The days when you could pick out a purebred puppy in a pet store window are largely gone, but the practice may officially be outlawed in Sacramento if a city ordinance goes through.
The ordinance to ban the sale of commercially bred dogs and cats at local pet stores will go before the city’s Law and Legislation Committee on Tuesday. Instead, stores would be able to work with local shelters and rescue groups to offer animals for adoption, which is already a common practice.
Gina Knepp, head of the city’s shelter and animal control operations, said the move is largely symbolic because few Sacramento pet stores offer commercially bred animals. Most either already partner with shelters or don’t sell dogs and cats.
“It would be a dream that this would be a nationwide practice,” Knepp said. “Sacramento is the state capital, and it’s time that we stand with the other leaders around the state (who have passed similar measures).”
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In California, more than 30 jurisdictions have banned the retail sale of commercially bred dogs and cats including San Francisco, Los Angeles and Long Beach. A bill before the state Assembly would require all dogs, cats and rabbits sold in stores to be rescue animals. The bill, AB 485, is now before the Assembly Appropriations Committee.
The legal measures reflect cultural changes that have arguably made it more acceptable to adopt a shelter dog than buy a purebred.
The number of people buying dogs from breeders rather than going to the local shelter is on the decline across the country. A 2014 report by PetSmart Charities found that 66 percent of respondents would adopt a cat or dog rather than buy one. That’s up from 58 percent in 2011.
“Our whole view of animals and how we treat animals has changed drastically in the last 10 or 20 years,” Knepp said. Rescuing animals is “cool. It’s trendy. It feels good.”
Substandard commercial breeding operations, sometimes referred to as “puppy mills,” have faced a lot of negative attention in recent years for overcrowded living conditions and unhealthy animals.
“Literally, there are dogs that are caged for their entire lives for the sole purpose of being bred,” Knepp said. Their offspring are sold at a profit, often without vaccines or information about the animal’s parents or special care needs.
Knepp said she has nothing against professional breeders who take good care of their animals and keep buyers informed of any potential problems with their offspring. She said there aren’t many Labradoodles – mixes of Labrador retrievers and poodles that are popular with families – coming through the shelter.
“If you really want one, then you’re going to have to go to a breeder,” she said. “But, by God, let it be from a reputable breeder.”
Instead, she said the issue is with the “backyard breeders” who can provide low-cost litters to local stores. Knepp said the problem is obvious on Craigslist, where there are hundreds of ads for “re-homing” animals. Pet sales are prohibited on the website, but charging a small adoption or “re-homing” fee is allowed. Some ads ask for more than $500 in “re-homing” fees for purebred puppies.
“It’s not like selling a coffee table,” Knepp said. She said dogs and cats sold as babies on the site often come with health issues and rarely have the proper shots. Shelter dogs are already fixed, have all their shots and come with microchips.
Major pet retailers such as Petco and PetSmart don’t sell dogs or cats. They partner with local shelters to offer adoption centers. Adoptions at the Petco in Arden Arcade are very popular, Knepp said.
“There’s already a good business model out there that’s proven to be successful,” she said.