In May, the Dallas City Council unanimously passed the Humane Pet Store Ordinance, banning the sale of puppies and kittens in pet stores. The order is intended to curb the cruel breeding practices of out-of-state pet factories. It takes effect in November.
The new ordinance will support Dallas’ pet stores and humane 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 order means for Dallas, and perhaps beyond. Listen to the interview above or read the transcript below.
This transcript has been slightly edited for clarity:
Texas Standard: What kind of things was your organization seeing before this ordinance went into effect in Dallas and why was it needed?
Stacy Sutton Kerby: Well, we’ve been running a hotline since 2001, and one of the biggest complaints we get on this hotline is buying a sick or defective puppy from a retailer. And on average, we receive about 75 complaints a year, or about 500 in total. And that number pales in comparison to the number of complaints forwarded to the Texas Veterinary Medical Association and the Attorney General’s Office. And a number of those complaints came from the Dallas area. Our association has existed for 45 years. And so we’ve seen this story repeated over and over 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 stuff feeds into the impact on local shelters, right? Have you started to see any kind of impact there or is it still too early?
It may be too soon, but I would say check with local rescue groups, Dallas Animal Services and other shelters there. More than 40 animal welfare groups have endorsed the policy and they know it will certainly help normalize the idea of going to your local shelter to, as you say, adopt not shopping. So it may be too early to see the impact in Dallas. The ordinance does not go into effect until November 11, 2022. However, I would say Dallas is not the first and in fact is the 12th city in Texas to do so. This policy has therefore been adopted in 11 other cities, including Austin, San Antonio, Houston, El Paso, Waco. And these cities will tell you that it has helped them tremendously to avoid the consumer issues that have occurred with pet retail sales of puppies being shipped from out of state, as well as giving pets pets who are already there in the community a chance to find their forever home.
How did the pushback go? Has anyone tried to overturn these ordinances? What do you see?
We haven’t seen that happen. This is not the first time that this experiment has been carried out. Several other cities in Texas have these ordinances in place, some dating back more than 10 years. And actually what they’re seeing is that it’s really helping them meet what’s called their no-slaughter mandates, where they’re trying to get as many healthy, adoptable animals as possible. And we see that the policy is legally valid. And so, props to Dallas for thoroughly reviewing the policy and making sure they came up with a good one. And what we see is that now puts Dallas in place to shut down the puppy mill pipeline in their city and save more adoptable cats.
You mentioned that there are many cities across the country and even in Texas where ordinances like this have been passed. Is there a push for this to become statewide law or is it not doable?
Well, we saw a bill very similar to the Dallas Ordinance last session, House Bill 1818, and it came very close to being passed. He just ran out of time. So I would say, yes, we need this legislation back in 2023. And that would mean more uniform protection for all Texans to avoid buying puppy mill puppies from pet stores.
I’ve noticed that on sites like Craigslist, for example, there seem to be a lot of people trying to sell dogs and cats. Could you explain what is going on there and what is the interest of the Texas Humane Legislation Network?
Well, I would say that if someone is looking to buy a dog, the more information you have about where you are buying that dog, the better. First of all, I would seek to promote and save groups specializing in races. You can find anything from a Frenchie to a German Shorthaired Pointer, whether you are looking for a gun dog or 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 dog is healthy and vaccinated, microchipped, etc. animal was raised. So our position is that if you decide to buy a commercial breeding part, that you should just do your homework, be sure to go, as they say, meet the parents. After all, it’s a new member of the family you’re bringing home and you want to know that this pup you’re about to fall in love with comes from a healthy and safe environment.