Waukesha Puppy Mill Act would ban the sale of dogs and cats in the city

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WAUKESHA – The answer to the question “How much is this stuffed animal in the window?” only raises more questions, including whether this puppy should be for sale.

It’s a conundrum facing the City of Waukesha as it considers a rule that would outright ban the sale of certain pets in for-profit retail stores, amid rumors that a retailer is now interested in a vacant store along the north of town.

It’s not the retailers that city officials are worried about. It’s where the animals come from and how they’ve been bred and treated in the name of profit, especially in what are often referred to as “puppy mills” and “kitten mills.”

In addition to dogs, the proposed Humane Pet Store ordinance — which follows a growing movement among municipalities including Wauwatosa — would also affect cats and rabbits, which are sometimes bred by commercial breeders whose track record is far to be ethical, if not technically. illegal.

As the city of Waukesha continues to formulate what has been loosely called a puppy mill ordinance, authorities find themselves faced with several difficult questions, all stemming from the goal of approving restrictions to prevent local sale. of inhumanely raised animals nationwide.

Questions include whether there should be exceptions built into the ordinance, such as housing for local ranchers. And, if exceptions are allowed, how would the ordinance be enforced without adding to the city’s already limited code enforcement resources?

The inhumane treatment of animals is a problem. But what can Waukesha do about it?

As the debate unfolded, everyone recognized the concerns about the practice of inhumane treatment of animals as part of a retail supply chain. The problem is what the city can do about it.

For City Attorney Brian Running, the issue, as codified in a proposed order, should be clear and straightforward.

“It just says it’s an absolute ban on the sale of puppies, kittens and rabbits,” Running said during the second reading of the rules by the Waukesha Common Council on June 7. “Why this is an absolute ban is just a practical matter of enforcement, because when we write an order we have to think about whether it will be enforceable.”

For example, if the city approved an ordinance allowing the sale of pets bred by what a retailer claims to be ethical breeders, the city should be prepared to go to great lengths to verify that claim.

“A total ban is simple to administer and would require no additional city staff,” Running said.

That’s not to say the city couldn’t alter the proposed ordinance in some way, such as limiting sales to a significantly smaller volume or allowing the sale of adult animals only — two measures that could hijack puppy mills. But tracking retailer sales numbers could require formal oversight, again an enforcement issue.

The written rules, sponsored by Ald. Cassie Rodriguez and co-sponsored by Ald. Jack Wells, were largely based on a model prescription from the Humane Society of the United States. Appleton, Beloit, Fort Atkinson, Wauwatosa and Whitewater have such orders in place.

Rodriguez has expressed concern about issues associated with puppy mills, including health and socialization issues, and inadequate regulations and enforcement by the US Department of Agriculture, which is supposed to oversee breeding in large scale.

Noting that the same department would prefer to leave those rancher-focused restrictions to the Wisconsin legislature, Rodriguez insisted the decision should be closer to home due to strong local support.

“We just can’t wait for the state to do something,” she said. “It’s a local problem.

The rules would not apply to nonprofit rescue organizations, such as the Humane Animal Welfare Society of Waukesha County and the Elmbrook Humane Society.

Running, who also noted that no local businesses are currently selling the targeted pets, said he considered the information provided by Rodriguez and supplemented the model order with ideas from other city attorneys. via email connections aided by the League of Wisconsin Municipalities.

“I’ve learned a bit about what’s happening in other cities across the state that have already basically passed this ordinance based on this model ordinance,” Running said. “City prosecutors there informed me that they passed with virtually no opposition.”

More than 400 municipalities across the country and several states have done the same, he added.

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Not all commercial breeders are a puppy mill, naysayers say

But from the start, it was clear that Waukesha’s ordinance would not enjoy such an easy path to approval.

In May, the city’s Ordinances and Licensing Committee deadlocked 2-2 on a proposed bylaw, sending it to the full city council to decide its fate.

At the second reading of the order on June 7, some aldermen acknowledged they had strong concerns about the rules, despite an underlying objective they otherwise supported.

“The problem I have with the order is that it doesn’t give anyone the ability to (sell animals) responsibly,” Ald said. Mike Payne.

Payne argued that many commercial breeders act responsibly, following standards set by Purdue University to ensure healthy, well-behaved animals — which end up in retail stores also concerned about those standards.

“It’s easy to say that every commercial breeder that does a lot of volume is a puppy mill,” he said. “But that’s not true. You can do it responsibly.”

Payne suggested rewording the ordinance to require a retailer to be certified to sell animals, perhaps by Purdue University itself.

Aldus. Rick Lemke, who opposed the ordinance more directly, focused on how any city ordinance could succeed in achieving an altruistic goal of eliminating puppy mills altogether.

“If it stopped puppy mills, I would be all for it. But it won’t stop them,” Lemke said.

Even among those who spoke during the public forum portion of the meeting, they were not universally in favor of the draft ordinance.

Angela Ng, owner of Paws for a Moment pet spa and boutique in downtown Waukesha, noted that her business, primarily for pet grooming, also breeds Siberian cats that have appeared in large-scale broadcasts. She takes full responsibility for the animals she raises.

“People keep saying you can’t sell an animal to a pet store and do it ethically,” Ng said. “I’ve been doing this for several years.”

She favored an ordinance that grants responsible breeders the right to sell locally, while recognizing the need for rules to set standards to curb the market for more profit-minded breeders who are more reckless in their practices.

Nationally, such orders have also been pushed back by the industry, especially the Pet Advocacy Network group.

Many pet stores succeed without selling animals, say supporters

However, supporters at the June 7 meeting outnumbered those with more reservations.

Several speakers cited figures also included in the draft order, which indicate that approximately 10,000 puppy mills produce more than 2 million puppies annually in the United States, based on data from the United States Humane Society. -United.

Such volume, they say, is part of the problem.

A more detailed response submitted to the city came from Carol Sumbry, a Waukesha resident who works at the Elmbrook Humane Society and is a certified canine behavior consultant and professional dog trainer.

Mass-bred dogs often have behavioral issues, as well as health issues, including seizures, knee problems and other genetic defects, she said.

For Sumbry, the bottom line is that pet stores don’t need to sell animals.

“As a progressive community that supports buying local, we have many successful pet stores without selling animals!” she said in a long letter, part of which was read to the aldermen. “Most pet stores in our country are running successful businesses without supporting puppy mills!”

A final draft of the ordinance will likely be reviewed at a council meeting in June or July.

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

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