the attorney general’s office. And a number of those complaints did come from the Dallas area. Our organization has been around for 45 years. And so we’ve seen this story played out again and again across Texas. And so when the opportunity to work on the ordinance came up in Dallas, we were more than ready to help them craft a policy that made sense for that community.
Obviously, a lot of this sort of feeds into the impact on local shelters, right? Have you started to see any sort of impact there or is it still too early?
It might be too early, but I would say check in with the local rescue groups and the Dallas Animal Services and the other shelters that are there. Over 40 animal welfare groups endorsed the policy and they know that it’s definitely going to help normalize the idea of going to your local shelter to, as you say, adopt don’t shop. So it might be too early to see the impact in Dallas. The ordinance doesn’t go into effect until November 11, 2022. However, I would say that Dallas is not the first and in fact, it’s the 12th city in Texas to do this. So this policy has been adopted in 11 other cities, including Austin, San Antonio, Houston, El Paso, Waco. And those cities will tell you that it has helped them tremendously in avoiding the consumer problems that happened with retail pet sales of puppies that are shipped in from out of state, as well as giving those pets that are already there in the community a shot at finding their forever home.
What’s the pushback been like? Has anyone tried to overturn these ordinances? What are you seeing?
We haven’t seen that happen. This is not the first time this experiment has been run. Multiple other cities in Texas have had these ordinances in place, some going back over 10 years. And in fact, what they’re seeing is that it really helps them meet what are called their no-kill mandates, where they’re trying to have as many healthy, adoptable animals rehomed as possible. And we see that the policy is legally sound. And so props to Dallas for really thoroughly vetting the policy and making sure that they had crafted a good one. And what we’re seeing is that this now puts Dallas in place to stop the puppy mill pipeline into their city and to save more adoptable cats and dogs.
You mentioned that there are many cities across the country and even in Texas where there have been ordinances like this passed. Is there any push for this to become a statewide law or is that not doable?
Well, we did see a bill very similar to the Dallas ordinance last session, House Bill 1818, and it got really close to passing. It just ran out of time. So I’d say, yes, we do need this legislation to come back in 2023. And what that would mean is more uniform protection for all Texans to avoid purchasing puppy mill puppies at pet stores.
I noticed that on places like Craigslist, for example, there seem to be a lot of people trying to sell dogs and cats. Could you explain what’s going on there and how much of a focus that is for the Texas Humane Legislation Network?
Well, I would say that if someone is looking to purchase a dog, the more information that you have about where you’re purchasing that dog from, the better. First off, I would look to foster and rescue groups that specialize in breeds. You can find anything from a Frenchie to a German shorthaired pointer if you’re looking for a hunting dog or if you’re looking for a Great Pyrenees as a working dog, I would definitely go to a place where, you know the background of the organization and the animal and just you want to make sure that that dog is healthy and vaccinated, microchipped, etc. I think it’s risky to purchase a puppy, a kitten, any animal from, sight unseen and not truly understand the conditions that that animal was bred in. So our position is that if you do decide to purchase a commercially bred part, that you should just do your homework, make sure you go, as they say, meet the parents. After all, this is a new family member you’re bringing home and you want to know that this puppy that you’re going to fall in love with is coming from a healthy, safe environment.