Pit bull-pushing legislation in Arizona undoes ban on selling puppy mill pups
PHOENIX, Arizona––Losing six spring 2016 attempts to ban at the state level breed-specific local ordinances meant to protect the public and other pets from pit bull attacks, the Best Friends Animal Society on May 19, 2016 won a ban on breed-specific legislation in Arizona through a back door alliance with lobbyists for the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council, the American Kennel Club, the United Kennel Club, and other fronts for dog breeders.
Before the stealth passage of the Arizona ban, attempts to prohibit breed-specific ordinances had been defeated in Georgia, Idaho, Kentucky, Missouri, Washington, and West Virginia.
Crowed Best Friends senior legislative attorney Ledy Van Kavage via Facebook, “Arizona becomes the 20th state to outlaw breed discrimination by cities!”
Van Kavage did not mention that the Arizona bill “to outlaw breed discrimination” passed as part of a bill to repeal ordinances that prevent pet stores from selling dogs bred at puppy mills.
State leaders in fatal attacks
Neither did Van Kavage mention that the states whose legislatures enacted bans on breed-specific ordinances in years before there was organized opposition from pit bull attack victims include Texas, California, and Florida, one of which has led or tied for the lead in fatal dog attacks in each of the past 11 years.
Neither did Van Kavage acknowledge that the ability to regulate dangerous dogs by breed was barely if ever raised during months of publicity and media discussion pertaining to the Arizona bill, SB 1248, which was the last bill passed during the 2016 Arizona legislative session to be endorsed into law by Governor Doug Ducey.
Pet stores & dealers
The focal aspect of SB 1248, emphasized in public discussion, was the clause providing that “A pet store or pet dealer may not obtain a dog or cat for resale or sell or offer for sale any dog or cat obtained from a person who is required to be licensed by the pet dealer regulations of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.”
Not raised for discussion and debate were clauses amending the jurisdiction of Arizona animal control ordinances to state that “A city of town may regulate the control of dogs if the regulation is not specific to any breed,” and that a county board of supervisors may “contract with any city or town to enforce the provisions of any ordinance enacted by such city or town for the control of dogs if the provisions are not specific to breed.”
Repealed ordinances to help shelters
Ironically, SB 1248 repealed two existing ordinances which were passed in part to help animal shelters and rescues more easily rehome pit bulls, who make up more than a third of shelter dog intake, but are adopted at less than half the rate of intake, and are the dogs of choice for under 5% of people acquiring a dog.
Also ironically, the Arizona ordinances that SB 1248 repealed much resembled an ordinance pushed into effect in October 2015 in Salt Lake County, Utah, Best Friends’ home state, “at the behest of county council member Arlyn Bradshaw, now executive director of Best Friends Animal Society Utah,” reported Mike Gorrell of the Salt Lake Tribune.
SB 1248 will “immediately overturn existing ordinances in Tempe and Phoenix that allow pet shops to sell only rescue and shelter animals. And it would stall efforts to adopt a similar ordinance in Tucson,” explained Howard Fischer of Capitol Media Services.
“Efforts to block it, though, lost steam,” Fischer recounted, “when the Humane Society of the United States, which had initially blasted the measure, agreed not to oppose it.”
Pacelle praised similar ordinances
The mid-April 2016 HSUS flip-flop came in the same week that HSUS president Wayne Pacelle blogged his endorsement of ordinances similar to those now repealed in Tempe and Phoenix.
Wrote Pacelle in “Wayne’s blog” of April 22, 2016, “In the latest blow against the scourge of puppy mills, Philadelphia, the nation’s fifth largest city, this morning banned all sales of puppy mill dogs in pet stores and at outdoor venues like flea markets.
City of Brotherly Love
“With today’s action,” Pacelle proclaimed, “the City of Brotherly Love joins more than 140 other localities around the United States,” including Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Diego, as well as Toronto, Ontario, Canada, “with similar ordinances restricting puppy mill sales.
“Together,” Pacelle asserted, “these developments are driving the market toward shelter and rescue adoption and responsible breeders.”
Reality, however, is that total shelter adoptions have plateaued since 1981, at circa 2.5 million dogs per year, while the breeder share of the dog acquisition market has doubled, from 26% to 54%, with little hint that “responsible breeders” have taken any market share from the rapidly expanding commercial breeding industry.
Preventing pet stores from selling dogs obtained from breeders appears to have only accelerated the trend, already building for about 25 years, of breeders selling dogs directly to the public through web sites and social media––and has accelerated a parallel trend of “rescuers” purchasing puppies from puppy mills for resale.
Driving market to online sellers
People who want dogs other than the pit bulls and Chihuahuas who together have made up nearly half of U.S. shelter intakes in recent years are driven, when pet stores have no puppies, to patronize either unlicensed backyard breeders, or breeders who sell through electronic media.
This does little to improve puppy mill conditions, since backyard breeders and breeders who do not sell through conventional retail stores are the most difficult to keep under surveillance through inspection, the most difficult to regulate, and also very often those most implicated in large-scale neglect cases.
How Arizona bill was passed
The Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council and other entities representing breeder interests promoted SB 1248 as a bill which would protect the ability of people acquiring dogs to acquire dogs of their preferred breeds.
SB 1248 was “driven largely by complaints by Frank Minoe,” wrote Fischer, “who filed suit after Phoenix adopted its ordinance, which affected his Puppies ‘N Love store. He charged in federal court that the local law interfered with interstate commerce, noting that most of the commercial breeders are located in Missouri.
“U.S. District Court Judge David Campbell rejected that contention. So, aside from filing an appeal, Minoe took his complaint to the legislature.”
HSUS had heralded “landmark victory”
The Humane Society of the U.S. celebrated Campbell’s July 2015 ruling as “a landmark victory for the animal rights world and a blow to the pet industry,” noted Phoenix New Times reporter Miriam Wasser, before HSUS flip-flopped and worked to overturn it.
Within the past two years judges in Florida, Illinois, and Rhode Island have also upheld community ordinances prohibiting the sale of commercially bred dogs.
But the verdicts do not appear to have caused more pet stores to follow the practices of Petco, which has offered only shelter animals for acquisition at company stores since 1969, and PetSmart, doing likewise since 1987.
Pet stores folding
Rather, independent pet stores are often closing, rather than stock shelter animals the owners deem potentially dangerous to customers and their families, or just unprofitable to keep in stores for weeks or months until someone shows interest in acquiring them.
After the January 2016 Florida verdict, for example, Palm Beach Puppies North closed within 24 hours, reported Palm Beach Post staff writer Alexandra Clough.
Carlsbad Pets, of Carlsbad, California, in May 2016 also closed within 24 hours, following passage of a ban on selling commercially bred dogs.
Both Palm Beach Puppies and Carlsbad Pets had been the only stores in their communities to sell purebred pups.
New York & Ohio
Legislation parallel to Arizona AB 1248 may be forthcoming in New York and Ohio.
In New York, early in 2016, the towns of Mamaroneck and Mount Pleasant made sales of commercially bred dogs and cats punishable by fines escalating from $250 for a first offense to $1,000 for repeated offenses.
In Grove City, Ohio, the Petland chain has filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn a March 2016 ordinance against selling dogs and cats other than those “from animal shelters, humane societies, and rescue groups. It takes effect on January 1, 2017,” reported Jim Siegel of the Columbus Dispatch.
Meanwhile, Siegel added, “The [Ohio] Senate Ways and Means Committee [in early May] put an amendment into an unrelated state tax cleanup bill that would trump attempts by Grove City and others, like Toledo, to regulate pet stores.
The Ohio bill, HB 166, appears to be still pending.
The first community ban on selling commercially bred dogs and cats appears to have been adopted by West Hollywood, California, in February 2010. But it was strictly symbolic, since West Hollywood at the time had no stores selling dogs and cats at all.