The San Antonio City Council has approved new requirements for pet stores for how they can obtain animals for sale.
The new ordinance aims to restrict the use of so-called puppy mills. In a 9-1 vote, the council approved measures that require pet stores to source cats and dogs from animal rescue groups or animal control agencies and not commercial breeders.
Heber Lefgren, director of the city’s Animal Care Services department, said the ordinance is meant to prevent animals from being bred for sale in mass quantities.
“It is not our intent to stop local breeders, our concern is on the wholesale distribution of breeders that are going on outside of our control,” he told council members on Thursday.
As a result, pet stores will only be able to source cats and dogs from rescue organizations like the Animal Defense League or Humane Society or government agencies like the city’s Animal Care Services or Bexar County’s similar agency.
It doesn’t stop licensed small breeders from selling animals directly to consumers. There are provisions in place that breeders, who often conduct business out of their homes, must follow.
“Anybody can still get a pet from a breeder provided that that breeder is abiding by the laws that we have here in San Antonio, specifically in regards to sellers permits,” said Animal Care Services spokeswoman Lisa Norwood.
The ordinance only affects pet stores in San Antonio which only has three pet stores that sell cats and dogs, according to city officials.
Jaime Treba, owner of Petland, told council members the requirements would negatively impact their business model.
“Passing a blanket ordinance that prohibits us from selling puppies or cats unless they are directly from a shelter does not work with the business model,” he said. “Petland provides our customers with the opportunity to choose a pet or breed or puppy that works best for families.By implementing the ban, you’ll be taking away the right to choose and the ability to offer that service.”
Treba alluded that the decision would force Petland to close its stores and put nearly 30 employees out of work.
Justin Kerr, owner of Puppyland, called the ordinance a “lazy and unconstitutional attempt at regulation with no willingness for compromise” from the director of the city’s Animal Care Services.
The ordinance received wide support from animal activists and animal rescue workers. Abigail Real, a local dog rescuer, told council members that puppies which come from puppy mills are often sick.
“To allow pet stores to sell puppies that aren’t from rescues or legitimate breeders is a big slap in our face. As many steps as the rescue community takes forward, puppy-selling pet stores brings us a thousand steps back. Puppy-selling pet stores inhibit dog adoptions in our city and promote the selling of sick, unhealthy puppies,” she said.
District 5 Councilwoman Shirley Gonzales was the council’s only dissenting vote. The Westside councilwoman said she believes the ordinance does not target some of the issues the city currently faces with animal care.
“I just don’t see how the ordinance gets to the source of the problems we have here in San Antonio, which we know we have an overpopulation, no doubt. We have a problem with loose dogs,” she said, adding that the ordinance would treat the pet stores as scapegoats.
District 4 Councilwoman Adriana Rocha Garcia was present for the start of the meeting but did not get to vote due a commitment to another engagement.
As part of the council’s approval, several sections of the city’s code regarding animal control were updated. One instance was a ban on feeding feral cats en masse. The new restriction prevents feeders of feral cats from dumping food in open areas and property that does not belong to them that could also attract unwanted wildlife.
Norwood, however, said that does not prevent people from feeding strays near their own homes.
“This doesn’t prevent your kind-hearted grandmother from putting out a bowl of food or a bowl of water for perhaps a neighborhood stray,” she said. “But it does ensure that people’s property will be respected and that the animals themselves will be able to actually get to the food and it won’t become part of the predation of wildlife or insects.”
The ordinance for pet stores and feral cat feeding takes effect Jan. 1. Those who do not comply may face fines.
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