Legislation in Place to Ban Animal Sales

Banning the Sale of Dogs in Retail Outlets

By: J. Kristin Bryson B.A., M.A., L.L.B.
Director, BC SPCA

Cities where legislation is in place

In their reports of December 3, 2009 and September 10, 2010,  city staff raised the issue of whether or not a ban on the sale of animals has been imposed in other jurisdictions.  This is an issue which is, of course, of interest to Council.  That is the topic I intend to address in the few minutes that I have with you- what has been done and what is in the process of being done in other jurisdictions.

Beginning with those jurisdictions which currently have by-laws in place—

Hermosa Beach, California banned the sale of dogs and cats in pet stores on March 23, 2010, following unanimous vote by council.  The ban went into effect on April 13, 2010. (no pet stores then selling live animals).

The sale of cats and dogs in retail outlets is also banned in South Lake Tahoe, California.  That ban takes effect next year.

West Hollywood, California banned the sale of dogs and cats Feb 16, 2010.  The ban was imposed after counsel was presented with evidence that retailers got dogs from a USDA licensed breeding operation in Minnesota that crammed sick and wounded dogs into wire cages, exposed them to freezing temperatures and caused them to live in their own waste.

Austin, Texas passed their ban on retail sales of cats and dogs on July 29, 2010. (Petland sold cats and dogs at the time the ban was being discussed, but closed in anticipation of the ban coming  into effect.)

In the last few years, the following cities in the state of Florida have imposed a by-law that prohibits the keeping of dogs for any “commercial purpose”:  Fort Lauderdale,  Coral Gables, Lauderdale Lakes, Flagler Beach, North Bay Village and Opa-Locka.

Most significantly, from our perspective, is that ban on the retail sale of all companion animals that was imposed in Albuquerque, New Mexico in 2006.  Because the ban has been in place for 4 years, there has been an opportunity to begin to evaluate the effects of the ban.  Statistic confirm that in that jurisdiction,  animal adoptions have increased by 23% and euthanasia at city shelters has decreased by 35%.

I note that while it is true that a couple of these jurisdictions did not have any pet stores that were selling live animals at the time that the bans came into force, most did—and further, of those that did not, a number had moved to a new business model that did not involve the sale of live animals by the tie the by-law came into effect— they stopped selling cats and dogs, in anticipation of a ban coming into effect.  They knew what was coming and they adjusted.

Cities Considering Legislation

That is just what has already been done.  There are numerous jurisdictions which are currently considering the imposition of by-laws or ordinances.  In the US, those jurisdictions include San Francisco and Glendale, California, where a ban on the sale of most pets, including dogs, cats, birds, hamsters, rats and other small animals is being considered.  Rio Rancho, New Mexico, and El Paso, Texas are considering banning the sale of all animals.  Also considering similar by-laws are Wentzville, Missouri, Baltimore, Maryland and Jacksonville, Hallandale Beach and West Palm Beach, Florida. (CORRECTION: (July 18, 2012) – the only city in Florida with a pet sale ban is Lake Worth, Florida). 

The American experience and the example being set in the States is relevant.  We know that pet stores in Canada source dogs from both Canadian and American puppy mills.  Indeed, as you heard last time, at least one pet store operating in Richmond sources their puppies from a notorious puppy broker who in turns sources their puppies from puppy mills- Hunte Corporation.

According to the Humane Society of the US, 3-4 million unwanted companion animals are killed in shelters every year.  There are more than 10,000 puppy mills in operation.  Between 2 and 4 million dogs are born into puppy mills every year.  It costs US taxpayers $2 billion/yr to house and euthanize all unwanted animals.  In the US, they are doing something about it, beginning with imposing a ban the sale of animals in pet stores.

And they have not stopped there.  The majority of states have introduced and in some cases already passed bills aimed at establishing inspection or licensing programs for high volume puppy producers.  State bills include protective measures that restrict abuse, implement minimum standards of care, mandate exercise, inspections, seizure for non-compliance and, in some cases, mandate sterilization.  Some bills limit the number of unaltered dogs a breeder is allowed to have, targeting mass volume puppy producers.

We at the BC SPCA also recognize that a multi-faceted approach to the problem is required in order to eliminate puppy mills- and these are some of the other areas for us to tackle; however, all involved in this issue recognize that the most effective way to slow production of any “product” is to decrease the demand for that product. It is no answer to those that are in favor of a ban to say—well banning the sale of animals in pet stores is not going to solve the problem.  Of course not.  It takes many pieces to make a puzzle. The imposition of a ban would be a significant one.

Here in Canada, we are just getting started.  Thus far, only Toronto is considering the imposition of a by-law.  The proposal before Toronto City Council includes the following quote from a prominent Canadian veterinarian: “The demand on the market results in puppy/kitten mills whereby animals are kept solely for breeding purposes to make profits with little or no concern for their well-being. Offspring produced can suffer from an array of breed specific genetic conditions because of poorly regulated breeding programs.  Shutting down the sale of puppies/kittens through pet stores will have an impact on eliminating these often cruel practices which are required to meet the demand for the supply of pets through the retail market.”

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1 Response so far »

  1. 1

    Hallandale Beach, Florida is now behind Lake Worth as the second Florida city to pass the ban.
    Point of Information. You can still open a retail store in all of these cities.
    “In the last few years, the following cities in the state of Florida have imposed a by-law that prohibits the keeping of dogs for any “commercial purpose”: Fort Lauderdale, Coral Gables, Lauderdale Lakes, Flagler Beach, North Bay Village and Opa-Locka.”


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