What’s Behind the Pet Store Ban on Retail Pet Sales?

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What’s behind the pet store ban on animal sales? Why are some people for or against the bans?

A growing number of US cities, counties, and states are banning pet store sales of dogs, cats, and other animals to combat puppy mills and animal maltreatment. Advocates believe these bans are vital for reducing abuse, but puppy mill owners are finding loopholes to circumvent the restrictions.

Read on to learn more about the drive to ban the retail sale of animals in pet stores.

Explaining the Pet Store Ban on Animal Sales

Your local puppy store may be about to get a lot less cute: A growing number of US cities, counties, and states are banning the sale of dogs and cats in pet stores in an effort to eradicate puppy mills and curb animal abuse—and New York just added its name to the list. In this article, we’ll explain what’s behind the pet store bans on retail animal sales, including who’s for and against them. Can pet stores survive on leash and toy sales alone? We’ll examine experts’ varied opinions on these issues.

The Puppy Mill/Pet Store Connection 

To understand why more states and municipalities are banning pet stores from selling animals, you have to first know about puppy mills—notoriously abusive operations that mass-produce and sell puppies to pet stores.

Puppy mills originated in farming in the 1950s, when pig and chicken farmers began retrofitting barns to breed dogs to generate extra income. Puppy mills’ physical setup today resembles industrialized egg farms: Often hundreds of breeding dogs are packed into stacked, wire cages, each with just six inches of space or fewer on either side of its body. Legal loopholes enable breeders to skirt exercise requirements for the dogs, depriving them of basic, natural behaviors like running and playing. As a result, many are confined to their cages from first yelp to last yawn, suffering from disease, starvation, and untreated illnesses. 

Mill owners typically breed female dogs twice a year, from eight months old until they pass their peak productivity—at about six pregnancies—then kill them. Along the way, they ship puppies to pet stores to be sold for thousands of dollars.

Mill puppies often enter pet stores and new homes with genetic conditions, respiratory infections, and parasitic disorders. They get sick and die regularly enough that 21 states have enacted “puppy lemon laws” to refund owners for their vet expenses and losses.

The Humane Society estimates that 10,000 puppy mills operate in the US today. Absent federal enforcement to address the puppy mill problem, states are left to assemble patchwork-quilt responses, like cutting off out-of-state supply chains and regulating at the breeder level.

View 1: Bans on Pet Store Animal Sales Are Good

Animal rights advocates argue that banning pet stores from selling animals is a critical tool to:

  • Reduce animal cruelty.
  • Curb the euthanization of 920,000 shelter dogs and cats annually.
  • Cut the pet store middleman out of the animal sales process that distances Americans from and sanitizes puppy mills—an action that: 
    • Prevents retailers from misrepresenting puppies’ origins as from “family,” “reputable,” or “American Kennel Club (AKC)-registered” breeders.
    • Forces pet buyers to more directly confront conditions under which puppies they seek to buy are raised.

View 2: Bans on Pet Store Animal Sales Are Bad

Pet stores contend that as licensed, regulated bodies, they play an important role in ensuring the well-being of animals and the families that buy them, by vetting breeders and connecting newly homed dogs and cats with veterinarians. They further argue that pet store bans on retail animal sales: 

  • Punish the majority of commercial breeders, who raise animals humanely
  • Won’t stop large-scale, out-of-state puppy mills from transporting animals into states with bans. 

Looking Ahead

Animal advocates argue that pet stores, animals, and pet buyers can peacefully coexist without puppy mills in the equation. But breeders, not to be deterred, are finding ways around the bans. In California, where a ban exists but pet stores can sell dogs obtained from rescue groups, some mill owners have rebranded themselves as nonprofits. And experts warn that mill owners are increasingly turning to digital sales—the new frontier of large-scale, commercial breeding.

What’s Behind the Pet Store Ban on Retail Pet Sales?

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Emily Kitazawa

Emily found her love of reading and writing at a young age, learning to enjoy these activities thanks to being taught them by her mom—Goodnight Moon will forever be a favorite. As a young adult, Emily graduated with her English degree, specializing in Creative Writing and TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language), from the University of Central Florida. She later earned her master’s degree in Higher Education from Pennsylvania State University. Emily loves reading fiction, especially modern Japanese, historical, crime, and philosophical fiction. Her personal writing is inspired by observations of people and nature.

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