Las Vegas Sun

November 23, 2017

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Wrench thrown into local efforts to block puppy mills

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Steve Marcus

A pair of dogs are shown in the holding area of the Animal Foundation’s Lied Animal Shelter, Tuesday, July 22, 2014.

An ordinance prohibiting pet shops from selling dogs, cats and pot-bellied pigs sourced from breeders may be repealed before it goes into effect.

The walking back comes a day after Clark County commissioners opted not to vote on a similar ordinance and less than a week after California signed into law a statewide ban on breeder-sourced pets in retail stores. It may reignite a heated debate about animal welfare, the rights of pet owners and how best to tackle the problem of overcrowding at our local shelters.

Las Vegas City Council in January 2016 narrowly passed an ordinance prohibiting pet shops from selling dogs, cats or pot-bellied pigs unless they were obtained from a shelter or nonprofit rescue organization. It was designed to stop support of so-called puppy mills that keep animals in inhumane conditions, as well as to promote the adoption of animals from overburdened shelters and rescues. It would only affect two businesses — a Petland outlet at Rampart and Charleston boulevards and Puppy Boutique at Craig Road and Rancho Drive.

The ordinance was scheduled to go into effect on Jan. 1, 2018, in order to allow those two businesses to figure out how to adjust their business model.

Councilwoman Lois Tarkanian, who voted in favor of the ban last year, asked council to discuss during its meeting Wednesday the impending implementation of the ordinance. She cited lingering concerns about its potentially negative impact.

“Do we want to say forget about it? Or, let’s leave this in now ... and let’s grandfather in the two businesses?”

Council members Steve Seroka and Michele Fiore, who were not on the board when the ordinance first passed, both spoke out against it. The latter stressed the need for an immediate repeal, calling the bill “ridiculous” and “bad.”

“Animals are very special and particular to a family, especially one with newborns,” Fiore said. “This ordinance doesn’t give animal lovers a choice. … I won’t go to Petland or Puppy Boutique and get a mutt when I want an English mastiff.”

“My concern is that the ordinance as written will not tackle the problem that we’re trying to solve,” added Seroka, whose ward includes one of the affected businesses. “I know from speaking to business owners they are willing to work with the city to demonstrate that they are not working with puppy mills.”

Councilman Stavros Anthony, who voted for the bill last year, represents the other ward with one of the affected businesses. He noted that the ordinance received a lot of attention when it first went through the adoption process and that it had overwhelming support from the public.

“We vetted it quite a bit,” he said. “The facts are still the facts. I haven’t heard a peep out of anybody — until today.”

Councilman Bob Coffin, who cosponsored the ordinance, stood by it.

“I am happy with what we did a year and a half ago,” he said. “This town is full of unwanted animals, thousands of stranded animals. I can’t figure out what the angle is. We fought that battle. I don’t know what the good is in fighting it again.”

Fiore directed staff to draft a repeal and introduce it at council’s next meeting on Nov. 1.

A day before the Las Vegas City Council discussion, Clark County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani failed to garner support from her peers for a similar ordinance that would have affected three businesses under its jurisdiction.

More than a dozen people spoke during public comment on the county's proposed ordinance. The majority were in support. Two asked that the ordinance be amended to include rabbits, believed to be contributing to a feral rabbit problem in abandoned golf courses and other green spaces across the valley.

Notably, the owners of Puppy Boutique spoke and asked commissioners not to adopt the bill, saying they were considering relocating their business into the county’s jurisdiction once the Las Vegas city ordinance went into effect.

Commissioners expressed concern for local businesses and whether the ban would have any impact on the numbers of pets coming into the Animal Foundation every year.

“Let’s not attack that problem by forcing a small business to close their doors,” said Commissioner Larry Brown. “I don’t think it’s the role of the county.”

Added Chairman Steve Sisolak, “We need to explore other options. We have irresponsible owners.”

On Friday, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law a bill that forces pet stores to only source their dogs, cats and rabbits from shelters and rescues. That law will go into effect in January 2019.

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