Councilman proposes puppy mill ordinance for Tucson - Tucson News Now

Councilman proposes puppy mill ordinance for Tucson

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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

A Tucson city councilman is proposing a new city ordinance that would require pet stores to sell animals from shelters and non-profit rescue groups only. 

Ward 6 councilman Steve Kozachik called a no-brainer ordinance that would help shut down puppy mills that were breeding animals for profit.  Animal advocates said it was an $84 Billion industry.

Almost 36 cities throughout the country have already adopted a similar ordinance, including San Diego and Phoenix.

Kozachik said he was drafting the Tucson ordinance after the San Diego one. 

Tucson News Now obtained a copy of the draft of of the Puppy Mill Ordiance.  According to the ordinance:

"It shall be unlawful for any person to display, offer for sale, deliver, barter, auction, give away, transfer or sell any dog or cat in any pet store, retail business or other commercial establishment located in the city unless the dog or cat was obtained from one of the following sources:

(A) An animal shelter or a humane society located in Pima County; Or

(B) A non-profit rescue and humane organization whose mission and practice is, in whole or in significant part, the rescue and placement of dogs or cats, Or;

(C) A private owner that donated, without any charge, fee or other consideration, the dog or cat to the pet store, retail business or commercial establishment.

The ordinance would require all pet shops retail businesses or commercial establishments selling dogs or cats to maintain a certificate of source for each animal, and make it available upon request during normal business hours to animal control officers, law enforcement, code compliance officers, or any other city or county employee charged with enforcing the provisions of this section, or to any purchaser.

Violation of this law would be a civil infraction with a minimum fine of $100/animal and a maximum fine of $500/animal.  If a business employee/owner cannot provide a certificate the maximum fine would be $1,000 per animal.

"We euthanize thousands of dogs and cats through the shelters and we have over 70 rescue agencies in this region.  Instead of selling your dog and cat through brokers coming out of the mid-west, the puppy mills, we want to say to the retail stores, be a part of the solution," said Kozachik.

Staff at the Humane Society of Southern Arizona said there were 32,000 stray dogs and cats. To put it in perspective, that's almost the population of the town of Marana.  Samantha Esquivel, a lead public relations spokeswoman for the non-profit agency said the Humane Society did not typically take up political positions, but this case was an exception.

"We do support the elimination of any mass breeding puppy mills and that's just because ethically speaking it is consistent with our mission which is to end animal over-population and homelessness," said Esquivel.

Groups like Tucson Dog Protection regularly picketed outside local pet stores. 

"It is great that Tucson City Council is standing up to puppy mills, and the way to do that is to stop the retail sales of puppies," said Jamie Massey, Founder of Tucson Dog Protection.

Councilman Kozachik said the goal of the proposed ordinance was to put puppy mills out of business, but it would not affect the backyard breeder.

If your dog or cat accidentally got pregnant, you could turn over the animals to the shelter or retail establishment for sale, or try to sell them yourself.

"There is certain things we can't do.  We can't say you can't put an ad in the paper, or go on Craigslist.  We can only plug so many holes."

Humane society staff added that they were not against all breeders.

"We are only against irresponsible breeders.  You can still have your pure-bred lab or golden retrievers.  We really, really just want to stress responsible breeding, which means quality of life is taken into consideration.  The animals should vaccinated, you should have the paperwork," said Esquivel.

She stressed that the humane society had many pure breds up for adoption.  Almost 25% of the animals at the humane society were pure-breds, said Esquivel.

Tucson News Now contacted local pet stores for a comment. All said they did not buy from Puppy Mills.

Animal advocates said they held regular protests outside Animal Kingdom which is located inside the Tucson Mall. The Mall would not allow our cameras inside to get video of the store, but a local public relations firm representing the Tucson Mall sent us an email saying they had talked to the owners of Animal Kingdom.

The owners stressed they were a small, local business.  They made sure they researched all the breeders they purchased animals from, and made sure the puppies were healthy.  They had vets examine the animals both before and after they were in the store as well.  Store owners also said they encouraged customers to think about adopting from a local shelter and provided $3,000 in-kind support to a local no-kill shelter every month.

Law enforcement and military dogs would be exempt from this ordinance.

Opponents of the bill have argued that shelters primarily offer pit bulls and Chihuahuas, and rescue groups are too restrictive about who can adopt from them.

Kozachik said he hoped to have the ordinance discussed in a study session and set up for a public hearing, by the beginning of March.

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