San Antonio – The San Antonio City Council voted 9-1 on Thursday to ban the sale of dogs from breeders at city pet stores.
Beginning Jan. 1, the city will only allow pet stores to sell dogs or cats they obtained from city or county animal shelters, animal control agencies, or animal rescue organizations. At the heart of the issue is a concern over so-called “puppy mills” -- a term animal rights activists use to describe large, commercial breeding operations, especially those with poor conditions.
“Most of the puppies being sold at pet stores are coming from out-of-state puppy mills or large breeders or brokers that pass the pets on from one state to another state,” Animal Care Services Director Heber Lefgren told council members.
There are only three pet stores within the city limits that sell dogs or cats: Petland, Puppyland, and Royal Pet Palace.
The owners of the first two spoke in opposition to the ordinance at Thursday’s city council meeting, defending their businesses.
“You have it to where you have good breeders and bad breeders. We understand that,” said Jaime Trueba, one of the owners of Petland. “But obviously, we’re working our best to get nothing but the good breeders. And what they’re saying is that everything’s bad across the board.”
While Lefgren said none of the three pet stores have any known violations with ACS, there’s not a legitimate way to say which of their suppliers from outside of the city are good or bad since the market is “under-regulated.”
“USDA standards do allow a breeder to confine a dog into a cage for its life that is six inches more than the size of the pet,” Lefgren told the council.
ACS began looking at possible changes to pet sales in 2019. The city included questions on the issue in two online, “SASpeakUp” surveys in July 2019 and February 2020. Lefgren said the city did not reach out to the stores directly, saying “the voice of the the pet stores is well-documented and well-known.”
District 5 City Councilwoman Shirley Gonzales was the lone vote against the ordinance, questioning how it dealt with any of the strategies in the department’s strategic plan: enhanced enforcement of existing law and codes, controlling the stray animal population, increasing the city’s live release rate, and engaging and educating the community on responsible pet ownership.
“I think this ordinance is very misguided,” Gonzales said. “I don’t know where it came from. It sounds like it came internally or perhaps from other rescue organizations that are having the same problem of too many animals. And so these particular companies are getting scapegoated because of other problems that we have internally in our city.”
District 4 Councilwoman Adriana Rocha Garcia was absent for the vote.