Waukesha passes puppy mill ordinance to ban sale of dogs and other pets

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WAUKESHA — The city has followed through on a plan to exclude certain pets from pet stores, a move aimed at curbing the market for breeders who ignore ethical standards.

The Waukesha City Council voted 10-2 on Tuesday to join several other state municipalities in restricting the sale of dogs, cats and rabbits in pet stores.

The Humane Pet Store rules, which have sparked local debate among aldermen, do not apply to nonprofit rescue organizations, such as the Humane Animal Welfare Society of Waukesha County and the Elmbrook Humane Society. Currently, there are no retailers selling these pets locally, although one was in the process of opening a new store with this intention.

Aldus. Cassie Rodriguez previously expressed concerns about problems associated with puppy mills – mass breeders who reap big profits from unscrupulous operations – including health and socialization issues, and inadequate regulations and enforcement of policies. rules by the US Department of Agriculture.

The ordinance was largely based on the model language of the Humane Society of the United States and sponsored locally by Rodriguez and Ald. Jack Wells. Appleton, Beloit, Fort Atkinson, Wauwatosa and Whitewater already have such orders.

Officials have acknowledged that the pressure to restrict retailers, under what is commonly known as a puppy mill ordinance, is somewhat troublesome. The goal, supporters say, is to pressure the factories themselves to clean up their operations or disappear altogether. The retailers themselves are not directly involved in breeding.

But a municipality can’t do much more than discourage the market for pets from abusive breeders.

City Attorney Brian Running said he expects the city’s enforcement of the new rules to come from residents themselves, if some find pets for sale in stores.

A future Petland owner has raised concerns about the law

In doing so, the council rejected a plea by a retailer, Adam Berger, who revealed plans to open a new Petland store in the Silvernail Shopping Centre, not far from the neighboring Silvernail Plaza Petland store which closed a few years ago. years.

Berger, who as a nonresident was not permitted to speak during public comments, had his first opportunity to speak on the ordinance before Tuesday’s vote. He pointed out that his company actively reviews the operations of breeders before using one as a supplier.

“I have 161 kennel visits on our YouTube channel,” Berger said, noting her quarter-century experience in the pet retail industry. “As someone who only wants to support quality and ethical breeders, I’ve taken it upon myself to visit breeders and film what they actually look like. … We don’t want to support breeders who are not successful not the optical test.”

Not all 350 breeders, including those not listed on his YouTube channel, that he has visited are functioning optimally, he acknowledged.

“There are a lot of breeders who don’t meet our criteria, and those may be the types of breeders who have caused” local supporters of the ordinance to speak out, Berger said.

Berger said he would also accept a locally imposed inspection fee to allow officials to review a store’s relevant records.

Aldus. Mike Chrisien admitted that the timing of the order, given Berger’s efforts since 2021 to bring a pet store to Waukesha, seemed unfortunate.

“My whole problem with it was the whole calendar,” said Chrisien, who added that he had heard from voters in favor of the ordinance. “If he had started this a little earlier, he would have been here already.”

The Humane Society says pet stores have stopped selling live animals

But a representative from the Humane Society of the United States cast uncertainty on industry-focused reviews, given the poor track record of so many breeders and the groundswell of public opposition that has grown from breeding operations.

“The canine certification sounds great, but it’s just a last minute move here to urge you all to delay the vote so more organization can be done” to fight the ordinance, Megan Nicholson said, state director of HSUS Wisconsin.

Nicholson, another non-resident invited to speak ahead of the vote, said Petland was one of the latest chains to resist the trend of retailers abandoning the business model of selling puppies, along with other animals. living pets, in stores. She noted that other retailers have succeeded without these animal sales.

She also tackled what she called the “predatory lending” practices of retail stores, which can charge exorbitant interest rates for expensive purchases of purebred pets, using the emotional in-person visits to the store’s strategic advantage.

“If I was looking for a puppy on the internet and put that puppy in my cart, I can walk away from this (case),” Nicholson said. “But a fuzzy little pup licking my face wagging its tail, and you want me to walk away from that? That’s pretty hard.”

She added: “It’s not about banning a business. It’s just about how the business is run.”

Contact Jim Riccioli at (262) 446-6635 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @jariccioli.

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