Las Vegas Sun

May 17, 2021

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County considers tighter rules for sale of animals at pet stores

Clark County is exploring what steps it can take to discourage pet stores from selling animals bred in inhumane conditions.

Commissioner Chris Guinchigliani, who got the green light today to convene a working group to study the issue, stopped short of suggesting an outright ban on pet stores selling animals from breeders.

That’s because Steve Sweikert, a Clark County deputy district attorney, said Nevada law allows breeders to sell their animals at pet stores if they follow certain regulations.

“The Legislature has recognized the county has a role to protect animals,” Sweikert said at a Clark County Commission meeting. “Therefore, we could add additional conditions. We just couldn’t outright prohibit the sale of animals bred for sale at pet shops.”

That led Commissioner Steve Sisolak to question how the Las Vegas City Council could pass an ordinance banning the sale of “puppy mill” animals.

The city’s ordinance, approved last month, will make it illegal in two years for pet stores to sell puppies, kittens and piglets obtained from puppy mills.

Sweikert said his interpretation of Nevada law is “90 degrees different” than that of the Las Vegas City city attorney.

Guinchigliani, who has rescued several bulldogs, said she wants to make sure whatever the county implements can be enforced. “I think there’s plenty of dogs and cats and pigs and fish available legitimately for people to access through a pet store,” she said.

Trish Savannahs, a local breeder, called on commissioners to do more research to see whether such ordinances have any impact on the health and welfare of animals.

“We do need to tighten up some issues,” she said. “But please don’t come down on the breeders who are already getting our permits and following the laws.”

The Best Friends Animal Society, on the other hand, urged commissioners to join dozens of other communities that have adopted laws similar to the one in Las Vegas.

On top of ethical concerns, animals bred in poor conditions tend to have more genetic problems, said Elizabeth Oreck, national manager of puppy mill initiatives for the society.

“This is not just a humane issue,” she said. “This is a consumer protection issue.”

Guinchigliani said she would work with representatives on all sides of the issue to bring back a proposal “as strong as we can get but within the legal realms.”

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